Rodeo! Rain or Shine!
Packed down and loaded after the Limestone Sheriffs Rodeo, I made my way to Richmond, Kentucky for the Madison County Pro Rodeo put on by Spurn S and JR Drake. I started my time in Richmond Thursday doing a radio interview with local station “The Coyote” and got to talk about not only the upcoming rodeo, but also how rodeo is a family event where whether you are a seasoned spectator, or it’s your first, you’ll have a blast! After my radio interview, JR and I spent the evening at Texas Roadhouse, one of the main sponsors for the rodeo. I passed out free kids tickets and autograph sheets, and answered questions people might have had about the rodeo or for me! One family I met even had a graduate from the University of Alabama and we shared a “Roll Tide” before saying bye. The majority of people I spoke to had not ever been to a rodeo before, but by the end of our conversation, they had their nights cleared so they could make it! Friday morning there wasn’t anything scheduled for me to do, so I joined in at the arena helping set up for the night’s performance. While helping set up at the T-shirt and toy tent, the Madison County Firetrucks came in to hose down the arena. After watching the boys struggle to hold the hose for a few minutes, one of the women who work at the tent dared me to go up and ask if they needed help. Without skipping a beat, I walked up and asked! Sure enough, they took a break and let me handle wetting the arena down for a little. I will say, it was not as easy as it looked but it was still a blast! Once the arena was worked, it was time to move cow. I joined in on horseback with Ronnie, Wes and my new favorite little cowboy Ren. Ren and I determined we were the better team pushing cows and could go pro. Once the cows were taken care of, it was time for me to get rodeo ready. The first performance was such a hit that Saturday we brought in more bleachers! At the rodeo there werepony rides, toys and shirts from the Swag Tent and a tent set up for Line-X, another big sponsor to the rodeo. Line-X had corn hole and goodies for people to enjoy before the rodeo and during. After talking with the Line-X workers Friday night, I was excited to spend Saturday morning there for free burgers and pony rides. The bullfighters, pick up men and the one and only Mighty Mike Wentworth joined me at Line-X for meet and greets. Although this is technically work, we always have time for fun, and I joined in with a few kids playing corn hole. I told them to go easy on me because I do not really play, or know what I am doing. I spoke too soon because I ended up being 3-0 with different people on my team each time! We all decided after my year as Miss Rodeo USA, I needed to join a corn hole league. I had a quick break to eat, then it was time to rodeo! The final performance of the Madison County Pro Rodeo could not have gone better. Even with bringing in extra bleachers there were people standing to watch the rodeo. The stock, cowboys and entertainment were all top quality and put on a show everybody loved. Thank you to Jon, Wes and JR for letting me be a part of this event!
I had a week until my next event in Hiwassee, Georgia and found residence with the Hedrick’s of Hedrick Rodeo Company for a few days before my time in Georgia. I told them whatever they needed help with I was willing to try, and they took that seriously! I learned how to work a skid steer and excavator and helped with dirt work on the farm. When I told my Mom, she said “Oh no! Please do not break anything your insurance doesn’t cover this!” After a few (maybe several) learning curves, they set me loose and had me work on my own. I would not say I amready for hire, but I didn’t break anything! Along with learning machinery, I helped bring in hay.
After working with the Hedricks for a few days, I was off to Hiwassee to Southern Rodeo Company and their rodeo located next to a lake. Friday when I arrived, I sawmany familiar faces, along with many new ones. As the start of the rodeo got closer, we noticed the weather was quickly shifting from warm and sunny to cloudy. The forecast called for rain, rain and more rain all night! About 20 minutes before start time, it came a monsoon and my old and new friends all huddled under the announcers tent together. A few of us made a run for the truck after a 20-minute delay was announced. We snacked on pretzels and hoped for the rain to let off enough so we could rodeo. Whether rain or shine, rodeos still go on! After a 45-minute delay, we started the rodeo. The rodeo fans in Hiwassee are something special, because several stayed in the rain waiting for the rodeo to begin, and those that went to their car came back. It was not a sold out night, but the stands were filled with enthusiastic spectators who were there because of their love for rodeo. Saturday we could not have asked for a better turn out. The weather was perfect, especially in comparison to the night before. Before the rodeo began, photographer Warren Petty and I grabbed a horse and walked over to a baseball field right next to the arena. Warren and I were joined by another cowgirl and cowboy and the three of us helped each other wrangle horses and wind to get the perfect shot. The rodeo began as scheduled, and the night went on thanks to Robin Brooks and his crew. Dusty Myers (the rodeo clown) and David Sharp (the announcer) kept the crowd entertained and informed throughout the night. They worked great together and the crowd loved them! Although it was muddy, there was still stiff competition and the times and scores in each event were competitive.
