Do we ever think about what the definition of certain words really mean? For example, take two simple words like cowgirl and essence. When used separately they are quite simple and easy to understand, but what happens when you use them together? What is the true meaning of cowgirl essence and why would that be important as a rodeo queen? To me, these two words combined bring on a whole new meaning. Maybe cowgirl essence is being authentic and passionate in a way no one else can understand. It is the ability to have enough grit to outwork anyone standing in your way. Cowgirl essence can’t be described, it has to be shown. It was definitely show last weekend at a new and special event!
When I heard there was a cowgirl essence exchange I couldn’t help but become intrigued by what that meant. As I looked more into this event called The Cowgirl Gathering, I knew it was something I needed to attend! The inaugural Cowgirl Gathering was held in Fort Worth, Texas at the Cowboy Channel Studio. The weekend consisted of a number of women from the western industry that came together to speak on a whole gamut of topics revolving around the spirit of the American Cowgirl. These women came from all walks of life and different parts of the western industry but all had the same hard working cowgirl heart.
We kicked off the weekend with a round table of five well known women in the industry. Lindy Burch, Sarah Dawson, Stephanie Lynn, Dena Kirkpatrick, and Kim Lindsey all came together to talk about different disciplines of the performance world. One thing that continued to be said by all of them in their separate industries is that the one thing that helped them find success was that they out worked everyone else. It wasn’t always the special horse or the connections that made them champions in their disciplines it was more the hard work that they put in that ultimately paved a way to their success.
My favorite speaker all weekend definitely was Amanda Kimes. She and her husband started Kimes Ranch from the bottom up. They literally both quit their day jobs after watching a pair of jeans being made on T.V. and said, “This is what we want to do.” I appreciated her transparency in how she told the story of their adventure in making a denim jean. She had the whole studio in laughter at times even while she was speaking of all the hardships she went through to just get one prototype sewn together. In spite of all the bumps in the road they never let it deter them from the end goal of owning their own company.
In addition to the engaging speakers there were also female entertainers! We heard some of the most beautiful voices from Macy Dot Neal and Madison Paige. Both are up and coming country singers and songwriters. On top of that, Jessica K. Haas came in for a speed painting performance where she painted an image of Beth Dutton upside down! If you are a Yellowstone fan you can understand when I say the crowd went wild when she flipped the painting around and we discovered who the image portrayed. Cowgirl poetry might not be the first thing you think of when you hear the word entertainment, but Amy C. Witt delivered multiple beautiful and truthful poems from her book. All four women did a spectacular job of entertaining and really added to the cowgirl essence of the weekend!
Each speaker mentioned setbacks that this year has brought them. Whether it was cancelled events or missed opportunities because of the pandemic everyone missed out on something or so it seemed. One lady had a different view on it though. LeAnn Hart came to us for our morning Sunday worship. I appreciated LeAnn’s story about a broken flank strap that she couldn’t get over until she realized the bull rider in that particular ride was hurt. She talked about how she had to step back and look at the big picture instead of focusing on the silly things. The lesson here was that the loss isn’t greater than the gain. This hit me pretty hard as I have been really working on focusing on the positive of 2020 instead of the negative. We all struggle with this but in that moment it all made perfect sense. I just loved how her words perfectly flowed together to give everyone a different perspective on such a trying year.
We wrapped up the weekend with a session on mental performance. I am already a firm believer in the mental game of an athlete or anyone who is competing. I have experienced this time and time again in rodeo queen competitions where I realized if my mind wasn’t in it to win it, I definitely didn’t perform my best. Donene hit it home when she said, “Close the gap from where you are to where you want to be.” She spoke a lot about procrastination and how we can hinder our productivity by not taking the first step toward the future. We got up and danced, hooped, and hollered through “45 Minutes To More Confidence” with the author of “Heart of a Champion,” Donene Taylor.
These descriptions only begin to hit all of the amazing content from two full days. On top of everything else, we heard even more on cowgirl history, horse racing, life for a Thoroughbred after racing, modern horsewomen, podcasting, and strategies for a business. I was blown away on how they pulled such a great event together during a pandemic and kept everyone safe in doing so. I can’t wait to go back next year!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: For the first time this year I have come up short with a funny situation. I can tell you what potentially could have ended in a funny story though. While in the Fort Worth Stockyards I came across a longhorn named Patron. I could have climbed atop this huge creature but instead I decided that my outfit wasn’t really made for straddling livestock. Considering I was wearing a skirt. I chose to take the safest road traveled here and just walk on by. Could you imagine the story this could have been if I would have tried to climb aboard?
Queens Corner: The Cowgirl Gathering was the perfect opportunity for a rodeo queen to attend an event that was a bit out of the ordinary. I urge all the rodeo queens out there to take the time to branch out and find different events to attend. This was exactly the kind of motivational event anyone would need to recharge and continue to represent the western lifestyle in the rodeo and equine industries.
At last, it was time for another photo shoot with the famous Sherry Smith! This time instead of me traveling to Arkansas, she came to Kansas to capture the beautiful Flint Hills and some of my favorite horses. We originally had hoped to catch some authentic sunflowers for this final shoot but couldn’t quite make that happen. Having Sherry come to Kansas at any point was the top priority and we finally had a date that worked for both of us. The icing on the cake was her assistant, Ryan Clawson, who was on standby and he made the journey with her as well. I was excited to have extra eyes on the set to guarantee to most spectacular photos. If you have been following along on my social media you have seen countless pictures taken by Sherry Smith. I knew it would be hard to capture even better photos this time around.
