Arena lights shimmer as they reflect off outfits adorned with rhinestones, beautifully curled hair flows in the wind as a bright smile welcomes rodeo fans. She rides with poise, confidence, and an unmistakable crown sitting upon her head. Traveling from rodeo to rodeo across her state and beyond, she takes delight in the public appearances she makes. Her passions lie in the rodeo arena and beyond. As a spokeswoman of rodeo, she takes pride in engaging audiences, educating communities, and serving the western heritage and lifestyle that makes her favorite sport of rodeo, a reality. She is a rodeo queen.
For many young women, the prospect of becoming a rodeo queen is a dream come true. It is the chance to give back to their community, to develop personal skills such as public speaking, the chance to travel, to meet new people, and let’s face it, an opportunity to wear beautiful outfits and ride gorgeous horses! While the glitz and glamour often make the first impression, it is the hard-work, dedication, and elbow-grease behind the scenes that makes being a rodeo queen such a rewarding and life changing experience.
The ability to work hard for one’s goals teaches lifelong lessons. Many young women competing for rodeo queen titles spend a fair share of their pageant preparation with their noses in textbooks studying rodeo rules, basic veterinary skills, local rodeo and state history, sewing their own pageant outfits and much more. Not to mention the countless hours spent in the arena perfecting their horsemanship skills. Quick as a whip, educated in their craft, and a strong seat in the saddle, girls are ready to take on their titles.
I had the privilege of speaking to one of these dedicated, hardworking young women, the 2018 Gilbert Days Rodeo Queen, Kennadee Riggs. Kennadee states that “the most rewarding part of being a rodeo queen has been learning through experience. From speaking at events to teaching elementary schools about the western way of life, each opportunity has been a thread that contributes to an intricate tapestry of knowledge.” Kennadee shares that she has “gained a new appreciation for the invisible hand in the arena. Working behind the production of a rodeo truly opens your eyes to vital details that once appeared small.”
Once crowned, rodeo queens partake in the journey of a lifetime, however the hard work doesn’t cease. Early mornings, late nights, mucking stalls, hauling feed, water, stall shavings, and horses is the daily schedule for a rodeo queen. That is in addition to parades, rodeos, community appearances, rodeo committee meetings, town council meetings, and school visits. The show must go on rain or shine.
Balancing schedules between their academic life and rodeo responsibilities can become quite the extravaganza. It is not uncommon to find rodeo queens working, attending school full-time, participating in a variety of extracurricular activities all while maintaining their responsibilities as a rodeo queen. It is this dedication to their academic and rodeo career that has created a path of success for many young women after they hand down their crown to the next rodeo queen.
When asked how Kennadee worked around her busy schedule she shared,
“I have spent my senior year of high school balancing life’s extremities with a rodeo queen schedule. At times, it can be easy to feel like I am spread too thin! But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to be a part of various sports and clubs while holding a rodeo queen title.”
While the hours are long and the work is tough, rodeo queens see it as an honor to have such a myriad of responsibilities. Kennadee continues,
“the skills I’ve been able to develop through these experiences are un-exchangeable. The biggest thing I’ve come to realize is as I prioritized service and turning outward to others, everything else would fall into place. It’s something I can’t explain but it has been my saving grace while juggling a full schedule.”
To the future generation of rodeo queens, Kennadee hopes you “keep your head up high and your standards higher! Work hard and go for it. Of all the activities and sports I’ve been a part of, being a rodeo queen has been by far the most rewarding. Remember, the most important part of a rodeo queen is her spirit. Through life’s trials and adversity, keep a smile on your face and stay tough. But above all, be kind. You can truly see a light in the eye of a girl who genuinely loves others.
Constantly in the public eye and as an ambassador to the sport of rodeo and role models to the next generation of young cowgirls and cowboys, rodeo queens are far more than pretty faces. Equal parts thoughtful as they are tough, rodeo queens are ready to take on any task. Whether faced with an excited horse in the arena, the hustle and bustle at the arena gate, crowded and loud parades and social gatherings, it is the confidence, poise, and professionalism in and out of the arena that allow rodeo queens to stand out.
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