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.
Under the bright lights and buzzing atmosphere at the Lazy E Arena on Championship Sunday of the International Finals Rodeo, when I was being announced a world champion, I knew I had made it.
“The 2020 Miss Rodeo USA… We will set history again… The first from the state of Kansas…” The crowd erupted and you couldn’t hear the words coming from the announcer in the arena. My biggest dream had come true; I had just become a national titleholder!
I kept waiting for someone to pinch me. “Is this really happening?” I thought, as I was crouching down for the 2019 Miss Rodeo USA, Heather Morrison, to put the iconic crown upon my cowboy hat. Now sporting a new sash and crown, Sarah Kelsey with Rhinestone Lipgloss was handing me a pair of earrings to wear for photos. I was officially being crowned the 55th Miss Rodeo USA. My mind was a complete whirlwind and I was trying to keep myself from shaking. There were no tears streaming from my eyes, because in my mind I had visualized this exact moment time and time again. Although, until it became a reality, I wasn’t convinced I had made it. Let me take you back to pageant week.
This was the first pageant I had ever competed in where I didn’t know any of the other ladies. That alone was a bit nerve racking, but from the moment I met all the contestants I knew this week of grueling hours and endless judged events would be much more enjoyable because of all the great attitudes and friendly personalities. My roommate Valerie Preston was so sweet, kind, and not to mention very supportive! She was first to get up each day and when I finally said my first words in the morning she was quick to reply with a chipper morning greeting. We then would all meet up in the hall and start the day with interviews. We passed the time between interviews with rounds of “Go Fish,” quizzing each other on potential questions, and watching Jordan Berry and Lily Caradine perform synchronized TikTok dance moves. We took turns getting to know each other as well. We found out Rachel Jackson, who we all called Pearl, was an outrider (look it up it IS as cool as it sounds.) Sarah Larson’s funny stories from her teaching career always kept the laughter coming too.
As a contestant I really didn’t get to see the other ladies perform, which meant I couldn’t compare how I felt I did to anyone else. I knew from getting to know all the contestants this was going to be a close race to the end and it was! I continually reminded myself to be the thing I knew best, and that was to be myself. I always made sure I stayed true to that. Each lady brought a unique quality to the table and frankly, I felt bad for the judges because ultimately, they had the toughest jobs. During the week, at the IPRA Ladies Luncheon I was excited the crowd chose my sunflower adorned shirt as the winner of the State Shirt Fan Favorite Award. The goal was for each contestant to showcase her home state by decorating a white Ariat shirt. This meant the most to me because I hand painted my outfit for this specific event. Winning a category that directly linked my skills to my future business was just the icing on the cake.
I would like to thank those specifically who helped me get to this competition. First off, thank you to the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo for trusting me to represent my hometown and their rodeo. Without you, I would not be where I am today. Secondly, I want to thank my family, who stuck behind me as I jumped at one more shot to be an ambassador for the sport of rodeo. Finally, a thank you to Lazy P Creations, Missouri Sewing Machine Company, Blocker Hay and Cattle, Junction City Rodeo Association, EZ Ration Hay Processors/RCMR Inc., CPRA Pageant, and Ranchy Bar B for being longtime supporters of my journeys.
This year I am looking forward to traveling places I haven’t been before… the South! Just a fair warning, I tend to pick up any accent I am around. So, by the end of the year who knows what my voice will sound like! Also, be prepared to see sunflowers in my wardrobe as you know this Kansas girl doesn’t make it far without a nod to her home state. I am extremely proud to come from “The Sunflower State” and I want the world to know!
As I strapped on a pair of Jody Lumley red chaps that flawlessly matched my Lazy P Creations vest, I couldn’t help but feel completely in my element. After adjusting the stirrups on a 5 Star Quarter Horse named Jane (something this short girl always has to do,) I swung a leg over and patiently waited for my name to be called for my first lap as Miss Rodeo USA 2020. I entered and made my way around the arena as the announcer said, “Say hello to the beautiful Brooke Wallace. She will be our official ambassador for the International Professional Rodeo for the next year.” I already know this year will fly by, but I hope to share every adventure, funny moment, and give you what no other queen has given before. This year will be legendary.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: I plan to share all the funny things I stumble upon this year, (pun intended) and knowing me it will not be hard to fill this section. The first blooper of my year took place the night I was crowned. We were busy shuffling vehicles for me to drive after my family ventured home. I was left with my aunt’s vehicle that didn’t have automatic lights. Well, I didn’t remember to turn them off, so the following morning I was surprised to find my car’s battery had died. Thanks to a quick jump on a brisk morning, we were off to the Lazy E for my first photo shoot!
Queen’s Corner: I will be giving tips, hacks, and tidbits throughout the year to my fellow sash sisters! My first tidbit is regarding a pageant situation. Even when each event doesn’t go exactly how you planned; you can’t let that affect your performance the rest of the week. I experienced this during the week of the Miss Rodeo USA pageant. If I had focused on all the little things that I felt didn’t go as well, I might not have performed how I did in the other events. Remember, a pageant is made up of many points, so one little flub might not affect you. However, you can’t let that little flub affect the next part of the pageant. Keep becoming the best version of yourself!
Statistically Speaking: Throughout the year I will be keeping records such as miles traveled, horses ridden, states visited, and rodeos attended. These stats will be posted to this section every blog.