Sherry and Ryan arrived the evening before the shoot. We all loaded up and I drove them around Council Grove, the quaint little town I currently call home. We contemplated all the spots we could shoot the next day and eventually narrowed it down to a handful. Picking out the locations to shoot and what outfits go best with each place is just the start and definitely can be a deal breaker. Not even just those details but also what time of day we can get the best photos in the places we chose. A lot more planning goes into it than you would ever expect. We finally called it a day because a queen needs her beauty sleep before a big photo shoot.
The morning of a photo shoot there are many last minute adjustments. One of the main details is making sure each horse is clean especially when you have a palomino and white paint. We had multiple props for the sets needing to be packed up and of course making sure every outfit was perfectly pressed! Thankfully I had the help of my Aunt Sara to assist with all the day of preparations.
We started out in the barn and we took photos that the sun was too harsh for outside. This was very handy to make the most of our time. Then we moved outside in the shade of the barn and took some of my favorite photos inside my Dad’s silver and red 1959 Chevrolet pickup. After wrapping up there, we went over to the lake for a change of scenery. Then back for more pictures on the ranch amongst the beautiful Flint Hills. To my surprise, while shooting a group shot with three of my horses, we were able to catch all of their attention at once with a special trick. We played the sound of a horse neighing on a phone and sure enough it worked like a charm! They all had their ears perked and straight at the camera. If you have ever tried to take pictures with even just one horse you know the struggle of getting them to “pose”.
It was very special to be able to have multiple sentimental items to use in the sets of my shoot. It was important to me to include both of my Dad’s Chevrolet’s and three of my own horses. I also took a picture with a stuffed animal that was my cousin DJ’s. It was almost like having her with me for the final capture of my year as Miss Rodeo USA. One final detail of the day was taking a photo with my great grandmother’s sewing machine. As many of you know I love to sew and getting to capture a photo with this machine was extra special because it showcases the individuality that I have as a rodeo queen that can sew her own clothing! Pictures already capture beautiful memories for a lifetime but they also mean so much more with the added details of special mementoes.
We finally called it a wrap on a full day of taking over 1,700 photos in 6 hours! When you put it like that, it seems very grueling but the day honestly went so fast! I didn’t realize how many hours had gone by until my stomach started to growl or how many outfit changes I had until I started to hang up each outfit and store all my jewelry back into its place. I easily made 15 different outfit changes by the end of our session. Luckily with a great plan like we had, it was amazing what we were able to accomplish in one day!
Maybe the most important part of all was the amount of times Ryan had everyone rolling on the ground with laughter. He is an entertainer by trade and most certainly made everyone smile all day. That wasn’t his only contribution though. Ryan truly was helpful in creating beautiful poses for each set. Sherry and Ryan are the perfect pair in setting the scene and capturing each shot with complete perfection. I was blown away when I first glanced through all the photos. It definitely was hard to narrow down my favorites from the day!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: As we were navigating on the edge of the lake to capture one of my sponsored outfits I realized there were a good amount of mossy rocks I was stepping on. It registered to me I should be careful or I might fall right into the water. Just as that thought crossed my mind I felt my foot slip! As lucky as I tend to be in the most unlucky situations I managed to keep my footing. No lake swimming for me in October! Can you imagine how cold that water would have been?!
Queens Corner: Sometimes it takes a second set of eyes to make the perfect outfit for a photo shoot. At first glance an outfit that might seem perfect might not photograph as well. Things to help with this are accenting with a good amount of jewelry. I will say, there is always a time and a place for a simple necklace but if it is part of the outfit that needs to be seen make sure you layer it on. If you have certain sponsored items that need to be seen in a photo make sure they pop with whatever you are wearing. It is also important that your makeup is also a bit heavier and darker to be seen in the photo so your features pop! Preparation is key to everything when looking to get the perfect photo. These steps will help you create those moments.
As I flew into Charleston, I was back in South Carolina for the Moncks Corner Pro Rodeo! This trip marked the first time I have taken to the skies as Miss Rodeo USA. My travels so far have been many highway miles, but this journey was way more realistic via airline! The best part of this adventure was that my aunt decided she needed to take a little vacation and came along with me. We both have mutual friends in the area and so naturally it was very easy to make plans to see them all. This was especially fun because I typically travel by myself everywhere I go. I was incredibly excited to have someone along for the trip, especially a family member!
The main event was the Moncks Corner Pro Rodeo with Ken Treadway Rodeo Company. I have had the honor of working with Ken and Pam at other rodeos throughout this year so naturally we all fell into a normal rodeo routine. Well mostly that is. Yet again, we were met with a very muddy arena and no sun in the forecast. As we were discussing my duties for the rodeo I requested a little bit of a different job from Ken. In a slightly joking matter I asked if I could untie calves and he said, “Girl it is way too muddy out there, you’ll get stuck in the mud!” I countered his rebuttal with the fact that I already duct taped my boots on my feet. We then came to the conclusion that he would let me help the next night. I sure didn’t forget my request and the next night you better believe I was ready to go when the action went down to the timed event end for tie-down roping. I unfortunately was wearing a white long sleeved shirt that night and wondered if I would be able to get through the event without getting mud anywhere on me. Sure enough, I managed to not get one spec of brown on that white shirt.