Once the night ended, I said my goodbyes and left,excited for my next rodeo with Southern Rodeo Companyin Shady Dale, Georgia this next weekend. After Shady Dale, I’ll be back with the Hedrick Rodeo Company in Thompson, Georgia. As always, keep an eye out for me in my Ariat denim, Lane boots and American Hat! If you see me, holler!
Being back home in the rocket city dif not mean a break for me. I had a few days to spend with my family and help a few younger queens get ready for Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo week. Then Friday and Saturday night I spent my time in Attalla, Alabama with the Double Creek Rodeo Company for the Etowah County Rodeo. My friend from home joined me on the rodeo road for the weekend. I was surprised to see so many familiar faces during the rodeo including both competitors and spectators. A few sash sisters competed in barrel racing, and I was able to meet new young ladies and share my rodeo queening experiences with them. After the Attalla Rodeo, I said my goodbyes and was back on the road to get ready for Limestone Rodeo week.
Rodeo week in Athens, Alabama starts the Saturday before the rodeo with a parade on the square. A specialthank you to Allen Craig for letting me borrow “Buck” for the parade. The following Monday was “Kick off into Rodeo Week” at the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Arena where there were free pony rides, karaoke, face painting, vendor booths, and carriage rides. Thank you to Stan Smith for letting me take over the wagon rides for a few rounds during the evening. Tuesday Abigail Benz, 2020 Miss Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo, 2020 Little Miss Limestone OraLee Madison, Mighty Mike Wentworth- the rodeo clown, and I started our morning early with school visits. Later that evening was the iconic street dance! The Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo street dance is an event I have been going to for ten years now and it is always the highlight of my year. From two stepping to the cowboy cha-cha to swing dancing and line dancing,the Limestone Street dance is an event where everyone can feel included. My family came out to enjoy the dance and fashion show where the queens showcased their western fashion forward outfits. I decided to go ‘full USA’ and wear my red white and blue Lane boots with black leather pants and black leather shell, topped off with my favorite red leather Scully T-shirt jacket and trusty white American Hat. After a night of dancing, Wednesday morning we were all off to school visits again and we added 2020 Jr. Miss Limestone Anna Leigh. Thursday morning, Abigail, Sheriff Blakely and I were joined by two contestants in the Miss division for a radio segment. Abigail and I were able to promote not only rodeo, but also rodeo queening and the friendships made that will last a lifetime. After visiting with the radio station, we stopped by the Spring Park for a Senior Citizens Park Day and played with baby ducks, and grown ones too .Once we were finished making our rounds at the booths and vendors at the park, it was time for us to go to watch‘slack’. Slack is a part of the rodeo where the overflow of competitors who are not in the performance compete. Friday was not only the first performance of the rodeo,but also the first day of the Miss and Sr. Miss division for the rodeo Queen pageant. Friday’s performance was a sell-out. Although Limestone has been voted the largest outdoor rodeo of the year several years in a row, this was the biggest crowd I had ever seen! Abigail and I took turns running sponsorship flags throughout the rodeo performance and had a blast. The horsemanship portion of the queen’s contest started bright and early Saturday morning. My trainer Judy Darnell brought a horse for Abigail to set the pattern on, and they surprised me with one of my favorite horses, Tater, who I have not had the opportunity to ride in months. The final judged event for the girls was the Luncheon. The Limestone Luncheon is a fundraiser for the queen’s pageant, where the Miss contestants share their speech, model, and answer impromptu rodeo and personality questions. The luncheon has always been a highlight to me because it allows the girls to showcase their skills in front of an audience. The final rodeo performance and coronation for the new Miss Limestone Sheriff’s rodeo was shortly after the luncheon. The rodeo sold out Saturday night, and for the first time in quite some time had to turn people away.
