“Did you leave your hotel room without asking?” asked the stern looking woman.
“Yes mam”, I stammered, “I only went to the gym.”
“You are not allowed to leave your room unless you have a guide, these are the rules!” she said.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize. I will ask next time”, I offered, hoping to placate her. (I had pulled my hamstring on the tread mill so I wasn’t able to break that rule again – if I even dared!)
It was then that I realized the importance and seriousness of what I had just got myself into!
Pageants and Rodeo Queens are not a huge thing in Australia so I was more than a little naive when I accepted the offer to judge the Miss Rodeo Texas Pageant, in Austin this year. I had judged some Stockman Challenges back in Australia which tested horsemanship skills etc, but certainly nothing close to a Rodeo Queen Pageant.
Twelve extremely dedicated girls and their parents had converged on San Antonio in June for the 2019 Miss Rodeo Texas Pageant. It was the culmination of countless hours of hard work and thousands of miles traveled throughout the year representing their local region attending rodeos, fund-raising for many non-profit organizations and promoting western heritage, rodeo and agriculture traditions within the state.
What astounded me was the dedication and multiple skill sets that all these young ladies, aged 9 to 24, had acquired throughout their journey. Some of the skills they demonstrated and were judged on ranged from horsemanship, teamwork, western knowledge, rodeo history and of course the one most people fear worse than death, public speaking.
These girls had to answer on-the-spot interviews and speak on a topic that they had just drawn out of hat in a public forum. It was truly inspiring to see these young contestants perform under pressure and confidently stand up on a stage to deliver. Tiger Woods might even buckle under the same spotlight!
To the uninitiated (me included), many people think pageants are all about beauty, and while some are, there are those that focus on a cause, encouraging contestants to develop all-around life skills and community service. The Miss Rodeo Texas Pageant leads the way in producing ambassadors and role models in the sport.
The days were long. Judging began from 8am and some nights continued through until 10pm. The day may have finished for judges, but not for the girls. They then had dance rehearsal and preparation for the following day.
The criteria we had to judge the contestants on included personality, knowledge and confidence within a variety of scenarios that ranged from media interviews, group interviews, written tests, public speaking, Q&As on western heritage knowledge… and this went on for three grueling days.
The contestants were not allowed to see their parents. The girls bunked together and had guides to make sure they all stuck to the rules (just like that errant judge!). The winners from each age group represent Texas throughout the state and go on to compete in the national Miss Rodeo Pageant.
There were four judges, three of whom were from out of state. Two had been past state Rodeo Queen champions themselves, and they had all judged numerous pageants before. So even though I was the rookie, I had great support and guidance from them. The executive board members for the pageant were exemplary, from their warm hospitality to their adherence to pageantry rules to ensure fairness and tradition.
The winner of the Miss Rodeo Texas pageant receives a $25,000 college scholarship, a free apartment for the year, the use of a pick-up truck for the year and the chance to fly all expenses paid to all of the major rodeos throughout the U.S representing Texas.
But it’s not just the winners that come away with the booty. All contestants are enriched with life-long skills, contacts, friendships and experiences that give the pageant its true purpose.
By Duncan Steele – Park
Brought to you by Tara Stark Real Estate Group