Along with my normal duties of leading the grand entry and signing autographs I had a special job at the Moncks Corner Pro Rodeo. I had the honor of escorting a well-known community military leader. He served in Korea and two tours in Vietnam. He was also awarded a silver star and two purple hearts during his years of service. In all of my time as a rodeo ambassador, this is the first opportunity I have had the honor to do anything of this manor. It is hard to put into words the feeling of standing out in the arena with a gentleman who did so much for our country. Clarence “Mac” McGee was a very humble and grateful for being honored both performances. It is people like that we need more of. He never asked for recognition or to be thanked but he definitely deserved every bit of it.
While in The Palmetto State, I got to meet up with some neighbors from the north. Miss Rodeo North Carolina-Taylor King, Teen Miss Rodeo North Carolina-Madison Smith, Jr. Miss Rodeo North Carolina-Lila Trogdon, and former Jr. Miss Rodeo North Carolina-Presley Gibbs, all traveled to South Carolina for a chance to meet in person with my aunt and I! We all went to a local attraction, Cyprus Gardens, where we were able to go out and explore the swamps in our own personal paddle boats in hopes to see a gator or two. Between all the North Carolina queens and the Jr. Moncks Corner Pro Rodeo Queen-Ashley Housand, we had a full paddle boat! We were quite the sight to see if you can imagine a boat full of rodeo queens with little paddling skills. I won’t say how many trees we ran into but it was more than one. From my experience it is much easier to ride a horse than steer one of those boats. We did end up seeing a gator and we managed to take a handful of awesome swamp pictures in full rodeo queen attire. It was an exciting day of adventure and making friendships that will last a lifetime!
To top off a very exciting few days close to the coast I was surprised with a birds-eye view of the rodeo arena! Right before the final performance in Moncks Corner we zipped over to the nearest open field and climbed into a helicopter! We then went straight up into the air faster than I could even get my phone camera open. Flying back and forth over the arena was quite the adrenaline rush and I couldn’t believe how long the line was for spectators to get in! Keep in mind this was hours before the rodeo even started. I have been in many planes over the years but it was my first time in a helicopter.
Between helicopter rides, swamp tours, and playing with pet raccoons I would say my time in South Carolina was well spent. I am so thankful for the wonderful opportunities this year has brought. I continue to be blessed by meeting new people and reuniting with others I have met along the way. For years to come, I will remember this weekend in full detail. I mean really, who gets the chance to feed raccoons mini donuts on a regular occasion. I’ll check that off the bucket list!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: If you are a Toy Story fan you might recall Woody’s pull sting sound effect saying, “There’s a snake in my boot!” Well I have one better than that! While in South Carolina, I can literally say there was a snake on my hat, a 10 pound python to be exact. This was no accident because in the name of getting cool photos I jumped at the chance to have a snake wrap around my hat and crown. I willingly asked the snake guy to put this snake on my cowboy hat. I will say the look on his face was priceless when I told him I wasn’t kidding. A pinky promise might have been exchanged to endure I wasn’t going to freak out if in fact he did let the snake slither its way around my head.
Queens Corner: With fewer opportunities to attend schools this year I urge rodeo queens to still take the time to see if you can prerecord a video that can be played at schools and sign autograph sheets to send to your local elementary schools. My goal is to send 2,000 autographs to schools in my area before the end of the year! I have struggled with not having the opportunity to teach about rodeo and the western industry in local schools and this is how I plan to bridge the gap that we have experienced with the pandemic this year.
There was an extra “bam” in my trip to ‘Bama this time around. I will get to that later though. For now, let’s cover the sweet time I had and all the sweet tea! While my home isn’t in Alabama part of me feels a little bit of home there for one very important reason, the Terry’s. It just so happens that northern Alabama was on my route on multiple occasions and Marsha and Keith Terry have opened up their home to me time and time again. The Terry’s have definitely made me feel at home while on the road!
One evening Marsha comes in and asks if I could help with something but I didn’t quite hear what she said. I throw on my tennis shoes and head out the door to realize I wasn’t quite dressed for the occasion of throwing square bales! I jump right in and load up about 80 bales with a handful of folks. It went pretty quickly and after we were done Keith asked why I had shiny tennis shoes on and I said well I didn’t know what we were doing! I think that was part of the reason it feels like home because that is exactly the kind of thing I’m used to doing!
While preparing for the Lawrence County Cattlemen’s Rodeo, I had a few different appearances to make! I was able to chat with the 4-H students in the county about my platform, “Dream Bigger!” We chatted on Zoom about how to set goals and manage the steps to really push ourselves to dream bigger. I was really impressed with the interaction each student made! Along with that, I had the honor of dropping off autograph sheets and rodeo tickets to all the 4th graders in the county! Let me tell you what, that was a lot of signing of autograph sheets but it was well worth the time to be able to hand out a special surprise to students in Lawrence County.
