Miss Rodeo Canada 2016

BY NICOLE MARIE – Nicole Marie PhotographyCo
Official MRC2016 Samantha Stokes.

Official MRC2016 Samantha Stokes.

My week shadowing the 2016 Miss Rodeo Canada pageant began on Monday, Nov. 9 at a luncheon hosted by Chianti’s. I was introduced to the contestants along with acting MRC President Pauline Briggs and Pageant Coordinator Sharon Koke. After lunch we headed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital. It seemed to me that during their time there the girls lit up with each new child they interacted with, just as much as the kids enjoyed having them there. The day ended with a formal dinner with past MRC2014 Nicole Briggs, and MRC2015 Katy Lucas sharing their eating etiquette knowledge and Queen experiences.


Miss Rodeo Canada royalty at the Stollery Hospital.

Miss Rodeo Canada royalty at the Stollery Hospital.

The final judging is completed.

The final judging is completed.

Tuesday, November 10

The day began early with a meet and greet in the MRC host hotel the Chateau Lacombe. From there the girls began the first components of the 2016 MRC pageant with the written exams followed by their personal interviews. I was privileged enough to sit silently in both. I was impressed with the maturity, thoughtfulness and upstanding character the girls displayed during their interviews. Everyone then had a busy afternoon visiting the St. Micheal’s Senior Home, where we were treated to a delicious dinner that included homemade pretzels! From there it was off to Londonderry Dodge for a tour and the girls got their first up close and personal look at the beautiful truck(fondly named Black Betty by Katy Lucas MRC2015) the 2016 MRC would be handed the keys to.

Black Betty, the truck awarded to the 2016 Miss Rodeo Canada.

Black Betty, the truck awarded to the 2016 Miss Rodeo Canada.

Tuesday evening had the girls competing as well as visiting Rodeo Royalty escorting the CFR contestants during the Back patch/number presentation ceremony.

Wednesday, November 11

The girls were excited to start their day as Wednesday is the Horsemanship portion of the MRC Pageant. It was so exciting to see the girls paired with their different horses for each of the tests. The Horsemanship consisted of two reining patterns, a flag ride and a Queen Wave ride as well as impromptu questions for all the girls. The day finished off with autograph signing at Welsh’s booth in the Expo center and the Charity Mechanical Bull Riding Tournament at Cook County. The girls were also joined by Danika Boland, Miss Rodeo Australia, Georgie Stower, Warwick Rodeo Queen and Lauren Heaton, Miss Rodeo America.

Katy Lucas catching her little bro’s ride on video!

Katy Lucas catching her little bro’s ride on video!

Thursday, November 12

Thursday morning started with a Cancer Foundation Charity Breakfast. It was then into the limo, which the girls were given the use of by Platinum Limos for the week, and off to Rodeo Magic and a morning spent with  enthusiastic kids. Seeing the kids learning about rodeo and being paired up with cowboys and cowgirls was one of the highlights of the week. There was lots of laughter to be heard.

Thursday afternoon the girls had their public speaking competition. I was enthralled with each and every speech that was given. You could tell the girls put so much thought into their speeches and had worked very hard on presenting them! It was off to the CFR and the Prairie Oyster Shuck Charity Event at Knoxville’s. The muscles on my face were sore from laughing so hard at the very good sports the fireman who competed against the cowboys were! More than one face was a little green in colour when their two minutes was up!

Fashion Show benefiting the Cowboy Benefit Fund and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team.

Fashion Show benefiting the Cowboy Benefit Fund and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team.

Friday, November 13
Friday morning was a real treat as the Ladies of Canadian Pro Rodeo held their Fashion Show benefiting the Cowboy Benefit Fund and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team. It was here that the girls finished the last of their compulsory pageant events with their modeling abilities.
Four contestants await the final verdict.

Four contestants await the final verdict.

From here it was back to the hotel for some quiet time and preparations for the crowning of the 2016 MRC during the evening CFR performance.

