I’m not completely oblivious to the fact that clay can make dirt different shades in addition to brown. I have seen red dirt in Oklahoma, but to my surprise when I pulled up to Marion, Alabama rodeo arena, I was in awe because the dirt was orange. Straight up orange!
The 25th Annual Marion Rodeo was definitely one for the books. I was so impressed with all the fun and interactive events that were held during the rodeo in addition to the traditional events you typically see. This committee definitely puts on this rodeo for the crowd! Before the opening ceremonies, they had a Mardi Gras parade for all the kids. They piled into the back of a truck and threw beads to the audience as they were caravanned around the arena. At first, I was thinking what is going on? After seeing all the enjoyment from the crowd and children, I totally understood why it is a tradition in this small town.
Marion put on a very moving national anthem, with a flag held open on a fire truck in the middle of the arena. It’s interesting to see each unique flag presentation while traveling and working with different committees. I was honored to then lead the grand entry with all the contestants filing in behind for both nights after the presentation of the colors. The next thing I knew we were dragging tarps out into the arena as the announcer was inviting kids nine and under to come in for a gold rush. The kids could come out and dig through the hay for prizes. After 60 seconds of digging the fun was moved out behind the bleachers for the kids to find every last penny in the pile of hay. We watched kids play for the entire rodeo. It’s amazing the simple things in life every kid can’t get enough of.
Along with all the events, the West Point Royalty and I also helped with the calf scramble, adult cow scramble, steer dressing and mutton busting. By the end of the evening, it was very apparent that this small town rodeo was a highlight of the year with local contestants and trucks backed up to the arena for extra seating. I had many great conversations with local fans and even ran into Miss Rodeo USA 2013, Miss Lauren (Terry) Wilson! She was competing in the barrel racing Friday night of the weekend. Ironically enough, I had just stayed with her parents on my way to this rodeo. It was great to swap a few stories and enjoy the presence of someone who has been in your shoes before. After a few encouraging words from a former title holder we were both on our way with our duties for the evening.
As I look back on my first time in Alabama, I can’t help but chuckle a little. I had an unforgettable time and made many new memories. During my visit to Alabama I had to get a mare and foal back into their pen in high heeled booties and skinny jeans, wait to cross the road because of a momma skunk and her baby, and ask for multiple people to repeat themselves a handful of times because I’m not used to that Southern drawl. It’s the little things when you’re off on an adventure that you remember the most, like when the rodeo clown has to fire you the second performance. Don’t worry that story made the bloopers section this time.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: Bottom line I messed up a clown act. Here’s the back story… I will always volunteer to help with anything and everything I can at a rodeo even if that means to be the punch line of the clown’s joke. I’m definitely not a stranger to acting a part in front of a crowd. My job was to walk out into the arena and pick up a small horse whip as the clown thinks I’m his significant other. He then gets closer to me, says another joke then I pretend to hit him and storm off because I’m not his significant other. Well I came out into the arena too early so the clown sent me back out making a joke about missing the cue and that he would tell me when to come out. All in all, it was still funny and we joked about it later. I’m going to blame my mess up on all the thick accents down in Alabama.
Queens Corner: We as rodeo ambassadors always try to put our best foot forward. We continue to represent the sport we love regardless of the absence of accolades received in return. That’s not why we do choose to do it in the first place. It’s important to remember that you are making more of an impact than you realize and it takes that one person every once in a while that reaches out to you to remember why we do what we do. My advice to all the rodeo queens out there this week is to continue to push forward and always be the best you can be in any situation because you never know when that nice little compliment will be in your inbox. Let me tell you what, it is worth it and makes doing our job even more satisfying.
A phone call came in mid-week from Tony with Rockin K Rodeo Productions asking if I would like to attend their rodeo in Shelbyville, TN. I stuttered a little because it was just a couple days away and I was in Kansas. I told him, yes of course, I’ll be there! Getting off the phone, I went into a little of a panic because prior to this phone call I wasn’t going to be on the road until the following Thursday. I had a truck to pack, my horses to take elsewhere, and coordination of places to stay in between rodeos. All of that was on my to-do list. As soon as I got off the phone, I got to work and was on the road a mere 36 hours later. Making the 12 hour drive to Tullahoma, TN was no problem, thanks to some sunflower seeds and a handful of much needed phone conversations. I stayed with my friend, Valerie, who also happened to be my roommate at the Miss Rodeo USA pageant this past January. We caught up for a day and off I went to Shelbyville, TN for the Kolt Barber American Cowboy Showdown.
My main duties were to present the colors, which is a typical job of mine. I go into the rodeo office to get the American flag and my eyes got big! Needless to say, it was a huge flag! In the back of my mind, I also knew there was going to be pyro in the opening of the rodeo which would make for an exciting entrance! I was mounted on one of the pick-up men’s horses and was waiting to enter the arena. One side note, especially with a very tall flag, is that the entry gates usually have a bar across the top. This means you have to tip back your flag to get under the bar. I am always careful to not let the flag touch the ground so I rounded up a couple people standing around to catch the tail if it was getting close to the ground. I successfully make it in to the arena and make my lap. Settling in the middle was not on this horses mind but we do and just as he is finally calm the pyro starts up! Thankfully he didn’t get too fired up and I was quick to react and hold the reins snug.