If you have been following along with my blogs you have heard about me carrying huge American flags in the opening of many rodeos. Well, I obviously didn’t really know what a big flag looked like. I soon found out what a really huge flag was in Moulton. Think if you were to take the measurement from the ground to the top of my hat while sitting on the horse and then double that. You then would get the measurement to the top of the flag. Yes, that is no exaggeration. I have never been so nervous to carry a flag in the opening until this very moment. What didn’t help the situation was I was on a high energy barrel horse that was prancing around as I’m about to go into the arena. That didn’t help the situation by any means. Luckily, she settled just fine as I entered the arena and we had a flawless opening. My arm sure was sore the next day from holding up such a ginormous flag.
Again, if you have been following along in Brooke’s blog world you might recall a little story from Huntsville, Arkansas. I found myself in a very familiar situation at the Lawrence County Cattlemen’s Rodeo. This is where the “bam” to my time in Alabama came from. I was riding a very well trained calf horse for the opening. He warmed up like a champ and wasn’t afraid of the flag at all. Well as I loped out into the mucky, muddy, and deep arena this horse decides to add some theatrics to the performance. Yet again, I start out the saddle bronc riding and continue to ride this horse out as he crow hops around half of the arena. I remember right as he started throwing an attitude, I thought to myself this can’t be happening again. Well sure enough I found myself hanging on for dear life but managed to stay on this time around unlike in Huntsville! The one common denominator of these two events was the amount of mud in the arena. Each time the horse was a great horse, I just managed to catch them on the wrong day. I have come to the conclusion that I am an expert at turning a broke horse into a bronc horse!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: The bronc horse didn’t even make the bloopers this blog because I have an even better one! I was helping hang banners the Friday morning of rodeo weekend and some of these banners were to be hung on the wire above the bucking chutes. The wire was a pulley system that could be let down to reach so you could climb on the chutes to zip tie the banners on. As I was doing that and climbing along the fence line I abruptly feel my feet slip out from under me. I scramble to grab something to hang on to. What had happened was I was standing on a gate and it had come unchained and swung open. So there I was with my arms and legs wrapped around the top bar of the panel, like a koala bear, as the gate was wide open to the pen of bulls. I just hang there for a second to make sure the commotion didn’t disturb the bulls and send them flooding out the gate. When the coast was clear I reached for the gate with my foot and all was good. I chained the gate and turned around to the pickup men just about to bust a gut over the stunt I just pulled. We all had a good laugh and I managed to finish hanging the banners without any more issues.
Queens Corner: Autographs are such an important part to the role of a rodeo queen. Nothing makes me happier than receiving a message from a parent of a child that has continued to talk about their signed picture days after the rodeo! It is a good reminder to take the time at each event to offer your time to sign autograph sheets no matter how many different duties you have that evening. There have been rodeos where I have signed pre rodeo, mid rodeo and also post rodeo autograph sheets and there is always someone who might not of gotten one if I hadn’t have been there. Just think if you were a kid that didn’t get one because the queen only signed autograph sheets after the rodeo and you didn’t get to stay the whole time.
A quick trip back to Kansas was no understatement. I truly enjoy my time on the road but there really is no place like home. Yes, that is definitely a Wizard of Oz line but how could I resist! I am from Kansas you know. I am quite surprised that I don’t get called Dorothy or asked where my dog Toto is more often. Every once in a while I will get a joke cracked in my direction about the movie characters but always way less then I expect. I always get asked if I’m from Kansas City like there are no other towns in the whole state. I love it though and get a good laugh out of explaining where I live.
My next journey took me back to Tennessee. If you recall, I was there in June so I was excited to go to a different area of the state. I arrived to Lebanon with a full weekend in sight. The Hedrick Rodeo Company was contracting this rodeo which made an easy transition into the weekend because I already knew how they liked to put on a rodeo. I was thrilled to be using the huge American flag for the grand entry. It really looks so cool and pictures don’t even do it justice. I carried on with my normal duties as queen and even got some sorting in the back pens done during slack and was named the official barrel setter during the barrel racing. I love working each and every part of the rodeo. In my down time at the rodeo arena a vender called me over and said he wanted to put my picture on something. Naturally I agreed and ended up with my face on a t-shirt and a mug! That sure was a first!
The unique thing about this rodeo is that it is put on by Mending Fences Cowboy Church to benefit the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). If you didn’t know, the FCA is the only organization left that can promote Christian teachings in the public school system. Quite honestly I can’t think of a better way to raise money for such an organization other than a rodeo! It was the perfect combination. We had packed attendance both nights of the rodeo and the Mending Fences Cowboy Church said the rodeo gets better every year. I was pleased to be a part of such a great cause. To round out the weekend, I had the opportunity to present my platform speech at the Sunday morning service before I left town. This was extra special to me because I haven’t had many opportunities to speak in front of a crowd about why I am so passionate about being a rodeo queen. I cherish that moment a little more this year.
While between stops from Tennessee to Georgia I had a bit of a scare with hurricane Sally. I was staying with my friend in Alabama a couple days before it was supposed to get bad. She casually said we might have to take shelter in a culver. From that moment, I started to joke that I should pack up and head on back to Kansas where I would be safe from Sally. It all blew over in our area and we definitely didn’t have to take cover. There was just a lot of rain and wind. I am so thankful I didn’t experience a full blown hurricane but I will say it made me much more nervous than any tornado warning ever has.