Each night of the rodeo, before the opening ceremony,there was a special segment in honor of Debbie Blakely. Queens, as well as her family placed a rose on a saddle while a riderless horse was led around the arena. Debbie was not only the pageant director and Sheriff’s wife, but also a coach to championship basketball and volleyball teams, a friend and mentor to many. Debbie helped me personally throughout my years as a younger division titleholder and taught me about not only rodeo queening but life. Debbie was a person who loved everybody and treated all with the same kindness and love that she showed her own family. Being a part of the Limestone Rodeo as Miss Rodeo USA was a dream come true for me, and I cannot wait to go back as a spectator or competitor in future years.
Keep your eyes open in the Richmond, Kentucky and Hiwassee, Georgia the next two weekends! I will be in myAmerican Hat, Ariat jeans and Lane boots, on the road and in the arena.
I Want a Rematch!
Page Page I may have to find residency in Georgia with how much I am traveling there! Statesboro definitely made me feel like I was at home with the welcoming staff at the Spring Hill Inn and Suites, along with the community as a whole. I started my week off right doing sponsor visits around town and meeting the people who support the rodeo. After visiting with a few sponsors in the morning, KC from KC Lashes did my eyelashes so I would be bright-eyed all week! The Statesboro Kiwanis Club Rodeo is a fundraiser for the children in the community and it was a truly special experience going to after school programs throughout the week and telling them about both the rodeo and my platform; “Mentoring Matters”. All the kids were excited for the rodeo and learned how they can be a superhero (mentor) by encouraging others to reach their goals. Meeting Freedom, the bald eagle, and other wildlife animals at the Georgia Southern wildlife refugee has made my top five memories of the year! When I was younger at the “birds of prey” shows, I always thought they were putting the birds on display for me to pick which one I wanted, and I always chose the bald eagle! Day in and day out, the Statesboro Kiwanis Club kept me busy meeting and visiting people and unique places in the area. The rodeo does all sorts of events in the community leading to the rodeo. There was a ribbon cutting, a day of recognition for the rodeo, and a day at the local western general store, Anderson’s, where we had a “guess the weight of the bull”! A few of the unique places we ate at was Vandy’s, a BBQ place that’s an iconic must stop restaurant in downtown Statesboro and Bull and Barrel, a steak house that had recently opened downtown. Both places did not disappoint. On Friday before the rodeo, Kiwanis President Ashley and I stopped by Sno in the Boro and picked up sno cones to surprise the rodeo and Kiwanis members prepping for the rodeo. We had two nights of SOLD OUT rodeo. Friday and Saturday night Rob Gann, the rodeo clown, and I were joined by a young lady named Ireland who has been living with a blood condition but is determined to live her life to the fullest! She has been a part of the rodeo for 5 years now and I was honored to get to spend time with her this weekend. Saturday before the rodeo, Rob and I cut loose a little and had a foot race after the gold rush. I’m not saying he won- but I want a rematch! All the advance tickets were sold before each performance began. After saying bye to my new Statesboro family, I was off to Wetumpka, Alabama for the FFA Alumni Rodeo.
Once arriving at my home for the week with Jamie, Ricky and Dani Loeb, I knew I was going to have a fun filled week. Dani is the first person from the state of Alabama to make the U.S Ski Team in Ariel skiing, and she’s only 19! Dani is from the Wetumpka area and joined in with school visits where we talked to kids about rodeo and shared a combination of our stories. Dani was told several times that she wouldn’t make it to where she is today because of where her athletic career began, as a gymnast, not an Ariel skier. However, she continued to work hard and is achieving the goals she has set. While talking to the kids about our stories, we worked in how I am the first generation cowgirl in my family thanks to the mentors in my life, and that no matter what your dream, goal or aspirations in life are, you can achieve it by being dedicated along with the importance of encouraging others. Dani and I did this all week and even got a boat ride in during some down time and saw a wild bald eagle nesting! During the rodeo Dani was a part of the famous TJ Williams specialty acts and recognized during the grand opening. Thank you to Sid McKissick for running around and putting up with Dani and me cutting up during rodeo week! Between the last two weeks, I have met and made some amazing people and I am honored to call them my friends now.