After the grand entry, I walked throughout the crowd signing autographs and chatting with the local fans throughout the rest of the rodeo. They had a 10 minute intermission to work the arena before barrel racing and I helped set up the barrels. One of the rodeo judges said to me as I came carrying the barrel, “Well, I’ve never seen this before.” Not knowing if he was talking about something being wrong with the barrel or not I said, “Saw what?” He was talking about seeing a rodeo queen carry a barrel out into the arena. I told him, “I always say, a little bit of work is well worth the front row seat to watch one of my favorite events!” I only had to set up one barrel during all the runs so it was an easy task. I don’t like to sit still at a rodeo because I know there is always something that can be done. I had already made it through the crowd so I jumped up when I saw the barrels sitting at the side of the arena.
Following the rodeo, Kolt Barber performed live music on the far side of the arena. You can’t get much better than a good rodeo until you add a live concert to it! These were two activities I hadn’t been to in a while and I got to experience both in one day. I spent a few more days in Tennessee to see a few sites with Valerie. It sure is good to have friends all over the country. It definitely makes traveling more fun. Oh, how could I forget to mention all the good home cooking I got to experience? They sure weren’t kidding on the whole southern hospitality thing I have always heard so highly about. I will now be adding corn bread to every meal I make back home. Now it’s off to Alabama for the 25th Annual Marion Rodeo!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: When I was driving through Nashville I ran into some backed up traffic. Remember, being from Kansas, I am hardly ever at a standstill on a 5 lane highway (There really aren’t many 5 lane highways in Kansas anyway). I was cruising along and had to pretty quickly come to a halt. As I stopped, my sunflowers seeds went flying and covered the floor board of my truck. After a gasp, I began to laugh because I think the spilling of the seeds startled me more than the quick stop. All in all it was fine and I lost about half my bag of seeds.
Queens Corner: Traveling essentials are important when going across the country or even just down the road. Here is a packing list of essentials that I can’t go anywhere without!
Rain Gear- rain slicker, hat cover, muck boots
Cold gear- winter coat, medium weight coat, hat, gloves, blanket
Rodeo Gear- spurs, rope, gloves, pocket knife, zip ties, flag boot x2, bobby pins, safety pins
Miscellaneous- flashlight, trash sacks, tape (all types), plastic sacks, small tool kit, toilet paper, paper towels, spare tire, jack, Clorox wipes, tissues, tire gauge, chargers for all electronics, sunglasses, hand sanitizer
Queen bag- Tide to go pen, jewelry, make-up, ball cap, hair supplies/styling tools, clothing, hats, crown, sashes, belt buckle, autograph sheets, sharpies, computer, planner
Extras- bobby pins, rodeo shirts/jeans, boots, hat, hairspray, sharpies, sunflower seeds, Mountain Dew, first aid kit, scissors, sunscreen
The most unusual item of them all is a chalk board eraser because it will clean the film off of the inside of your windshield!
I have always said this commonly mispronounced word as shaps instead of chaps. The term chap is derived from the Spanish word chaparro, which is thorny low brush. Chaps were meant to protect the clothing and legs from getting torn up as cattle were being moved across treacherous terrain. Today we see chaps used for both work on the ranch and decorative show in the rodeo arena, either way they demonstrate the culture of the cowboy way and the evolution of the western industry. However you were raised saying the word chaps, know there is no right or wrong way but you might get a funny look depending on what region you’re in.
The Miss Rodeo USA Association is blessed with multiple perpetual chaps that are gorgeous in their very own way. I can’t tell you how incredibly convenient it was to have two pairs of chaps in arm as I won the title. I never had to go to a rodeo without a pair. Wynn Custom Leather and Jody Lumley created two patriotic pairs for the 2020 queen. I have been able to proudly wear both pairs on multiple occasions so far this year. In addition to these, each Miss Rodeo USA was able to design her own custom pair of chaps to be made by Sara Prochaska with Lazy P Creations. Which as you all know just happens to be my Aunt! With Sara donating her time and the Weldon family (a former MRUSA’s family) for donating the cost of leather I was able to create a custom pair of chaps!
I have designed multiple chaps throughout my years as a rodeo queen and when I earned the title of Miss Rodeo USA, I knew this pair had to top them all. In the initial stages of design, I wanted them to be patriotic and also make a definite statement. I started thinking about all the symbols that stood out to me about our country. The first few that came to mind were the Statue of Liberty, bald eagle, and Liberty Bell. Phrases such as, “In God We Trust”, “Home of the Brave”, and “Land of the Free” also stood out to me. I then brainstormed how to make these chaps showcase my journey as a rodeo queen. As a Kansan, sunflowers were a must and an acid wash hair on hide had been on my bucket list to use as a base for some time now.
With all of these ideas floating around in my head I had to get it on paper. I started with long flowing red and white stripes around the edge of a batwing chap outline. While most rodeo queen chaps are identical on both legs I chose to go the road less traveled. I drew a tall, proudly standing Statue of Liberty on one leg with my title of Miss Rodeo USA, making this side very feminine and representing the strong women of our rodeo community. I then placed a bald eagle, our national symbol, in flight across the middle of the other leg along with the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) logo. Both of these logos represent a group that stands for more than just itself. It was meant to showcase the strength and determination of the bald eagle and the cowboys and cowgirls of the IPRA. At this point I knew I was getting somewhere. Multiple sketches and many eraser marks later I was happy with the design. I then sent it on to Sara for her thoughts. We worked together on hashing out the final details and she got to work!
Most importantly in this design, I wanted to showcase my cousin, DJ’s, legacy. I finally achieved the highest ranked title as a rodeo queen, the one that was her ultimate goal, which she never had the chance to achieve. Stemming from DJ’s attitude toward life, my personal platform to Dream Bigger came to life and I wanted to portray that somewhere on these chaps. One more important piece of this puzzle was having a few tooled leather pieces. With the assistance of Ranchy Bar B by Jackie White we were well on our way with tooled sunflower hip plates, scrolls for both legs and a back belt that clearly reads, Dream Bigger. I knew with the addition of some tooled pieces the vision I had imagined for my chaps would come to life. Jackie and I had a secret of our own and that was putting “DJ” on each hip in honor of my cousin, who is Sara Prochaska’s daughter. We managed to keep it a secret all the way up until Sara saw the pieces in person. It was a detail I wanted to surprise her with!