With threats of hurricane Sally now nonexistent the Sunbelt Rodeo Queen Pageant was still a go. I traveled over to Moultrie, Georgia for two days of the pageant. I couldn’t believe they had 26 ladies entered between the multiple age divisions. It was so promising to see little girls all the way up to the young ladies. In years past, the Sunbelt Ag Expo has sent the winner of the Miss division to the Miss Rodeo USA pageant. They have had one of the reigning women go on to receive the title of Miss Rodeo USA, which was Brittany Howard Lovan in 2017. As the weekend flew by I was honored to help the current Miss Sunbelt Expo Rodeo Queen, Sarah Larson, emcee the pageant. We told stories from the Miss Rodeo USA pageant and both of our experiences there between each contestant. Since I am not from the south many last names and home towns are very foreign to me. I got tongue tied a few times while reading bios of the contestants but it definitely made for laughs throughout the competition.
Amongst different events I stay busy on the road by doing some of my hobbies like wood burning or sewing. It helps pass the days between rodeos and gives me something productive to do with my time. I love being creative and it has become a very good stress reliving activity. I have been packing my sewing machine so I can alter clothes on the road or even make something new! I recently have been working on my wardrobe for the Miss Rodeo USA pageant this January as I will be passing my title onto the next winner of the crown. I hope you are looking forward to seeing all my new creations in January!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: As we were enjoying our meal after coronation at the Sunbelt Rodeo Queen Pageant I needed to use the restroom and as I was returning to my seat I chose to freestyle back to my seat. By freestyle I mean slip and fall in the middle of Applebee’s. I have never in my life slipped so fast. One minute I was up and the next minute I was down. The tile was wet and I caught the slope of my heel at the wrong angle. It never fails that a clumsy moment will always sneak up on me! The only saving grace is that I recover like a professional, probably because I have taken a fall on many occasions in my lifetime.
Queens Corner: Put me in the sorting pens! I love helping with stock at rodeos and usually I have found that help is needed if you just start working. In Lebanon, I finished signing autographs and slack had started. I went to the back and climbed right in and was handed the list. I called numbers and pointed to what pen the next steer was in. I could have gone back to my hotel and went to bed but I ended up having a blast as we finished up slack that evening. The stock contractor for the rodeo was appreciative as well. It’s not every day a rodeo queen is in the back pens. Remember to always know how to do the job before you jump in to help but that help is usually always needed.
I have been waiting to attend a rodeo in the Peach State since March! After many cancellations and postponements, off to Georgia I finally went! I was welcomed with rain, rain, and more rain. It wasn’t just one day, but two out of three rodeo performances that it down poured. In the midst of all the rain I managed to soak two of the four felt cowboy hats I had packed in my truck. If you have never experienced a wet felt hat, I will fill you in. Basically, the brim totally flattens as they get soaked. Then as they dry, the brim warps into a new and interesting shape and can’t be worn until a professional hat shaper gets their hands on it. It’s a process to fix, so getting multiple hats soaked was not on the top of my list of things to accomplish while I was in Georgia. Despite all the precipitation we didn’t let it get us down throughout the weekend in Blue Ridge, Georgia for the 24th Annual Blue Ridge Kiwanis Rodeo.
The Hedrick Rodeo Company provided stock for this IPRA rodeo and these bucking horses and bulls have been cooped up for a while now because of many rodeo cancellations. All I’m saying is that they bucked and bucked hard! It always amazes me how well rodeo contestants compete in any weather conditions. When you think of other sports, typically rain will cause delays and cancellations but not in the rodeo arena! I have seen some of the highest scored rides and fastest times in the worst conditions. Speaking of bucking bulls, I too rode a bull in Blue Ridge! Not a 2000 pound animal with a heartbeat but more along the lines of a plastic figurine that sat in the back of a truck. One of my duties was to wave to the kids as they got out of school because I wasn’t able to actually go visit them in the classroom this year. So as silly as it seems, I sat at the busiest corner of Blue Ridge to give everyone a cheerful smile as they were getting out of school and off work. It was a great time and I did have to use an umbrella one of those days to keep dry!
The next stop on my travels was Edgefield, South Carolina for the Sandy Oaks Pro Rodeo with stock from Ken Treadway Rodeo Company. I owe a huge thank you to Sue, the owner of Helios Equine Rehabilitation Center, who sponsored my trip to this IPRA rodeo! Sue along with my host family Ed and Traci, truly treated me like a queen while I was in their area. This included giving me a full tour of the beautiful Helios facility when I arrived. I was speechless as I walked through the very clean and newly built building. If I was a horse I would definitely want to hang out there!
The biggest plot twist of the weekend was there wasn’t any rain! So my felt cowboy hats were definitely spared this time around. South Carolina was also a new state for me even though we were barely over the state line. Technically I was staying in Georgia but had to cross the state line every day to head to the rodeo. It still counts though! The Treadways love to put on a performance and make a show out of the rodeo by giving the fans something to watch every moment of the show. This includes a very thought out and detailed grand entry, which by the way is something I really love! The more complicated it is, the better! As I am being told what to do and at what speed on the legendary paint horses of the Treadway’s, I paid very close attention. I didn’t want to be the one who messed up! Naturally it went flawlessly each night of the weekend! I told Pam Threadway that the next rodeo I was with them it better be even more intricate! She responded with a smile and said of course!
