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!