Sara got to work by carefully cutting every little detail out of leather and putting it into place to sew down. I honestly couldn’t wait to see the finished project because I knew it would be just like I had imagined and sure enough it was! They were completed just in time for my photo shoot with Sherry Smith Photography in Arkansas! Sara has always been a huge advocate for “Creating Your Vision” and that is exactly what she did for me! After everything, these definitely wouldn’t have been possible without a few very crucial people giving their time talents and donations. I would like to thank Sara Prochaska, Jackie White, and the Weldon Family for all believing in my dreams for the perfect pair of chaps. I am over the moon with these! Enjoy these beautiful photos by Sherry Smith Photography.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: Most of my social media posts are photos taken by me promoting different product I have received from my amazing sponsors! I was doing a little mini selfie style photo shoot of a darling shirt I received and was trying to do a photo of me hanging out in the grass on a warm day in Kansas. I go to take the photo with the phone above my head and totally drop my phone right on my face. After saying a loud ouch I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I feel like we have all been there a time or two. I’m sure you are picturing this happening right now. It’s okay, you can laugh at me!
Queens Corner: When designing anything, make sure you know what you want before you approach a designer. No matter if it is a pair of custom chaps, vest, or bag. The best custom pieces are the ones that mean the most to you because they have a story. I love creating the brainchild of someone else’s desires. To me, knowing that I poured my heart and soul into something that you really put a lot of thought into means so much more in the end. It always helps a designer if you send picture of product that you have seen and like. That helps us get a feel for your aesthetic. All in all, know what you want before pitching an idea to a designer. It will make it so much easier in the long run!
I have been looking forward to another photo shoot with Sherry Smith Photography since my first one as Miss Rodeo USA in Guthrie, Oklahoma! Sherry is the official photographer for the Miss Rodeo USA pageant and I can’t think of a better person for that task. She’s a Houdini with a camera, getting every important shot without anyone noticing her running around. I knew this next photo shoot with her was going to be just as amazing. I traveled down to Lincoln, Arkansas for a whole new experience in front of the camera with Sherry. To make the trip even better my truck got a new wrap by Katalyst Sign and Grafix. We were south bound in style!
We started out shooting sponsor clothing that I’ve been excited to debut for a while now but knew I needed the perfect photo to showcase each outfit. Sylvia Sandford with Queenies Custom Creations created a rich purple shirt with embroidered skulls and flowers all over it! I have always loved Pirates of the Caribbean, so naturally the skulls were right up my alley. Lottie Morrison (mother to a former MRUSA) created a beautiful deep gray leather vest with feathers and horseshoes, which paired with one of my Ariat shirts perfectly. Another show stopper was a bright pink breast cancer awareness arena shirt by Gloria Rudd with Rodeo Queen Shirts! I had fun with this one during a few shots with a gorgeous red roan horse named Rubin. I paired all my favorite Ariat denim, Miss Macie Boots, and Rhinestones Lipgloss Earrings with these fabulous custom pieces. I was also excited to showcase new Boot Rugs, my MJ Belt, Hoofies, Gypsy Tails, and a patriotic horse blanket thanks to Janet Woods!
Before I headed to Arkansas, Sherry told me she had an idea for a shot with smoke and colored lights. Of course I was totally in but knew I needed a specific outfit to capture the fierceness this photo had to offer. So I designed and made a snake skin fringe dress myself to pair with my bright white Miss Macie Boots! I felt like I was on top of the world while capturing this piece of artwork. Sherry had the great idea of adding white chiffon to create more movement in the photo while her husband Keith, used a leaf blower to bring the chiffon to life.
Another custom piece I had a part in designing were my custom Miss Rodeo USA chaps by Sara Prochaska with Lazy P Creations, who is also my aunt! It took a couple weeks to tweak the design until it was perfect but let me tell you what, these are the coolest chaps I have ever seen. While I might be a tad biased, there is no doubt they make a statement!
This photo shoot couldn’t have come at a better time. With many rodeos and events being cancelled I was missing the chance to really feel like Miss Rodeo USA lately. Sherry Smith helped me feel like a queen by capturing so many breathtaking photos that I will get to cherish for many years to come. Enjoy a first look at many of these amazing photographs. Thank you Sherry for all your hard work to get every photo exactly right!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: While shooting with Sherry Smith Photography, I was asked to do a twirl to get the fringe on my dress to fly! Well, I was standing on a wobbly rock and we all know how this is going to end… Twirling in an all-white outfit, in a damp forest area is a recipe for disaster for me. I fell off the rock but stayed standing and miraculously missed stepping on one of Sherry’s flashes! We all got some good belly laughs out of the deal!
Queens Corner: I want to give you a few tips and tricks on preparing for a photo shoot. First off, don’t try new make-up or hair styles the day of! Practice beforehand so you know exactly what you will be doing the day of. Along with that, have all your outfits picked out and paired with jewelry so you can make quick changes on set. This will take away a lot of stress in the moment. Keep a hair brush, hair spray, and lipstick close by to do quick touch ups if needed. Finally, make sure to talk to your photographer beforehand so you both know what to expect on number of changes and clothes that will correspond with shoot locations.
Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.
