July 22nd, 2021
July has been nothing short of thrilling for me on the rodeo road. I drove 11 hours, leaving my house at 2 a.m, for Fort Scott, Kansas to rodeo with Hampton Pro Rodeo. When I arrived, announcer Jeff Lee greeted me. After introducing myself, he asked where I was from, because he knew it wasn’t anywhere close by. He got a kick out of how I say my home state, Alabama-and didn’t let me forget it! After meeting Kevin and Gina Hampton and the rest of the Hampton Rodeo crew, we shared some homemade cookies courtesy of Gina, and I got a quick nap in before rodeo time. Friday night’s rodeo started with Ole Glory and I entering the arena on “Jessie”, an AQHA buckskin of the Hampton’s. The personnel kept the rodeo moving and before you knew it, the rodeo clown, Colten Ulmer, was up with his miniature horse “Rocky”. They gave the crowd a show to remember and left them cheering for the dynamic duo! The Calf Scramble was up next, and kids seemed to appear out of air to get into the arena for their chance at winning a gift card. Kids of all sizes got a little rowdy in the rodeo arena chasing calves, and all got a dollar for coming down! After bull riding, they even had a “money the hard way” challenge for the adults. Two brave souls got in the arena and tried to grab a ribbon placed between a bull’s horns for $500! The first performance ended with nobody badly hurt and people excited for the next night’s rodeo. Saturday morning the weather was not in our favor with tornado and storm warnings for the entire day. Thankfully, by showtime it had cleared up and all we had to worry about was not getting stuck in the mud. After the opening ceremony with “Jessie” I started walking through the crowd and saw familiar faces from the night before! Many rodeo fans wanted to see who the overall champions were for the rodeo, and if anybody could win “money the hard way”. Even though this rodeo was muddy, we still had the calf scramble for the kiddos and I HAD to join in! I was on kid un-sticking duty and had to do a little digging through the mud to find a few pairs of shoes, but everybody left with all their belongings and rodeo mud as a souvenir. After the Fort Scott Rodeo, the Hamptons and I both were off to Shawnee, Oklahoma for the International Finals Youth Rodeo.
The first performance of the IFYR Sunday in Shawnee came fast and the excitement was in the air. The richest youth rodeo in the world was underway with three arenas going at once. I had the honor to carry the American flag on Brandon Harris’s (pickup man) horse during the opening ceremony. Abigail Benz, media personnel for the IPRA, and I gathered contestants to do quick interviews with throughout the night. Even with three arenas going at once, the rodeo lasted for two hours! After driving all day and rodeoing through the night, I was ready for bed when the rodeo finished. Monday morning came early with the morning performance at 9 am. Each day, there is a morning and evening performance. In between performances, two of the youth board directors and I had the opportunity to speak at the Shawnee Rotary Club on how we got into rodeo, and our future plans inside the industry and out. In conjunction with the IFYR, there was a Miss Rodeo TEEN USA pageant, making history for the Miss Rodeo USA association and the IPRA. The girls checked in Monday night and settled their horses in during the nighttime performance. Tuesday morning I somehow managed to convince the announcers Jeff and Monty to let me help out in the crows nest announcing and writing times. They both were infatuated with my annunciation of Huntsville, Alabama. After the morning performance, I was able to join in and say “hi” to the 16 young ladies competing for the Teen title at the Shawnee mall where they had impromptu questions, interview and written test. Seeing a few familiar faces from Alabama was a treat, but meeting all the young ladies from across the country and getting to know them throughout the whole pageant was special. The contestants joined in for Tuesday night’s performance carrying sponsor flags during the opening ceremony. The girls were expected to be at each performance to fulfill their job of carrying sponsor flags as well as daily portions of the competition. Wednesday after the morning performance, I dropped off the horse Brandon Harris let me ride and he stopped me as I was walking away and asked if I had any of that “glitter stuff” for Friday night’s championship go around. I told him I didn’t have any, but I could get some ASAP! His daughter Harley and I were in brainstorm mode for what we could do to “Percy”, a Percheron and mustang cross. Wednesday was a “fun” day for the girls, judges and myself as we joined together for a paint party courtesy of Tish Ross. A few of the girls and I found out there was glitter and were able to spice up our paintings with a little bit of sparkle! One of the helpers asked us if we would like any, we all three looked at each other and said, “yes please!” You do not tell a rodeo Queen you have glitter, and expect them to turn it down. Wednesday evening’s performance was unique and special to the state of Oklahoma and rodeo. Governor Kevin Stitt carried the flag during the opening ceremony and national anthem. It was such an honor to have him there, showing he cared for rodeo, the youth and the impact they both have on the future of our country. Thursday was a big day for the contestants in the rodeo and the pageant. The top cowboys and cowgirls were battling it out in the final go around before championship day, and those not competing were shopping at the expo center where you could find any and everything rodeo and equine related. From clothes, hats, tack and even jerky, the expo had so many vendors that you could get lost in it! A huge shoutout to Drake with Shorty’s Caboy Hattery for touching up my American Hats and the girl’s. The rodeo queen contestants had to prep and get ready for speeches and modeling at the Ritz in Shawnee after the morning performance. To say I was excited to put on my brand new dress made by Brooke Wallace (Miss Rodeo USA 2020) and red Lane Boots was an understatement! Brooke truly worked wonders on my dress. I showed her a picture of a rock I found in a museum, and she brought it to life in the design of my dress. All the girls did wonderful through their speeches and looked stunning. Sherry Smith Photography, the official photographer and videographer for the pageant, was able to capture beautiful memories for each young lady. After speeches, the judging for the Queen contestants was complete, and they all relaxed a little more. Thursday night’s performance was fun, fun, fun for the girls as they were relieved to make it through the week. Friday morning’s performance had the top competitors in the final go before championship round and everybody was on the edge of their seat watching each event. There were record times including a 1.7 in breakaway! The youth of our industry are true rockstars. The Queen contestants and committee had lunch at Farmers Daughter where we got to fellowship and release some pre-coronation nerves.
Friday might have been my favorite day because it meant- glitter! Miss Harley, Brandon’s daughters and I went to town with the red, white, and blue glitter and ribbons throughout Percys mane, tail and whole body. Hairspray and glitter were flying but the final product turned out fabulous! Once Percy was ready for showtime. I was off to the coronation of the first ever Miss Teen Rodeo USA. I danced with the girls in line up and joked with them to help relieve any nerves. They all looked beautiful and cheered each other on as the awards were announced. Congratulations to Lana Carter for being the first ever Miss Teen Rodeo USA and all the young ladies who competed. After coronation, it was the championship round for the IFYR. The world champions for each event were crowned immediately after the rodeo, and the all-around cowboy and cowgirl were awarded their NRS Trailer.
I am now making my way through Arkansas; keep an eye out for my next blog to hear about my time with Sherry Smith in Lincoln and Hampton Rodeo Company in Huntsville, Arkansas for the 24th Annual Madison County Pro Rodeo!