During my downtime in Georgia I was able to go on a once in a lifetime experience. The activity on the agenda was foxhunting! I rode with the Belle Meade Hunt to exercise the hounds and learn all about a new sport. We went through the paces but didn’t actually hunt as the season doesn’t start until late fall. The hounds and horses must stay in shape during the off season so that is why they take them out weekly to exercise but with high summer temperatures they don’t push the animal too hard. That didn’t keep us from going over jumps throughout the whole trail which was definitely my favorite! My fabulous mount Parker, took great care of me as we soared over jumps all morning. I have never been more grateful for a background in English riding and jumping until I was in the midst of all this excitement! Little did I know foxhunting is a sport that is in Kansas too! This adventure wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Ed and Traci, my host family for the week. I am not only so thankful for their hospitality but also for them providing such a unique adventure for me!
I now have officially traveled over 10,000 miles which in a year like this is definitely an accomplishment. I racked up the rest of those on my 14 hour drive back to Kansas. Call me crazy but I still say if it’s less than 15 hours it’s a doable distance in a day.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: During the last performance in Blue Ridge, I really thought we were going to get missed by the rain. It seemed to be clearing off just before the rodeo so I took all my rain gear off and started to warm up my horse for the evening. Sure enough just as I was entering the arena for the opening ceremonies it started to rain and it continued to rain harder and harder throughout the evening. The blooper of the story is that I was wearing a navy hat. When the navy hat got wet it then proceeded to drip dark blue dye on everything including my hair, shirt, and then my seat cover on the way home. It definitely added some humor to the evening.
Queens Corner: With many hours on the road it can get very monotonous. I have come up with a few tips throughout the years that have made miles on the interstate go by a little bit easier. First and foremost when the radio just isn’t making the cut a good podcast will get you quite a good way down the road. Then if you throw in a couple phone calls to friends and family members that will put you down the road another couple hours and I will tell you I have had some of the best conversations with both of my grandmas within the last year just while traveling. Let’s not forget about the snacks. Sunflower seeds and pistachios keep you busier than just any other snacks. If you are craving the sweets, that’s when I crack open the starbursts. Again, it keeps you occupied with un-wrapping each individual piece. I am also the kind of person you can go down the road for hours without music, podcast, or anything and just be content. I assume it is just one of my secret super powers to not get bored on a drive or maybe I am just that used to being on the road.
I use the term “rodeo queen” and “rodeo ambassador” interchangeably. I actually prefer using “rodeo ambassador,” because that’s a more accurate representation of who we really are! We are ambassadors for the sport of rodeo in and out of the arena. Our job is not as glamorous as it seems, even though we are called a rodeo queen. Of course there is the occasional jokester who will say “your highness” or make a motion to bow down to the queen. I always joke right back with them naturally.
We rodeo ambassadors take our job seriously and want to be the very best we can. This past week, the Miss Rodeo USA Association put on a clinic to teach aspiring rodeo queens all about competing in a pageant for a rodeo queen title. This clinic was one of many that ladies throughout the U.S. can go to and receive the experience of a lifetime. As a rodeo queen there isn’t necessarily a class at a university or a step by step handbook to teach you everything you need to know. This is why we put on clinics to teach ladies how to become a rodeo ambassador. A clinic doesn’t just cover each individual competition category, but how to handle different situations that might arise throughout a pageant. It is not for the faint of heart though. With so many different categories to learn about we had 3 jammed packed days of learning in the classroom as well as workshops to put into practice what was being taught. Many folks don’t understand all that goes into representing the sport of rodeo. I didn’t even realize it either until I started preparing for my first pageant in 2014.
What is involved in becoming a rodeo queen you may ask? First, one must compete in a pageant. Many pageants are very similar but some are more in depth than others. Overall, they typically have the same features involved. For example, a lady vying for the title of Miss Rodeo USA will be judged in the categories of horsemanship, written test, state speech, platform speech, personality, appearance, photogenic, and a multitude of interview sessions. These all happen over the course of six days in conjunction with the International Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Throughout my time in the rodeo queen industry I have improved my skills as a rodeo ambassador by attending clinics put on by former rodeo queens. I quickly learned that by going to these clinics I would be able to learn more of what I needed to know to be the best representative for the sport of rodeo. The women leading the clinics, like myself, have been through it all and want to pass the valuable experience they have to those who are looking to follow in their footsteps. I have always said that I wanted to be very transparent to the women coming up in the rodeo industry so they wouldn’t have as much trial and error like I did in my time competing in rodeo queen pageants.
Our clinic this year was put on by Miss Rodeo USA 2019, Heather Morrison. She did an amazing job bringing in some of the best clinicians I could think of. On top of it all, she made it happen in the middle of a pandemic, which definitely threw her many curveballs. Even up until the last minute. At the end of the day, we were determined to make the clinic happen for all our participants because there has already been enough cancelled over the course of this year. My favorite part of the clinic was our girls night! I led a painting class where I had each participant create their own vision on a canvas! The goal was to paint the crown of the title they wanted to compete for and write a quote for inspiration to achieve that goal. We all laughed and I enjoyed seeing what each individual painting looked like at the end. The mental game of pageantry is just as important when practicing and preparing. This exercise was a way to get each lady to mentally visualize what their next goal was and them to have a physical piece of art work as a daily reminder to keep working toward that goal.