I got to go to a rodeo and it sure felt good! When I originally saw there was an IPRA rodeo on the list that didn’t have cancelled or postponed written beside it, I didn’t care how far I had to drive. I wanted to go! To make it even better it was just a short 4 hours and some change to get down there. For reference, my idea of a short drive is less than 7 hours. A fair drive ranges from 8-13 and a long drive is anything over that. This has dramatically changed from the day I had to drive one hour to college and I thought that was a long drive. So off to Locust Grove I went with a smile from ear to ear and my essential road snacks, cracked pepper sunflower seeds and a mountain dew. This trip was mighty easy because I had a traveling partner which doesn’t always happen for me. My roommate entered in the barrel racing so we sang along to every country song all the way down through Kansas and as we got into Oklahoma. I swear our voices became a little bit jumbled, maybe because of the bumpy roads. We were both equally excited to be on the road headed to a rodeo!
For the Friday evening performance I was honored to carry the American flag during the opening ceremony. I then crossed paths with a two fellow rodeo royalty, Miss ACRA, Haven Davis and Jr. Miss ACRA, Myranda Kistler. We all cleared the arena between contestants and enjoyed each other’s company. While taking precautions and social distancing we stayed horseback most of the performance and didn’t spend as much time talking to the crowd as we typically would. It felt a little odd for me not to start walking amongst the crowd to explain an event to a fan, or sign an autograph sheet to an admiring little girl. After the rodeo I stuck around to help clear the arena during slack. Slack is the term used to identify the remaining contestants that didn’t fit into the designated rodeo performance time. There is a random drawing to determine who is competing in the performance and who competes in slack, but all contestants have the same chance to win money. There were a record number of contestants for this rodeo with over 400 entries. In the past there have only been just over 100. That is a big change for a small rodeo. So needless to say slack ran until about 2 a.m. on Friday and 4 a.m. on Saturday. I will admit I was a bit chilly and definitely covered in mud but happy to be horseback doing what I love. I still can’t believe I was at a rodeo in May with a winter coat on.
Saturday rolled around and I went to get on Ralph, one of Kyle Robinson’s pick-up horses from Big Horn Rodeo. To my surprise my horse was already occupied by a little boy named Leroy. He was enjoying Ralph just as much as I did the night before. Leroy is Kyle’s son and didn’t seem to want to get off anytime soon so I climbed on double and we went for a pre-rodeo walk around the fairgrounds. Not many words were spoken because Leroy and I didn’t quite speak the same English but we both knew what tractor, horse and bull were so naturally we got along real great. Opening ceremonies took place and all the rodeo royalty, with the addition of the Ken Lance Memorial Rodeo Queen, Shannon Kerr were horseback carrying flags. Even though the sun shined down on the arena all day it didn’t quite dry the arena up. So with another muddy performance the show still went on and a good show it was!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: While pushing cattle out of the arena Friday night we were met with an interesting surprise in the middle of the arena. After getting a calf out of the arena I spun my horse Ralph around to head back down the arena and I bust out laughing with the sight of a dachshund running down the middle of the arena. Remember, this was a very sloppy and muddy arena and his short little legs barely kept his belly off the mud. As I was contemplating hopping off my horse to pick this dog up a lady comes running out to get it. The rodeo resumes but not 15 minutes later I was watching another tie down roping contestant make a run and just as the calf leaves the chute the same little dog was hot on its heels. So not just once but twice this little dog makes an appearance in the arena creating lots of laughs and fortunately no wrecks. In all of my years of rodeo I have never had a dog come out into the arena, let alone a dachshund!
Queens Corner: Put yourself in the position to watch as many pageants as you can or compete in a mock pageant! I know that it definitely helped me with my mental preparation before running for a pageant. Even by watching a different pageant you are going through each step of the process. Watching contestants during horsemanship, model, give speeches, and answer impromptu questions you gain a lot of experience mentally. I took advantage of always going to rodeos that had a pageant coincide with the rodeo. If you are ever considering extra steps you can take to improve before competing in your next pageant go watch a pageant! Also by attending clinics you can receive valuable feedback. Remember the Miss Rodeo USA clinic will be August 14-16, 2020. Any age and skill level are welcome to come learn and improve their rodeo ambassador skills!
I don’t design clothes. I design dreams. -Ralph Lauren
It is no secret that I am a seamstress by trade. I even have a diploma to prove it! I came to love the art of sewing in high school and that transformed into pursuing a career in the fashion industry at Kansas State University. I found my calling in making custom western wear from designing and sewing for myself. So in a way I designed my own dreams! As cliché as it sounds it is true! The option to make clothes for rodeo queens isn’t an advertised job description but it is something I found along the way and is a true passion of mine.
In the beginning, art of all sorts was a talent for me. I particularly loved mixed media, painting, and drawing. Through high school I started to think about turning it into a degree but didn’t know in what capacity that would be. Along with my art classes, I started to sew in my Family and Consumer Science classes. This led me to enter my work at art shows and through FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) competitions. I soon saw that my talents were also liked by others and that is part of the reasons I continued to pursue this dream of an art degree. I had two very influential teachers at this time that truly believed in me and gave me the ability to say, anything is possible! Mrs. Stott and Mrs. Haslouer, if you are reading this, yes, you guessed it. I’m talking about you!
My parents always encouraged me to get a higher education and were very supportive of my decision to enter an arts program. I am very thankful for their backing because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. It took a couple years for me to come to the conclusion that the western wear industry was where I belonged. Which seems odd right? I still am not sure why I couldn’t see that at first. In the grand scheme of things becoming a rodeo queen is what led me to that realization. I needed certain clothing to wear in pageants so naturally I put my skills to work.