As an observer my week was full of experiences that have left me with an appreciative look at the behind the scenes of the MRC Program. The depth of character held by the contestants as well as the alumni that I spent time with impressed me. I have changed my outlook on who and what a rodeo Queen is. Looking past the crown and the bling they wear, I have been given the opportunity to see the incredible heart each of these girls bear. To hear their dreams and aspirations. The vast love for the sport of rodeo and our western heritage held close to the heart of each with the desire to serve and give of themselves during their reign.

The crown is passed from Katy to the 2016 Miss Rodeo Canada, Samantha Stokes.

The crown is passed from Katy to the 2016 Miss Rodeo Canada, Samantha Stokes.

Although only one girl walked away wearing the Miss Rodeo Canada title, all four contestants were winners. I have come home feeling enriched to have spent time with each of them. I know that their futures are bright and those around them will feel as blessed as I to have had our paths cross. I am proud to say they are our Rodeo Royalty.

Real Life Rodeo Queen Secret Number 10


Autograph Sessions

This position comes with great power…

Being a rodeo queen means having power, I’ll admit it, and you have to make a choice. You’re in a position where you can either take advantage of that power, or you can use it to do something remarkable.

I know this is starting to sounds like a “with great power, comes great responsibility” speech, but boy did I feel powerful last weekend.

I’ve had the idea for a very long time now to partner with Make-A-Wish to help brighten the day of a young girl, and at the Pro Rodeo Canada Series Final, I used the help of others and my power as Miss Rodeo Canada to make that happen.

As I looked at a list of names and ages to choose from, I was thinking logically. I needed a girl small in size that would fit in a saddle with me, so she had to be young, but not so young that she might be scared and be afraid to stay with me. Very logically, I chose a name and age.

Six-year-old Rozanna, who later became known to us as Rozie, Little Miss Rodeo Canada 2015.

I used my brain to pick that name, but my heart melted when I met the inspiring little girl behind the name and fell in love with not only her, but her entire family.

The family had been through a lot. Both Rozie and her brother Joey are healthy kids, but their story is not void of heartache. The Make-A-Wish foundation of Southern Alberta first heard about the family when Jacey, the eldest of the family became ill with cancer. Before Jacey passed away almost three years ago her wish to visit Rome was granted.


One of the most amazing things about the Make-A-Wish program is that they understand that it’s not just the children that are sick that are affected by disease, but the family rallying around that child. So they keep in touch with those family’s, even after tragedy strikes, to offer them these amazing opportunities.

She arrived to a herd of rodeo queens (a royal welcome if you want to get out the puns) and they escorted her in my direction where she was immediately, and quite happily, whisked on to my horse to practice grand entry. I felt a walk was the safest pace to travel around the arena and would ensure she would feel secure in the saddle with me. After leaving the arena for grand entry rehearsal she immediately asked, “when do we get to go fast?”

So around the warm up arena we went at a lope until she was satisfied that we had gone fast enough for her liking.

Grant Entry Practice

Next, a rodeo queen isn’t complete without a sash and crown so something had to be done: a crowning ceremony was in order. When Jim Nevada at Roper Canada found out my plan he also supplied my mini-me with a shirt and sparkly boots fit for any queen, big or small.

Sparkly Boots

I will admit that I’m not the strongest person when it comes to giving emotional speeches, but I have never had a harder time giving a speech than when I looked down at little Rozie, who was awaiting her crown. One sentence in and I was a mess; thank you to Kirsten Braumandl for stepping in to finish the speech I had uselessly practiced in my head over and over, just to cry five words in.

Crowning Ceremony 1

Crowning Ceremony 2


Rozie learned that there is no rest in rodeo queen land as we quickly got her dressed in her new duds and mounted for grand entry.

The moment announcer Dave Poulsen introduced Rozie is one I will never forget. There was a change in the air, you could physically feel it change, and it hit me like a punch in the chest. We slowly rode around the arena and I could see that each and every person in that building were touched by that little girl, just as I was. That feeling alone would have been enough, but the night was far from over.

We quickly tied up our horse and headed to the concourse where Rozie settled in next to the other rodeo queens for autographs, which she soon became an expert at. With the efficiency of an assembly line worker and the writing of a grade 1 student – hearts, hugs and kisses included – Rozie signed autographs for kids, fans and even a few rodeo competitors.

