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Arts & Life

What It Takes To Be A Queen: An Inside Look At The Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Pageant

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Alana Schreiber
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KUNC
Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Ashley Baller rides into the Greeley Stampede.

Last weekend was the 99th Greeley Stampede, an annual celebration of Western life that features carnivals, concerts, games and, of course, rodeos. But amid the tie-downs, barrel racing and mutton busting, there was also the Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant. Colorado Edition’s Alana Schreiber got an inside look at the pageant and what it takes to be crowned rodeo queen.

Interviews in story have been edited for length and clarity.

Alana Schreiber: A rodeo queen pageant is not your average pageant. At least that's the first thing the organizers at the Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 competition will tell you.

Megan Bryant: What I'd like people to know is, yes, it's a pageant, but it's not just a beauty pageant.

Schreiber: Megan Bryant is president of the Miss Rodeo Colorado Committee.

Bryant: These young ladies are participating in interviews and speeches. So it's really all aspects of how she would be an ambassador for the sport of rodeo and that Western lifestyle. And horsemanship is a real key part to this pageant.

Schreiber: But before the girls can show off their horsemanship, they have to participate in a fashion show, speeches and a Q&A session. The pageant season begins with a preliminary round, which was held in early May in a small Greeley auditorium. And at the center of the preliminary event is the young woman that every little girl wants their picture with: Colorado's reigning rodeo queen.

Hailey Frederiksen: My name is Haley Fredriksson and I am Miss Rodeo Colorado 2021. I've gotten to represent both the Professional Sport Rodeo, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and agriculture. And I'm just really blessed to have this title.

Schreiber: Among Hailey's duties as queen are traveling around the country to different rodeos, advocating both for the sport and the agricultural communities that support it, and spreading the word about her way of life.

Frederiksen: I'm educating the public about the Western lifestyle, our morals and our values. A lot of us girls say that we're ambassadors, but I like to say that I'm a steward because I'm not only promoting and preserving the lifestyle, but I'm trying to recruit people into it.

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Skillman Photography
Hailey Frederiksen, Miss Rodeo Colorado 2020-2021

Schreiber: And today, Hailey is more or less the emcee. She introduces the contestants as they strut across the stage in their best Western attire and asks them interview questions. After afterwards, while the girls get ready to ride and the judges start to deliberate, the families of contestants are left to wait nervously. Like, Susan Sewald, a family friend of contestant Ashley Baller.

Susan Sewald: The first time I ever set eyes on Ashley, she was 11 years and she was on the back of a horse. So this is her lifelong dream. And the girls have all done great and it's so fun to see. This program gives them such a presence and teaches them how to speak and how to carry themselves through life.

Schreiber: But if anyone is curious what the judges might be looking for in their next queen, all they have to do is ask. Barbara Jordan, one of the judges, grew up in Boulder as the daughter of a rodeo announcer. She has been involved in the sport since pretty much as long as she can remember. And she feels like one of the main jobs of the rodeo queen is to bridge a gap.

Barbara Jordan: There's somewhat of a disconnect between the average person and rodeo. And oftentimes a rodeo queen is that great middle person who can explain the events and explain what's happening and really make someone who didn't understand what they were coming to see into a lifetime fan of rodeo. So we're looking for that wonderful outgoing personality, someone who's well-spoken and thoughtful, kind and smart. And here in a minute, we're going to see how well she can ride.

Schreiber: Feeling misunderstood by the non-rodeo world kind of seems to be a central theme here, because when the girls get on their horses, they're anything but dainty beauty queens. They're athletes. After the contestants showed off their riding skills, all five actually advanced to the final round. And nearly two months later, they met back up for a final fashion show, speeches, Q&A and horsemanship competition. Still, only one can wear the crown. And on June 26, the title went to Ashley Baller. And her first order of business is the Greeley Stampede.

Baller: You're speaking with Ashley Baller. The new Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022

Schreiber: Ashley parades into the Greeley Stampede, riding a horse and waving the Colorado state flag.

Baller: I’m a first-generation cowgirl. Neither my mom nor my dad ever rode horses or had anything to do with the ranching or rodeo background. So I was the very first in our family to get started. My step-grandpa saddled me up on his horse named Sassy and it just stuck to me. I was born to be a cowgirl.

Schreiber: But Ashley still has a couple of months before her official reign kicks in. And when it does, she wants to carry on the mission of so many cowgirls before her: bridging that gap between the rodeo and rodeo divide.

Baller: I want them to know how truly fun it is. It's an event that people from age five to ninety-five can truly enjoy. It's for everyone. I think it's really important right now that we educate the public on why we love rodeo because it's American history in action.

Schreiber: So now Ashley gets to travel around the country and advocate for the Western lifestyle, all while wearing a crown, or in this case, a cowgirl hat.

This story is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for July 1. You can find the full episode here.

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