I have been primarily sewing for myself. A handful of masks and hemming curtains has been the main project recently. Not as glamorous as you would think. There are a couple of projects that I have been scheming up that should come to fruition throughout my continued quarantine time in May. A majority of my designing time is put into the mental preparation of creating these garments. Once the whole process has been dreamt up I can get started. This year I am very lucky I have many great designers making clothing for me to wear. It’s been fun to brainstorm with fellow designers because I am used to always having to make my own clothing. It has definitely been a change of pace but something I have really enjoyed!
Rodeo queens can have a big influence in the western wear industry and that is the potential I began to see and continue to see today. I am excited to kick off my business constructing custom pieces with the integrity of never making more than one of any item. This way my consumer always knows they will be getting a one of a kind, authentic, and special piece that is just for them. I have been asked on multiple occasions what inspires me or whose work I look to for ideas. The answer is quite simple and I always lean back on a quote from Audrey Hepburn, “I just do my own thing.” So far it has worked pretty well as I have curated my own style throughout my time as a rodeo queen. Stay tuned this year to see my designs, and other various great designers who are extremely talented as well.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: My roommate and I have been doing some major tree trimming and in an afternoon we got a whole load on the side by side. We didn’t want our stack to tumble off as we made our way to the burn pile so naturally I volunteered as tribute to sit on the pile as we traveled across the pasture. Only a few seconds into our journey and I realized we were moving and my head was not! A thorn branch from a tree was stuck in my bun on my head. I managed to yell stop just before I was pulled right off the top of the pile. We continued to laugh for minutes after as we both realized what happened. There truly is never a dull moment here on the ranch.
Queens Corner: By running multiple different social media pages for years now I have learned some tricks of the trade. Here are a few pointers to help capture a great social media post. I like to get my picture first and create content around a photo. As we all know, when we are on social media we first look at the photo and if intrigued, we will read the post. By grabbing the attention of your followers with a great photo, you can leave them wanting to read the rest. I love funny or light hearted thoughts at first, the substance of the post in the middle, and wrapping up with a final thought. Through this method I feel I have been able to put more depth into my social media posts. My hope is to leave my followers with the same experience I had by just using my words. Take an extra 10 minutes on constructing a post and it will pay off in the end.
Hello there! Blogging this week is Brooke’s biggest fan, her older but shorter sister, Sierra Wallace. I am here to give you some behind the Queen details and stories from when we were growing up.
I will start with one of the first times Brooke was ever on a horse. She was so content that she fell asleep! Much to my Dad’s dismay the silly horse shook and little Brooke went tumbling off. The only reason she cried is because she wanted back on the horse! We kept it a secret from our mom for months because we were afraid she wouldn’t let us ride.
Growing up there wasn’t a horse toy that we didn’t have. We had horses for our Barbies, our Polly Pockets, My Little Pony horses, and more! Guess what? They all had barns and tack too. I fondly remember Brooke and me divvying up the dolls and their horses to set up massive ranches all over our living room and playing for hours and hours. We each had our favorites and made sure to pick them before the other could.
We also pretended to be horses ourselves. At the fairgrounds in Abilene (the stalls were a perfect spot) or at our house we would both be horses or pretend to train the other. Our gaits were perfected in no time, unless it was a day we were wild mustangs. We even had a sheep, Lambert, who we would show in the yard, pretending that he was a pony. Of course, our friends got roped into playing horse as well. They were always down to horse around with us.
We didn’t just play horse, we rode our horses as much as our parents would let us. Riding horses was an activity that we mainly did with our Dad but our Mom always cheered us on. We grew up riding down the dirt roads around our house and in our arena when it wasn’t too muddy. Riding down the roads provided us with ample opportunities to have trotting races. No cantering was allowed. We also loved trail riding. Brooke is one of the youngest riders to have been on a trail ride at the Maxwell Game Preserve. She took the record away from me!
Living with Brooke was never dull. We never knew what idea she would come up with and want to try next. She once told our Dad there were nights that it was hard for her to fall asleep because there were so many ideas popping around in her head. From a Mountain Dew can dress to a prom dress out of duct tape, her ideas and dreams were always big. She has always reached for the stars in every activity to include volleyball, basketball, track, and FCCLA. She lettered multiple years in each sport, was a three time National gold medalist in FCCLA, and graduated co-valedictorian.
Brooke excelled in horse shows as well. We rode English, Western, ran barrels and other fun races. I can’t even count the awards and buckles my little sister has earned. She never let being the youngest in her age group or being in the same age group as her sister get in the way. Brooke has been the High Point Award winner in every age group to date (sometimes multiple years). This is a feat that we think no one else has accomplished! She has always worked to be the best that she can be.
Throughout her life and with her all her queen titles, I have been so proud of Brooke. However nothing can beat the way I felt the day she was crowned Miss Rodeo USA. As we awaited the results, even my Dad, who is normally cool, calm, and collected, had a sense of anxiousness to him. I was shaking with excitement as each category was called out. After I heard that Brooke had swept the pageant, I knew that she just had to be the winner. I screamed with joy as the announcer called her name and maybe even shed a few proud big sister tears. I am so blessed that Brooke is my sister and my best friend!
There are so many memories I wish I could share with all of you but I think that I will end with some random facts that you may not know about Miss Rodeo USA.
Fun Facts about Brooke:
Hearing the words, “Sorry, it’s been cancelled until further notice” have been some of the hardest words to stomach during these last two weeks. In one phone call, my life came to a screeching halt just a few days before departing for a busy year full of rodeos, school visits, and promoting the sport I love dearly. We have all been experiencing postponements and cancellations. It’s not easy, and will continue to be a trying time. During this challenging period, we need to keep a positive outlook and appreciate the precautions that are being taken to keep as many people safe as possible. I understand the severity of our situation; however it doesn’t make any of this easier.