Autographs to contestants 1.

Autographs to contestants 2

The rest of the night saw her mingling with the crowd, being on-camera, doing interviews and awards presentations. Rozie got a taste of what it really takes to be a rodeo queen that night, but I found out just how much power being a rodeo queen enables you to have. The power to make someone happy.



Real Life Rodeo Queen Secret Number 9


Katy Lucas as Miss Ponoka Stampede 2014: "Note the pure joy on my face at the discovery of pizza in the Ponoka Stampede Suite."

Katy Lucas as Miss Ponoka Stampede 2014: “Note the pure joy on my face at the discovery of pizza in the Ponoka Stampede Suite.”

You may not believe it, but I eat a lot.

If you’ve ever seen me inhabiting a hospitality room at a rodeo, you may have noticed a heaping plate always in my hand. No one seems to believe it until they see it, but I eat a lot of food.

Katy's emergency Five Guys Burger and Fries stop before the round winner’s awards ceremony at the National Finals Rodeo: "I had a lot of emergencies during those 10 days…"

Katy’s emergency Five Guys Burger and Fries stop before the round winner’s awards ceremony at the National Finals Rodeo: “I had a lot of emergencies during those 10 days…”

I love joking around and even bragging about how much food I can put away, and while I can usually play it off and make those jokes, sometimes I hear things that hurt.

I have actually had strangers ask both my friends and I if I have some sort of eating disorder. As someone who tries valiantly to keep weight on, not off, my body, this kind of judgment can be hard to hear.

So I would like to once and for all dispel the rumours.

One look at my family tree and you can understand my size. My dad couldn’t start steer wrestling until he was 30 because it took him that long to fill out; my mom wore long-underwear under her jeans, even in the summer, when she was a kid to try to make them fit better; and my brother, Kyle, at 6 foot 2, weighs in at a whopping 160 pounds.

Katy and her brother, Kyle, at the 2013 Canadian Finals Rodeo: "I think this photo proves that it’s simply in the genes for us."

Katy and her brother, Kyle, at the 2013 Canadian Finals Rodeo: “I think this photo proves that it’s simply in the genes for us.”

The point I would like to make is that no matter our size, we can all be hurt by other people’s judgment. It doesn’t matter how much we weigh, what shape our bodies may take or what our eating habits may be – be kind and don’t make assumptions based on looks, because we all know how deceiving they can be.

So why don’t we leave the judging up to our rodeo officials? They have the much more important job of deciding which competitors will top the leaderboard or make a clean run to win the rodeo!

Real Life Rodeo Queen Secret Number 8

Zeke Thurston and Katy Lucas at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida.

Zeke Thurston and Katy Lucas at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida.

You have to be a true cowgirl to do this job.

I’m not saying you have to be able to win the rodeo next weekend, have a father that you followed on the rodeo trail for 20 years, or have lived on a ranch all your life.

True cowgirls, in my mind at least, only require one quality: passion for this sport.

My sport is rodeo, and because it’s my sport I live and breathe it every day. It’s not a chore for me to study rodeo, it’s my obsession. I read articles about it online and in print, watch videos covering it, and listen to it on the radio.

I get excited when one of my Canadian competitors gets on a hot streak, I wish them best of luck with a healing injury, and I know it’s corny, but I tear up every time I see one of them celebrate a big win.

For example, did you know that Zeke Thurston won the Houston rodeo and wasn’t even supposed to be entered? When another competitor was injured, Zeke rolled up into the rodeo but by then the first round had already come and gone. So with one round less than any other competitor and as one of the least experienced bronc riders there, Zeke battled his way to the top!

Did you also know that when steer wrestler Derek Frank hurt his knee at the Ponoka Stampede last year I helped him write his letter to the benevolent fund to request injury compensation?

And did you know I fought the urge to cry like a baby when I interviewed team ropers Kolton Schmidt and Tyrel Flewelling after winning the Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2013?