I am home in North Alabama and I am getting ready for the Attalla rodeo along with my “home-town” rodeo, the Limestone Sheriffs Rodeo! Keep an eye out on my Instagram and Facebook for pictures and real time updates on my travels!
Adventures on the Road Again!
My time at the Washington Co. Ag Rodeo was nothing short of a blast. Before the rodeo on Friday and Saturday evening, I was fortunate to share my platform “Mentoring Matters” in a few different settings. The local private school and the rotary club both welcomed me with open arms! Thursday morning I started my day off with the rotary club. After discussing my platform and the importance of mentoring in the community, I mentioned that I was going to the local private school. The public school superintendent then asked if I could come by the following morning to elementary school classes. Even though it was not on my schedule, Eddy, the rodeo chairman, and I made sure I had time to go by and talk to classrooms. The children were very excited to see a rodeo queen and learn more about mentoring. In between my sponsor and school visits I was able to visit downtown Tennille and enjoy some of the local restaurants. My favorite stop was an ice cream parlor where I enjoyed strawberry cheesecake ice cream. Friday night’s rodeo performance was a hit with the Hedrick Rodeo Company.This rodeo did something unique after calf scramble: they put all of the participant’s names in a hat and drew for a bike. They did this both Friday and Saturday night and handed out one bike for a girl, and one for a boy. The Washington Co. Ag Rodeo is all about community and giving back. Saturday afternoon before the rodeo, we had a special visitor stop by the grounds. Mason, a young boy diagnosed with cancer, came out for a surprise private tour of the rodeo grounds and animals. Tractor Supply even brought him the ultimate Easter wagon that was filled with toys with his favorite being a nerf gun. At first, Mason was shy about being around so many strangers, but once he got his hands on the nerf gun, he came to life,taking a shot at everybody! I felt honored to be his bullet holder and help him reload for the next victim. Often in the life of a rodeo queen, it is all about the kids. Speaking of being “all about the kids,” my next rodeo was in Tuscumbia, Alabama with the Tennessee High School Rodeo. The association put on a performance open to the public in honor of Ross Hill, an iconic rodeo bullfighter. I was able to catch up with sash sister Hannah Hungate, the Tennessee High School Rodeo Queen, who I originally met at a clinic in 2019. Hannah introduced me to three girls who will be competing in the queen’s contest for Tennessee High School Rodeo and I got to give them a few words of encouragement and advice. The rodeo performance was a FULL house, and I even got to see former Miss Rodeo USA Leslie (Burgreen) Waldrep, who was a judge during my first time competing for a Miss title. Along with meeting new friends and catching up with current Rodeo family, I also carried the American flag during the opening ceremony. After the National Anthem played, rodeo announcer Jaime Osbrink got the crowd amped up while introducing sponsor flags carried in by high school contestants. I was honored to also do the final fly by with the American Hat Company flag. The rodeo performance was a great success. I did not stay away from Hannah for too long as my next rodeo was in Cookeville, Tennessee with the Lone-star Rodeo Company. I appreciate the Hungates opening their home to me for the weekend. The Lonestar Rodeo had three performances between Friday and Saturday. I was joined by Miss Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Abigail Benz and we spent the weekend enjoying rodeo and talking with fans at the rodeo. Between rodeo performances on Saturday, a group of us ladies packed into Abigail’s jeep to run and get some caffeine. One of the vendors at the rodeo happened to be a family that has a daughter who competes in Tennessee High School Rodeo. I had met them the weekend prior, and it was a great coincidence to see them again and cheer on both their daughters who were competing Saturday night in breakaway and barrels. They say “sleep is for the weak,” but Rodeo Queens say “we don’t sleep for weeks!” Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates on my next stop- Statesboro, Georgia. As always, I look forward to giving you a morein- depth look at my travels in my next blog.
From the East to the West!