The impact of this virus is affecting everyone. Personally, I only get one year to be Miss Rodeo USA, and it doesn’t magically start over in January because a few months were missed due to a pandemic. My struggle lies in missing many great experiences for potentially a third or more of the year. Without events and rodeos those chances to make an impact on a student, fan, or pedestrian at the airport don’t happen. The best way to describe this feeling is like being ripped off by a bad scam. I see this virus affecting everyone else around me too. What about my friends who don’t get a formal graduation, couples postponing their weddings, and countless people being laid off? Events and gatherings that people count on every year are just not happening. When we stop thinking about our personal problems and open our eyes, we see the real impact that is happening around us. While it is easy to get down about our own misfortune, know that everyone else is dealing with this as well. Choose to be supportive of others in any way you can. We are all in this together. Well, six feet apart that is!
The rodeo industry has taken a huge hit just like most sports. I have never known a rodeo to cancel for anything! I once attended a rodeo with a tornado warning happening and others during torrential downpours. The phrase, “the show must go on” has been used a time or two by countless arena directors. So the initial thought of a cancelled rodeo was all but unheard of. Many rodeo contestants rely heavily on the income they make from competing in rodeos all year long. The 51st International Finals Rodeo will be drastically affected by multiple months without a single rodeo. Seasoned veterans and rookie contestants will definitely have their work cut out for them this fall. On the bright side, contestants are having more time to practice and injured contestants are gaining valuable time to heal. All of this happening without the leader boards changing. Postponing events will definitely make for a busier fall season with stiff competition. We will see how it all unfolds.
Currently, I am thankful for the time I have at home to catch up on the never ending to-do list. I have been able to ride my own horses and dust off the sewing machine, which are two of my favorite pastimes. As I write this not knowing exactly when I will have another event I’m choosing to stay optimistic about my situation and make the most of my time as Miss Rodeo USA whether that is from my home in Kansas or eventually at an IPRA rodeo. I’m reminding myself to not get upset about things that can’t change. Instead I will continue to do my job, but just in a very different way than I am used to. Stay tuned into my social media for many giveaways, trivia, and educational posts. If you have any questions or want to hear about a certain topic, feel free to comment below or send me a personal message. I would love to know what topics you would like to hear about from me! While this quarantine is not ideal, it is essential. We can and will make it through.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: After being cooped up inside the past week I have made exercise for myself and my horses a priority. I do a combination of actually riding or taking them for a jog, like you would with your dog. Seems funny and it probably is funny looking but it works in the best interest for everyone. I get my exercise and so do they, while also working on their ground manners. Well, the other day I went out to catch one to take on a jog and no one wanted to be caught. I tried for a while but then realized I too was getting a workout trying to catch those hooligans and they were all four were getting exercise instead of just one. What started out as trying to catch one turned into a game and I would take off running and they would take off running past me and gallop to the other side of the pasture. After a good ten rounds we’d all had enough and called it a day.
Queens Corner: School visits can definitely be an intimidating quest if you don’t have experience dealing with different ages of students. What started out as a nerve-racking task turned into one of my favorite activities to do as a rodeo queen. My typical school presentation starts out with reading my favorite rodeo or western inspired book. Then I relate the story I chose back to the rodeo industry and history behind the sport. I get asked a lot of questions which helps me know what to cover the next time. One question I’m often asked is why I wear a crown and sash. I answer that many different jobs have a uniform, and this is my uniform. I explain why I wear a hat to protect me from the sun and rain, and that my crown and sash are my name tag to show everyone who I am. I finish up by stating that I wear long sleeves, jeans, and boots for protection because I work outside with horses and livestock.
I can hardly believe two months as Miss Rodeo USA has already come and gone. Lucky for me I got an extra day this year because of leap day! I will consider that a win. With 60+ days under my belt, here is where I have been so far!
I started out quickly with a photo shoot the day after coronation! Sherry with Sherry Smith Photography and I had an absolute blast regardless of the chilly weather. She is very talented and captured some amazing shots of me at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. After that I returned to Kansas and had many different interviews during the week following coronation. One of my personal favorites was an interview with Lindsay King for Rodeo News. We knew each other prior to this interview, which made it even more fun to chat with her.
At the end of January, I was honored to be picked as a famous Kansan by Sarah, a 4th grader at Centre Elementary School. She presented in front of her whole class about my accomplishments and even dressed up as a rodeo queen to do so. I was so impressed with her presentation for Kansas Day!
On my birthday in mid-February I traveled to Plainville, Kansas to visit the middle school and high school. I spoke with the students about setting goals and working hard to reach them. Some of the middle school students had the most fun trying on my fur coat and wearing my chaps. I truly love sharing my experiences that led me to where I am now in hopes to inspire others to try something big in their lives. My hostess for this event, Liz Stamper, made my birthday special with a personalized “USA” ice cream.
Once you become a wildcat, you will always be a wildcat. After an exciting birthday, I went back to my Alma Mater to attend the Miss Rodeo K-State pageant, Kansas State University rodeo, and alumni event. This was definitely a highlight of my year so far. I so enjoyed my time getting to see friends and my KSU family that I have grown to know over the years. This is one rodeo that never disappoints. The crowd, energy, and traditions make the atmosphere so astounding!
The following week, the local 4-H clubs in Council Grove had a project day to introduce kids to new events to try. I was honored to be a part of the buymanship presentation. My groups got to pair outfits together using my rodeo queen clothes and accessories. This was to help them work on creating an entire look from head to toe. We also had a good time learning and practicing our modeling skills.
