Today, is the last day of 2017. A day that I first thought was so far away. They said don’t blink, or you will miss it. When I was crowned in January of this year, there was so much to do and be involved in. December seemed so far away when I had so many things to look forward too. And now that 2017 is almost over, let me share a few of my favorite stories and memories from this incredible year representing the International Professional Rodeo Association.
I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite rodeo of the year, but I sure enjoyed my time in Brunswick, GA for Rodeo at the Beach! This rodeo was put on by the Exchange Club of Brunswick, an organization that I enjoyed learning about how they do so much for others. I remember Joe O’Connor and his wife picking me up at the airport at 1 in the morning because my flight had been delayed. Steven Floyd made sure that I didn’t leave South Georgia without trying boiled peanuts (yuck!) and REAL southern fried shrimp. Apparently, the shrimp was the best I would ever eat; I thought they were O.K. with honey mustard. John and Charlene Franklin took me to the local airshow where I saw the Blue Angels perform, talked aviation with fellow aviators, and saw the Trump plane. Pat Browning brought me back to the airport to take a walk inside a famous designer’s airplane, one in which I will never see the same thing again! I met the Hedrick’s and the Georgia biting gnats at the same time when I stopped by to help unload the stock. I topped of the week with a horse ride on the beach on Indiana Jones on a private island.
Another highlight of my year was getting to help Danny move stock to the next rodeo. I threw on a ball cap instead of my hat and crown and met Danny at the arena in Statesboro. They loaded the stock and I drove off following Danny in the freightliner and bull trailer. It took us an hour and half to get to where the stock would stay the night. We pulled up and I remember asking Danny if he wanted to me to back up to the gate where he was looking. He didn’t know yet that I grew up helping my Dad move with the same equipment. I backed the trailer up and Danny figured out that I may have done that before! I remember meeting one of the sweetest couples at the arena we dropped the stock off at. This is still one of my favorite stories to tell!
I can’t forget riding around in the little red wagon with Bill Anderson for the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo. I had a week in Statesboro and they had my schedule PACKED! Any spare time we were whipping the little red car into spur of the moment sponsor visits. This is where I met Freedom, the Bald Eagle that flies at Georgia Southern University. I had a blast with the ladies in the Kiwanis club, especially Ashley! In fact, her number in my phone is “Ashley – Statesboro”. I may or may not have a lot of number from this year saved with what rodeo they are a part of!
And then there’s Evans, Georgia. Oh, how I loved this one and the people it brought me closer too. David and Wendy Speight were my host’s for this one and the crew that put on the rodeo to benefit the Burn Unit at the hospital they worked at. I had such a humbling experience at the Ronald McDonald house with Wendy. Both David and Wendy took me through the burn unit to meet a few of their patients and coworkers. I rode a camel for the first time at the rodeo and watched it drink a mountain dew. I about lost my eyelashes riding a motorcycle down the road while holding my hat and crown. I met the Speight family and had a blast shooting an AR for the first time. They said beavers were a problem there, so I tried to help with that!
During my time in Oklahoma, I learned to dance with Allie Burgin at the Wynnewood Senior Citizen Center. This became an event every Wednesday night when I was in town! I ate too many dozen chocolate chip cookies to count at Donnie’s. I hung out with Trisha and DJ at their ranch. I only missed the Wynewood exit once and ended up driving a good hour to get back.
I visited Las Vegas for the first time on Mother’s Day Weekend with my mom by my side. This is also where I used Uber for the first time. Later in the year, I was able to go back to Vegas for the NFR and Cowboy Christmas. Mom and I had a great time together on both of our trips to Vegas.
Decatur, Alabama brought some flying fun with Mary Ashley! Her mom arranged for us to fly in the police helicopter. I remember taking off my crown and putting on the headphones, departing the Cullman Airport and viewing Alabama. We dipped down into a river and flew around the curves and turns like we were in a racing movie, all to the sound of Hotel California playing through the headset. The pilot let me fly the helicopter for a few seconds too. This flying adventure I will not forget!
How could I forget Australia?! I made lifelong friends Sharon and Carl Piggott, director of the Rodeo Queen of Australia Quest. Had a blast with Bessie and the queen contestants for a whole week in the Gold Coast. Learned the Aussie slang and how to drive on the wrong side of the road. Stayed at the Wrangah Wildnerness Lodge and gained an unforgettable Australian experience. Went on a hunting trip with mom, dad, Carl, and some of their family. This was a pretty big highlight of the year!
All-region finals in Lexington, Kentucky was a great event in my home state. I met Esther, staff of the horse park, and she took me around to the different events. I got to room with Lindsey and we toured the Clairborne Farm to see Secretariat’s grave. I carried the greatest flag on earth around the Alltech arena. Met our family friends, Denny and Joanne at the rodeo along with a Walker Hayes and Walker Montgomery artists.
This is just a few of my great experiences that I have had throughout 2017. We would be here forever if I went through every memory that I have had this year! As this year comes to a close, I am so thankful for all the great people that I have met, memories I have made, horses I have rode, and friends that have become family. It’s New Year’s Eve and I will be looking forward to my time in OKC promoting the IFR and a great MRUSA pageant in 2018.
Miss Rodeo USA
Follow the adventures of Miss Rodeo USA 2017 Brittany Howard as she travels the country representing the IPRA. Check back often for updates and new blogs!