Congratulations to anybody who guessed Brunswick, Georgia as my destination in my last blog! I hit the road after a storm in Huntsville heading to Brunswick and did not get there until two in the morning. Late night travel is often a way of life in the rodeo world. When I finally got to the hotel in Brunswick, I was shocked to see MY name on the television screen in my room! Maybe I just need to go to more hotels, but I have never seen that before. I spent my time in Brunswick visiting sponsors, doing radio interviews, dolphin watching and enjoying the rodeo and community. While there, I visited with Stambaugh Aviation and received a tour of the facility where they repair the inside and outside of planes for people all across the country. During my visit to Brunswick, I learned a few things. The shrimp is, and I quote, “THE best shrimp you will EVER have”. This is because there is a sugarcane-like marsh that results in the shrimp from this area having a sweet flavor. I also learned that on Jekyll Island there is a center for rehabilitating sea turtles. I ran into Tiny Miss West Point Whitley Slaton and her family while touring the sea turtle rehab center. After visiting with the turtles, my chaperone Terri and I headed out for an exciting dolphin tour. Before that day, the closest I had ever been to a dolphin was on television. We had some luck riding with us on the boat and not only saw one dolphin, but a whole pod! It was a great way to end our trip to Jekyll Island and head back to the rodeo grounds. Both performances of the rodeo were wonderful thanks to the hard workers with Hedrick Rodeo Company. The nights were filled with fair rides, food, trucks, trick riding, and top rodeo competitors of the IPRA (both two legged and four). I came home from Brunswick with special memories that will last a lifetime.
After a short trip home, I caught a flight to Dallas Fort Worth to experience Dallas Market. When I arrived at the airport, I learned my flight had JUST been cancelled due to weather. Talk about stressed! I was so thankful my Mom came in to see me off for my first flight as Miss Rodeo USA, because she was able to help me book another flight and I was on my way in just a few moments. When I was boarding the plane, I had somebody ask me if there was an animal in my hat can. I giggled and told them no, it is my cowboy hat. Not even a minute later, we heard a cat meowing. I had ALL eyes on me and people were wondering how I had fit a cat in this dome shaped tin. Once I landed in Dallas, I met up with Miss Rodeo USA Chairman, Beth Weldon, and we hopped in the car to go to Fort Worth to catch some shuteye. A huge shoutout to Missy Bonds for welcoming us into your home. The next morning Beth and I met up with two other board members and we toured American Hat Company and learned all about the hand made quality that goes into American Hats. After touring and seeing all the love, passion, and thought that goes into each cowboy hat, we stopped by The Best Hat Store at the Fort Worth Stockyards. I picked out two hats and had them shaped by one of the best in the business. Special thanks to Danny Adams for keeping me looking sharp! Meeting Keith Mundee, the President of American hats, our tour guide Connor, and Danny (the best hat shaper ever) was a true honor as American Hats is the official hat sponsor for Miss Rodeo USA. We also stopped by NRS World and had a tour of the famous ranch where I learned they do a whole lot more than sell everything western. From cabins, events and shopping, I could get lost in NRS for days. The next day was Market day. Although we did manage to work in a little shopping, we were there to meet some of our amazing sponsors of the Miss Rodeo USA Pageant and organization. We began our morning stopping in to visit Tammy Taylor with Double T Sale, and then went next door to Lane Boots, our NEW official boot sponsor! I cannot wait to share my beautiful collection of Lane boots. After being in awe of the selection of Lane Boots, we were off to see some other sponsors. We visited with Paige Wallace Designs, Barbosa, Cotton and Rye, Dallas cosmetics, Camel Threads, and West and Co., just to name a few. At Market, we met many new supporters of the Miss Rodeo USA Association. Keep an eye on the Miss Rodeo USA Facebook and Instagram pages to see all the goodies provided by our wonderful sponsors. I am positive you will see something you just cannot live without. After Dallas Market was over, it was back on the plane to good ole Alabama to get ready for my next rodeo. Stay tuned for my next blog to hear about my time in Sandersville, Georgia with the Hedrick Family at the Washington County Agriculture Rodeo.
Apparently I Smell Like... What?!