After that, back down I-35 to Oklahoma City I went to attend the Royal Review Rodeo Queen Jackpot as an emcee with one of my good friends Jordan Tierney, Miss Rodeo America. The Royal Review has been a crucial part of my rodeo queen preparation and practice throughout the last three years. I loved how the clinic was set up for us to learn for a few days, and then get to put our skills into practice by competing against other ladies our age from across the country. I met so many amazing friends through this event and was so excited to be asked back to help with the clinic this year.
Kicking off March I pulled out Short Go Children’s Books and Rusty’s Remuda to share with the Rossville Elementary K-6 graders. These two are very different stories, but both very good to help teach about rodeo and the western way of life. In the future, I hope to be able to write and illustrate stories like these to give kids even more of a selection of western and rodeo themed books to read, and so rodeo queens have more stories to help teach young kids about our sport.
Being involved in FCCLA and FACS classes in high school lead me to speaking at the United Associations Conference in Wichita, Kansas about my experience through fashion design in the western industry. I spoke to teachers and extension agents about my experience in hopes that they could inspire young minds to pursue a design degree. Jim Richardson, a National Geographic photographer was the keynote speaker. He showed a number of photos from the places he had been and really captivated the audience. I was truly inspired by his presentation about what it was like to capture a story and not just a photo. I feel like I tend to be the one trying to inspire others, yet that day I myself found a little magic in the words of Jim.
Spending some more time in Kansas, I attended Equifest put on by the Kansas Horse Council. I had a multitude of jobs throughout the weekend. My favorite part of course was carrying the American flag during the ranch rodeo each evening. I got to meet amazing folks like Adrian “Buckaroogirl” Brannon, spend some time with my favorite hatters at Hatman Jack’s Booth. I also met an inspiring new friend Jill, who started a business, Baby Blue Roo, after her daughter. I’m truly lucky to get to meet some remarkable people during my travels.
This last Saturday was my official meet and greet for my year as Miss Rodeo USA. The beautiful Sand Springs Venue in Abilene, Kansas was the perfect place for my friends, family, and fans to gather together. I got to speak about what my year as would entail, different places I will be going, and of course for everyone to mingle over a good piece of cake. Laughter was shared as the crowd asked me different questions after I spoke. Even my uncle threw in some trivia questions! All in all it was very enjoyable to have all of my favorite people together.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: When picking up a silent auction item from Lazy KT Designs near Abilene, (go check out her awesome items) I was taking back roads into town. It had just rained and I came over the top of a hill and hit some unexpected mud. After slipping and sliding I came to a stop and was stuck. I used some critical thinking skills as any farm girl would so she wouldn’t have to call her dad and was able to get unstuck. I then got re-stuck trying to get out then unstuck again and realized I needed a new plan. I found a grass path to the next drive way and was able to get right on my way with only the evidence of mud on my car to tattle on me.
Queens Corner: Pageant applications can be daunting trying to get every single detail right. This can be a lot of pressure being your very first impression on all your judges. First and foremost, meet your deadline. However, in the process give yourself plenty of time to make the edits your application deserves. My best tip is to fill it out and then wait a week or so and go back and read through it again. This way you will find a lot of those edits on your own and make sure it is truly what you want to get across to your judges. Be concise, to the point and leave out generic words. Once you are happy with your application, send it on to a few others to double check for errors.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing.”
It’s not just the hard work of traveling miles on end to various events with little compensation.
It’s not just the perseverance to wake up early and go to bed late with that same smile.
It’s not just the learning and studying for hours to better understand what you are representing.
It’s not just the sacrifice of having to deal with loss much differently than you ever imagined.
It’s the love for the sport you choose to represent because you believe in it with all your heart.
You may ask what it takes to become Miss Rodeo USA. I’m here to tell you there are no secrets. When we look into each other’s lives we tend see what is happening now but we forget about where it all started. At any certain moment it’s easy to overlook one’s journey, but we can’t forget to remind ourselves that success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. This is the story of my career as a rodeo queen.
The only thing I knew about rodeo was barrel racing. I thought if I knew how to do that, the rest should be easy. Well, I was completely wrong. I soon realized I had to learn all the events, rules, history, professional athletes, current events, record holders, slang terms, equine anatomy and much more. Need I remind you at the time I didn’t even know all the rodeo events. Mind boggling, right?! With my family having little connection to the rodeo industry I felt like a fish out of water. I knew if I was going to make this rodeo queen thing happen, I would have to work twice as hard. While preparing for my first pageant I made myself a set of notecards to study. I vividly remember the moment my family and I were sitting on the patio and they were reading through them as I responded. I was finally able to correctly answer every single one! I knew all my studying was paying off.
My first pageant…
I prepared for months before the weekend of the Junction City Rodeo. Finally, the day came. I packed up my pageant wardrobe and every single item I could possibly need or not need. I felt like I took everything, just in case. After two days of pageant events and a rodeo performance I was crowned Miss Rodeo Junction City 2015. Up until that point I couldn’t think of anything else I had worked so hard to achieve. This even surpassed the hard work I put into making a dress out of duct tape in high school for prom. Miss Rodeo Junction City was a title that my late cousin DJ had held years before, and it was very sentimental and rewarding to follow in her footsteps. My favorite memory after receiving the title was my aunt coming over to tell me my Papa Don knew I was going to win. He had passed away two months before the pageant and had told her he knew I was perfect for the job. Tears flooded my eyes as I thought about DJ and Papa and I knew that year I wanted to make them proud.