During the 2020 Miss Rodeo USA clinic I too was blessed to make even more amazing connections. I love meeting ladies who take the initiative to become the best version of themselves. It is an inspiration to me as well to see the motivation in their eyes. I hope each one of the women who invested their time to come to Athens, Alabama knows I am so proud of them for investing in their future as a rodeo queen. They all made leaps and bounds in the confidence they portrayed over the course of just a couple days. While it might seem like they gained the most out of this experience, I’d say that every one of them made even more of an impact on me! I would like to end on a huge thank you to all our wonderful sponsors that made this clinic possible for each participant to go home with so many goodies!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: While playing rodeo musical chairs at the Cimarron River Stampede, I took a tumble! Here’s how the game is played. When the music starts, you mount your horse and race to the end of the arena. The last person to sit in a chair is out. You continue to race back and forth across the arena until there is one final person standing. I played this game Friday and Saturday night at the rodeo and the first night was very successful as I came in second place! I was very confident that I would do well the next night too. I was wrong. Half way through the race I went to dismount my horse on the run and I hit the ground! I dusted myself off and climbed back on my horse in defeat. I realized then I needed to work on my goat tying dismount if I was going to have any future in winning this game.
Queens Corner: One of the best things I did for myself through the years as a rodeo queen was to attend different clinics to prepare for each rodeo queen title I set out to compete in. I am living proof that you don’t always need a personal coach to succeed in this industry. There is so much value in investing in a clinic atmosphere because you don’t just gain valuable information, but also friendships and connections with like-minded women who have similar goals as you. I have made so many friends all across the U.S. by attending rodeo queen clinics and I have reconnected with these women at rodeos and in different cities on my travels. It has been an experience that just keeps on giving.
● Miles Traveled: 8,863
● States Visited: 5
● Rodeos Attended: 14
● Number of Performances: 27
● Horses Ridden: 21
● Other Appearances: 15
I went from hanging with the Okies in Oklahoma to the Arkies in Arkansas! I spent a weekend in Pryor, Oklahoma at the 4-Way IPRA Rodeo and then traveled on to Huntsville, Arkansas for the 23rd Annual Madison Co. IPRA Rodeo.
Traditions are something I see at most rodeos and that was no exception at the 4-Way Rodeo. The first night they held bouncy horse races, where four spectators would race around a cone and back on an inflatable horse. The first one to cross the line won $50 and then a subsequential amount after that for the following places. After watching it, I knew I had to get a piece of the action. Later that evening I was asked to compete the following night. As you all know, I am always in it to win it and I was ready to bring the heat. As night two rolls around, I have to hustle to put my horse up and take my spurs off to get ready to bounce! It was a close race but I came in 2nd with a $25 prize! This activity was totally worth it.
While in Pryor, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Dale Yerigan, the General Manager of the International Professional Rodeo Association. It was interesting to pick his brain about what the rest of this year will look like for the IPRA. As we all know, rodeo has taken quite a hit this year with the majority of rodeos being cancelled. Dale and I both are optimistic about what the International Finals Rodeo will look like in January at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. In these uncharted waters all we can do is continue to look to the future and plan the best we can.
It was a short week between Pryor and Huntsville, and it was fun to be back with the same crew. Hampton Rodeo Company provided stock for both of these rodeos which usually means working with the same announcer, pickup men, and bullfighters. It definitely makes for an easy transition from one rodeo to the next because it’s all the same folks! I have enjoyed getting to know and grow my rodeo family this year! The friends I’ve made through rodeo will always be some of the best!
The first night in Huntsville was pretty eventful as I was caught off guard by a guinea pig and a squirrel! Before Thursday night slack, I was preparing by checking on my mount for the evening, gathering up my chaps, and fetching the American Flag when I had to take a second glance at a ball of fluff in the arms of a young girl. Once I finally figured out what she had, which was a guinea pig, I got a pretty good chuckle out of a sight I had never seen at a rodeo before! That night obviously one strange critter wasn’t enough. I was watching team roping and noticed a squirrel climb up the electrical pole and start to lose its grip. It then proceeded to go soaring on to the arena floor. The poor thing looked a bit stunned and scurried across to the other side. A few of the bystanders noticed what I saw and we were all just as shocked. Again, we all got good laugh out of an unfamiliar visitor to the rodeo arena.