My first rodeo as Miss Rodeo USA is officially in the books, thanks to the Shelby County Cattlemen’s Rodeo Association (SCCA). It was not my first time visiting this rodeo in Columbiana, just a few hours south of my hometown. When I held the Jr. Miss West Point title in 2017, I was able to attend the rodeo with 2017 Miss Rodeo USA Brittany Howard. After this experience, the SCCA fell in love with the idea of having their own rodeo queen competition. The following year they held their first-ever pageant, and of course I could not miss out on that fun! I competed for and won the new title of Sr. Miss SCCA, and had a blast throughout my reign. This made making my first official rodeo appearance as Miss Rodeo USA 2021 at this event even more special. Rodeo committee chairpersons Clifton and Ritcha Garret were kind enough to open their home to me for rodeo weekend. (They even picked up all of my favorite snacks).
After completing sponsor visits, we met up with the current Miss Shelby County Cattlemen’s Rodeo Dara Hay and Miss West Point Rodeo Michaela Cooper for lunch. As a self-proclaimed food connoisseur, I highly recommend the strawberry salad and mac-n-cheese from Longhorn Steakhouse. It was definitely a ten out of ten! After lunch, Dara and I went back to the Garret’s to get ready for the rodeo. We traded some queen ‘secrets’ during our sash sister time doing hair and makeup together: I helped Dara learn all about “queen wings” and she told me more about her experiences with horses. Dara is new to the rodeo queen world and asked all kinds of great questions about rodeo queening, my platform of Mentoring Matters, and about the Miss Rodeo USA Association. It was so nice getting to share my experience while making a new friend in the process.
Once we were finished getting ready, it was off to the rodeo! The first performance of the 33rd Annual Shelby County Cattlemen’s Rodeo was a huge success. Although they had to limit ticket sales due to COVID, they still had a SOLD OUT night. The Treadway Rodeo Company provided the stock and entertainment for the weekend. I knew I was learning the ropes from some of the best in the business, Ken and Pam Treadway and the flag girls of Treadway Rodeo Company. I was definitely in good hands for my first rodeo appearance as Miss Rodeo USA.
The first night was a learning curve, but by the end of Friday night, I was” rockin’ and rollin’” and ready for Saturday’s matinee and night performances. Saturday during the matinee performance we had yet another sold out crowd. My coach from The University of Alabama’s Equestrian team drove out to support a friend competing in barrels, which meant I got to catch up with her as well. My Mom and Stepdad were also able to make the drive down. It was their first time to see me in action as Miss Rodeo USA. My parents and longtime sash sister Jolye Durrett made sure I had water and pickle juice pops (or pickle-sickles, as Jolye likes to call them) in order to keep me hydrated throughout the weekend.
Once the matinee performance was over, it was time for BBQ. The other rodeo queens, Jolye, Ritcha and I packed into a car like sardines: we were all ready for some food! By the time we finished eating, it was time to rodeo one last time. Before mounting for the grand entry, I visited with a young mother, her daughter, and another young boy. After talking with the two children, I asked the mom how old the little boy was, and found out he did not belong to her. I then asked the boy where he came from, and his answer was, “my Momma”. We all cracked up laughing and he just continued to hang out with us. After a few minutes he started sniffing me – yes, sniffing me! I asked him if I smelled funny, to which he replied with a big ole, “Uh huh, you do!” I was shocked, to say the least. I asked what I smelled like, thinking he would say horses or cows, but he sniffed me again and said “pineapples” with a crinkled nose. Talk about never knowing what a child will say….
After that, it was time to hop on our horses and get ready for grand entry. I am so thankful for the Treadway Rodeo Company and their wonderful staff. They were all so kind and welcoming. I even got to swap some trick riding stories with the two trick riders who performed at the rodeo. One of the things I love most about rodeo and the western way of life is that you never meet a stranger. I am looking forward to working with the famous Treadway Rodeo Company again throughout my year and making more memories!
I am currently getting ready for my next rodeo (and considering trying out a different body spray so that I don’t smell like pineapple, since kids apparently don’t like that). Does anybody have any guesses as to where my next rodeo will be? Here is a hint: I will be soaking up the sunshine and salt water down south.
Horses, Ponies and Mules?! Oh my!
