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.
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!
“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!