Life after winning that title was tough. Just a month after this new adventure started. I was at my first rodeo performance as a rodeo queen. My dad and sister arrived, and I knew something was wrong. They told me my mom had passed away from cancer. Right then I had to choose whether to fulfill my duties and stay until the next day or to go home. I chose to stay. That sacrifice I made taught me more lessons than I ever could’ve imagined. It taught me how to carry on in immensely hard times, and how to smile through some of the saddest moments. At the end of the day I knew my mom wouldn’t have wanted me to dwell on her death, but instead to persevere and stay. Every time you see my smile, know that it looks just like my mom Julie’s. It was my favorite thing about her appearance and something I try to carry on.
The next titles…
After completing my first year as a rodeo queen, I loved it so much I decided to try again for another chance to represent the sport. I ran for Miss Rodeo K-State and won that title the following year. What an opportunity it was to represent Kansas State University! Everywhere I went I had a unique connection with a large group of people, because I represented something they loved too and that was K-State. If I had a dollar for every time “Go Cats!” was yelled in my direction, I would be rich!
During my time as Miss Rodeo K-State, I decided I eventually wanted to become Miss Rodeo Kansas. This was because of the huge influence I had from Miss Abbey Sass. She was the reigning Miss Rodeo Kansas, a former Miss Rodeo K-State and my biggest role model. However, I felt I wasn’t quite ready for that big of a responsibility yet, so I decided to run for Miss CPRA and represent the Central Plains Rodeo Association instead. Achieving the Miss CPRA title was yet another connection to my cousin DJ. The Miss Congeniality award at that pageant was dedicated in memory of her, and I was voted by my peers that year to receive the award. Talk about a memorable moment!
These titles were the stepping stones that provided the opportunities, experiences, and knowledge it would take to move on to the next level. Before running for Miss Rodeo Kansas, I asked myself if I truly wanted to pursue another title. At the time I was just finishing up college, and my next step was to either get a job or continue to be a rodeo queen. I bet you can guess what my dad wanted me to do! Instead, I chose to run for Miss Rodeo Kansas. At the pageant, I placed 1st runner up, and I was devastated. I asked myself over and over what had gone wrong? I did everything in my power to win, and was met with complete disappointment. Then I remembered that in moments of despair sometimes we forget there is a bigger plan, a plan we don’t make for ourselves. While I had been so focused on why I didn’t win, I lost track of the bigger picture. The next year I came back with a burning passion to succeed and won the title of Miss Rodeo Kansas.
After my year as Miss Rodeo Kansas, I went on to place 3rd runner-up at the Miss Rodeo America pageant. It was a tough competition and I am proud of how it turned out. The most rewarding part of the pageant was being named Miss Congeniality by my peers. That honor truly made my heart so happy. I'm not sure those 25 other ladies realize how much that meant to me!
It took a lot of planning to run for Miss Rodeo USA. What you may not understand is while juggling the responsibility of Miss Rodeo Kansas, and preparing for the Miss Rodeo America pageant, I also had to apply for the Miss Rodeo USA pageant. At this time I was also sewing my entire wardrobe for these national pageants. To say it was a handful would be an understatement.
I ultimately decided to run for yet another title because I didn’t want to have any regrets later in life. I knew that if I were to see my dream of representing professional rodeo become a reality, I needed to give it my all and not miss out on a life-changing opportunity. Even though it was an incredible amount of work and logistical planning to make it all happen, in the end it paid off. After a month of crammed studying and preparation since returning from the Miss Rodeo America pageant, I headed to Oklahoma for a chance to win what would be my final title. I was blown away that I not only took home the title, but I won all the main categories as well. I would say that was quite a way to celebrate the final pageant I would ever compete in! Those moments as I was called up on stage to receive each award was the moment I saw all my hard work pay off. All that time I put into preparation had come to a grand finale, which was winning the title of Miss Rodeo USA!
Since being crowned Miss Rodeo USA, many people have asked what my schedule looks like. Within this first month, the majority of my time has been devoted to planning and schedule for the entire year! It’s crazy to think I pretty much know where I will be for the next 6 months. Certain weeks I will have events every single day. So far I have attended a handful of various events, school visits, and the K-State collegiate rodeo. My first IPRA rodeo will be in Brunswick, Georgia where I will then stay in the south for the spring rodeo run. Look forward to hearing about riding horses on the beach!
Becoming a rodeo queen opened my eyes to eventually competing in rodeos. It’s hard to sit back and watch others compete. I want to be in the action! I’ve set goals after this year to compete in IPRA rodeos as a barrel racer and a break away roper. I want to make it to the IFR within five years of being Miss Rodeo USA. I make my goals happen by writing them out and giving myself a timeline to reach them. By telling others and writing those “dream bigger” goals down, we can push ourselves to become something bigger and better than we were before. What’s your next “dream bigger” goal? Tell me in the comments for a chance to win a special prize at the end of the month!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
While interviewing with KSNT this last week I brought my horse Mocha up to the house and she splashed in the water puddle spraying water and mud all over me. Luckily, it was the end of the interview and I didn’t get caught on camera with my new look thanks to my horse. She’s lucky I love her so much!
Ask for help! You will never get better at anything if you don’t try to get help. I always make a point to ask when I don’t know something. Whether that’s asking a fellow rodeo queen, director of a pageant, or a rodeo judge. No one will do it for you. You are responsible for your own preparation. If you don’t know how to do your hair, makeup, or a flying lead change, ask someone! I have never excelled from learning out of a book but if someone explains something to me I’m able to retain that information much better. One of my favorite memories as a rodeo queen was learning how to flank a bull thanks to Wacey Munsell at rodeo bible camp. You never know what experience you will come upon if you just put yourself out there.