Continuing to roll down the road to Jackson, I blazed a trail to the Dixie National Color Horse Bonanza, which included Palomino, Pinto, the American Ranch Horse Association, and the North American National Mule and Donkey Association! I was asked to pass out awards for the Mule and Donkey part of the show alongside overall buckles for the Color Horse Bonanza. If you haven’t been to a Mule and Donkey Show before I HIGHLY recommend it! The community is absolutely wonderful and willing to answer whatever questions you may have! Along with passing out awards I was fortunate to compete in reining and halter with my guy “Gunner'' aka Gunnin by Starlight. We tied for a buckle and decided there would be more down the road for us and let my competitor take it home. I was just ecstatic to show my boy one last time before being busy on the rodeo road!
Coming from a horse show background, I get asked a lot; what the biggest difference is between horse-show-people and rodeo-people, and honestly, the people aren’t different- just how we go about competing is! There is the same camaraderie between competitors in both worlds. From watching horses and mules compete in English, western pleasure, trail, reining and timed events this was a weekend I will remember forever. The Mule and Donkey competitors were such a great group of people and one even let me take their mule for a spin! (I may or may not be looking for a mule to start riding next year!)
While at the show I got to catch up with old friends, help encourage the youth I used to show with, and even make some TV appearances. My Paint Color horse ,“Princess” aka Casual Classic Style and I were interviewed by local stations covering the start of the Dixie National shows. It meant so much that I was able to attend as Miss Rodeo USA, and share my love of rodeo along with horse showing to the Jackson and South Mississippi areas.
After having a superb weekend congregating, competing and helping out at the show I made my way back home. I was so excited to finally sleep in my own bed! I was roughly an hour out of Jackson, when I stopped to get gas and a bite to eat, when my car started shaking all over and then turned itself off! I had a mini panic attack! My step-dad just finished up making sure my car was in tip-top shape... and I just killed my car! Thankfully, I had a dear horse show friend who lived close by and was willing to drive out and stay the night with me in a hotel. We got to talking and thought maybe I got bad fuel. We found a mechanic the next morning and he fixed me up! I was back on the road and home by lunch time! If you are ever wondering what a “normal” day in the life of Kylee Campbell is, you need to take out the word “normal!” Over the years of rodeo queening, showing, along with prepping and traveling for both I have learned not a lot goes as smoothly as you plan and things pop up that you may never, and I mean never expect!
After my weekend at the Dixie Color Horse Bonanza I had a bunch of scheduling and planning to do for my coronation banquet and celebration fundraiser. Not only was this event kicking off my reign as Miss Rodeo USA, but it also was on the SAME day as my birthday! The excitement, along with some stress that comes from planning any event, was building up. My horseback riding and training hasn’t stopped while I have been home either. Horses need to be kept in shape just like we do. The Friday of the weekend before my coronation banquet, I got a phone call from my “second mama” (my trainer and mentor since I was 9) about how we have acquired nine unbroke, never touched, essentially “wild” horses. I was told some might be pregnant and there were two studs with all of them ranging in age from 1-7 years old. All I could think was “where in the world are we going to put NINE head of horses at?!” I was told we would figure that out the next day because we had to get them Sunday. Then, I was asked, “are you in?!” Of course, I replied with, “heck yeah!” And the following Sunday four of us went off to wrangle wild horses! We rolled into the property and sure enough there were nine horses in a pasture. The part that caught me off guard was the fact there were nine MINIATURE horses in the pasture. Talk about a surprise! I was so confused and kind of relieved that it wasn’t full-sized horses!
We got out and wrangled them into a smaller pen, they were tiny but FAST little stinkers! After moving some panels and backing the trailer to the gate, it only took us roughly 45 minutes to get a halter on one and tie them off in the trailer. We then were able to push the rest of the mini’s up into the chute leading into the trailer but they busted the ties we had connecting the trailer door to a panel! We were SO close! All we could do was watch 7 of the horses run down the long driveway to the road. Talk about a defeat! We hopped into the gator and drove to the road where now all the ponies that got out we’re running around on the old highway. I had to jump out and chase a couple of them out of a ditch while somebody else stopped traffic! We got them back on property and after a few more trials and errors, we finally got them in a corral and into an old chute. We then got all the ponies on the trailer and took them off to the farm! We unloaded them and got them all cozied up in a catch pen with hay and water. The plan is to get all of them halter, saddle and possibly cart broke and keep a few for our therapy and lesson program. My trainer's husband is actually a rodeo clown and we’re even thinking of training one of the mini’s. Personally, I have taken a liking to that idea I’ve been calling one “Bam Bam” for his acts!