While in Huntsville, I got to attend my first parade of the year! I came ready for the occasion with my Hoofie wraps, flower bouquet, and Gypsy Tail mane feathers! Parades are such a fun time to really get decorated up. That morning I turned a plain palomino horse into a sparkly and colorful piece of art! He really looked great and didn’t seem to mind all the pampering. We sported a patriotic themed ensemble as we carried the American Flag through the streets of Huntsville. The best highlight in the last couple weeks was that my sister got to come down to attend the parade and rodeo on Saturday night in Huntsville! She is currently living in Arkansas and it was just too close for her not to show up. I find it amazing how much your spirits rise when you’re around your family, especially when you don’t get to see them all the time. I am so thankful I got to spend time with my one and only favorite sister!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: It was bound to happen at some point this year and I hear that Huntsville apparently has a curse for the rodeo queen. As equestrians, we know it’s not a matter of if but when we might hit the dirt and it was my turn! During the grand entry I was on a horse I have ridden multiple times this year, including the night before for the slack performance and he was great. He was very agile, responsive, fun to ride, and honestly one of my favorites this year up until Friday night. Before the rodeo, it poured down rain for about 20 minutes making the arena a muddy mess. Who really knows why this sorrel got a wild streak but he did and sent me straight to the dirt after I hung on for a few seconds but could not quite recover. The only thing I could do was get back on and reenter for the remainder of the opening ceremonies. When things like this happen I can’t help but wonder why they even hired a clown because frankly I provided all of the entertainment Friday night!
Queens Corner: Take advantage of the opportunities that arise when you are on the road traveling. While in Arkansas, my host family offered to take me riding at their arena. We saddled up and I got to ride a half draft horse named Grace. The owner was taking all the extras off the saddle and I stopped him and said to leave the rope, I might want to swing it around some. While we were riding, he brings out the roping dummy sled and starts dragging it around for me and I go for it and caught about three times within a good 10 tries. We stopped there because it was getting dark. I then proceeded to tell him I’d never roped behind a sled like that. He was shocked! This goes to show you that you never know what you can do until you give yourself an opportunity to try it! I could’ve easily said that I didn’t know how to and not have roped but instead I took the courage I had and made it happen. Don’t be afraid to try something new, you might surprise yourself!
Typically the couple weeks surrounding the 4th of July are considered the richest weeks of rodeo. Therefore, this time is commonly called Cowboy Christmas because contestants have a chance to rake in the money by competing at multiple, big money rodeos in a short amount of time. This year definitely didn’t set any records on how much money was up for grabs but at least we had rodeos to attend! I traveled from Canadian, Texas to Moline, Kansas for the 4th of July. The following weekend I stayed in my home state and attended the Fort Scott, Kansas rodeo. It felt good to be headed from one rodeo to the next especially during the most patriotic time of year!
While starting out in Texas, part of me felt like I was in Canada when referring the Canadian rodeo in Texas. This was a quick one performance stop as I was headed back from Amarillo, Texas and Canadian was right on the way. Without hesitation I added it to my schedule to stop there on the 2nd of July. I was excited for this rodeo not only to break up the drive back to Kansas but also because I’m good friends with the stock contractor which was the Medicine River Rodeo Company! I have spent many hours at rodeos with this crew and it was just as fun as I remembered.
I finished out the holiday weekend in Moline, Kansas with Big Horn Rodeo. The best part of working with them is the two little girls that come along to each rodeo. Liz is the stock contractor’s daughter and Annika is one of their pickup men’s daughters. We laugh, play, and just enjoy life. They make me forget about how hot it might be or how late it is after slack. I sometimes can’t always answer all the “but why” questions that any typical 4 and 6 year old have but I sure do get a kick out of them!
Moving forward to Fort Scott, I ended up riding quite a few different horses in just one performance! For perspective, I typically ride one to two different horses in a weekend. So it was very comical by the end of the first night when I had swung my leg over four different mounts between the performance and slack! My favorite equine athlete of the weekend was a retired bucking horse who was now used as a pickup horse to clear the arena after rough stock events. He was calm and easy going but was big and could tow a bull right out of the arena if needed.
I stuck around in the Sunflower State for one more rodeo and went the following Tuesday and Wednesday to an IPRA rodeo in Erie, Kansas. I felt like the red carpet was laid out for me as I arrived in this small town. Everyone was so willing to say hello and help me with whatever I needed. Committees at each event work hard all year to put on their hometown rodeo and they do it for the same reason that I do! It’s for the sport and community we love. The friendships and family you make along the way make up for all the hard work and sweat, especially in the dead of summer with no breeze in Kansas. I was back with Big Horn Rodeo Company this rodeo which meant more time with Liz and Annika. This week the girls really wanted to start carrying flags in the grand entry. I got them hooked up with flag boots and they both successfully carried flags! I was so proud of them both for trying something new.
The best part about spending time at rodeos in the state of Kansas is the friends and family that get to come out and see me in action! I can’t quite put into words how much it means to see those special people sitting in the stands with a familiar smile on their faces as I ride by. It seriously means the world to me and I sure hope they know!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: I have been asked to sign a number of items throughout the years like boots, hats, and t-shirts. When walking through the crowd in Moline, Kansas a group of kids asked me if I had the letter “O” in my name and I of course said yes and that my name was Brooke. The next thing I knew one of then asked me to sign my name on their stomach using their belly button as one of the “O” in my name. I definitely was caught off guard but figured it didn’t hurt anything and agreed to it. They of course couldn’t believe I agreed and I could tell they got quite a kick out of it. After a number of laughs, I bid them goodbye and couldn’t help but shake my head as I giggled while walking away.
Queens Corner: One helpful trick I picked up while being a rodeo queen over the last six years is to wear compression socks when I know I will be on my feet most of the day. I couldn’t believe how much it helped my aching feet by the end of the night. The other great benefit is that my socks don’t fall down and I don’t have to work about getting rub marks on my legs after hours on horse for performances and slack.
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.