This past weekend we celebrated my birthday- I am officially the big 2-0 along with having my coronation banquet fundraiser. My sister drove down from Pennsylvania in a snow storm because she said she didn’t want to miss this event; in her words it’s bigger than her wedding! My mom, my coach for MRUSA, and my horse trainer all came together and planned my “perfect night”. My coach took care of the decorations, my mom the overall planning, and my trainer the catering. We had delicious southern style barbecue and sides with apple cobbler and cake! The venue was a wedding venue found by the West Point Pageant director and as my sister said it was nicer than her own wedding venue! Thank you to Charlie’s Vineyard at Frost Farms in Eva, Alabama for having us. The celebration was a night I will always remember. I had three outfit changes, gave my platform “Mentoring Matters” speech and my Alabama State Speech which touched base on my Spanish heritage! We then danced through the night, courtesy of Brent McCoy for being such a great DJ! The night closed with silent auction winners finding their bids and conversing with one another. Thank you to all who made it out, and those who couldn’t attend but donated- thank you as well!! The love and support mean more than you know. I can’t wait to see people down the rodeo road and make new friends to share my passion of mentoring and rodeo!
Is this REAL?!
“Hello, I’m Miss Rodeo USA 2021, Kylee Campbell” - boy hearing myself say that, it still doesn’t feel real! Those who know me, know that being Miss Rodeo USA has been a goal of mine since I was 10. When I first dreamed of being a cowgirl and wearing a crown, I knew very little about all the hard work and preparation that goes into what it takes to wear the Miss Rodeo USA crown! Six days of being tested on your equine science, rodeo and current event knowledge along with prepared speeches and impromptu questions that could literally be anything; not to mention those beautiful outfits you get to show off! As I got older and realized all that went into being a rodeo queen, it just made me want it more.
I can truthfully say the Miss Rodeo USA pageant was an experience I would never want to trade. I met some of the best people from across our country thanks to this organization and made friends for life. The early mornings, late nights, and long days in between were made so much easier thanks to the support and camaraderie between the girls I competed with. That’s what rodeo is though, a sport where you give your competitor a leg up when needed and push them to be THEIR very best no matter the outcome. During the whole competition we all built each other up and we were there for one another if something didn’t go as planned. Before coronation I was expecting to have all kinds of nerves running through me- those didn’t hit until they were announcing placings! Instead I just thought “This is my 10-year-old dream coming true. I made it to the Miss Rodeo USA competition, I’m at the infamous Lazy E and have learned so much about rodeo and myself from my experiences through rodeo queening.” I didn’t have nerves, I just was soaking up every detail of the rodeo, the rodeo competitors, the fans, the lights and announcers. I didn’t seem to be worried about placing because I knew I did my absolute best and was proud of the improvements I had made on my rodeo queen journey.
When you hear people say “it’s a whirlwind once you are announced as Miss Rodeo USA” they aren’t lying!! I had so much adrenaline and emotions running through me, I felt like I just ran a 5K! Shout out to Heather Morrison (Miss Rodeo USA 2019) for making sure I downed two glasses of water- it was needed! I was fortunate to have my Grandparents, Mom, and step-Dad along with my second mom who I call Mama Juju and her husband. Although my whole family wasn’t able to make it out, my best friend who I met through rodeo queening years ago ,surprised me during the first performance. Again, you make friends for life in this ‘biz! After the Gold Buckle Presentation, announcement of World Champions, and contract signing it was off to Arkansas for me and my best friend who surprised me to have pictures done with our pageant photographer and sponsor Sherry Smith of Sherry Smith Photography. I’ve never had an actual full on professional photo shoot and Sherry made my first experience one I will remember for a lifetime! Normally after pictures girls will go home and try to catch up on sleep, apparently, I like to be on the road. I drove home to grab some extra clothes, and then headed off to Jackson, Mississippi! With Johnny and June playing on my radio I was rockin’ and rollin’ down the highway! Keep an eye out for my next blog to hear, or rather read, about my adventures in Jackson!