Katy Lucas interviewing Kolton Schmidt about winning the 2013 Canadian Finals Rodeo in the Team Roping.

I would never think that rodeo queens should be required to compete in rodeo events themselves and I don’t think they should have to grow up in rodeo, but I do think they have to be true cowgirls in the way that they have a passion for the sport of rodeo.

By doing that, only then can you be the best representative for this sport, my sport, rodeo.

Real Life Rodeo Queen Secret Number 7


Katy broadcasting behind the scenes during the 2013 Canadian Finals Rodeo.

Real Life Rodeo Queen Secret #7.

Sometimes I’m afraid of what happens next.

What happens when the crown comes off and I’m just, me? I’ve got an education and I have past work experience but will it be the same when I’m done? This is what I’ve been working towards my entire life – so what do I do after my biggest dream has been realized?

What do you do when the way you are is no longer matched with a crown and banner? Some queens even feel lost after their year is over and have trouble letting go of the person they were.

Having a crown sitting upon your head can empower you to move mountains, so what happens when it’s gone?

When I think about these fears, I think about what I’ve seen become of past rodeo queens. These women have to be so strong to hold a title that comes with all the pressure and stress that can possibly be packed into a one-year reign.

When I think about my fears of what will happen after I wake up from this dream, I look towards these women that have gone before me that now have bright futures and amazing careers.

I talked with one of those very strong and resilient young women, Taci Shaffer, who recently gave up her crown as Miss Rodeo Arizona 2014. Taci grew up in Utah and, after competing in pageants unsuccessfully for five years, began winning titles including Utah High School Rodeo Queen and then went on to win the title of National High School Rodeo Queen. She then moved to Arizona, chasing the sunshine she’d always fantasized about living in, and won Miss Rodeo Arizona 2014.


Miss Rodeo Arizona 2014: Taci Shaffer represented the state of Arizona as the 2014 Miss Rodeo Arizona. Photo by Dream Catcher Images

Just a mere four months ago Taci returned from competing for her very own life’s dream: becoming Miss Rodeo America.

After finishing as first runner up, a heart break no doubt to be so close to realizing a dream and coming up just shy, I had to interview her to see where she went from there?

“Ever since I could remember I wanted to be Miss Rodeo America. I worked very hard for that goal for a very long time. Anytime I went into a competition I knew there would always be a chance of not winning, and that’s always been okay with me.

I try to put everything in God’s hands. I feel so blessed to have that knowledge that God has a special plan for each of us. In that moment when Lauren (Miss Rodeo America 2015) and I were holding hands waiting to hear the results, I knew it would be her name called. I had this feeling, and I was okay with that.

I feel way too blessed to be where I am in my life and I’ve gotten so much out of being a rodeo queen. It has shaped me into the woman I am today, a woman who believes in herself and follows her dreams. To me, that belief in itself is the greatest of all accomplishments.”

What are you doing now?

“These past couple months have been a huge transition for me. Before my reign as Miss Rodeo Arizona, I had been travelling all over the U.S., I worked mostly in sales and marketing, and also traveled as a makeup artist. I have also been modelling for the past five years doing print, promotional and spokes modelling.

I started my own brand, ‘Beyond Beauty Brand’, and I have been working a lot more on this now that I have time. I am a cosmetologist, makeup artist, master esthetician and fitness instructor, so it has been a way to combine my passions and talents into one major goal. I really want to focus on ‘Beyond Beauty Brand’ and help people see the beauty they hold. Right now it’s a complete marketing business, but at some point I want to have my very own makeup and clothing line.

Also, I became a television host for the new show “Strappin In”, by Rodeo Athletes. So I just got back from filming our first segments at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. One of the reasons I continued to [compete for] rodeo queen and compete at America was because I wanted to be a television host for the sport of rodeo. So that opportunity came about almost right after the pageant, it almost felt like that’s why I didn’t win, so that I could take advantage of my dream job, being a host for rodeo!

I’m also thrilled about all the scholarship money I received from the pageant and will be enrolled in school by next fall. I’m having a rough time deciding exactly what to study with all these exciting opportunities ahead, but again that is something that will be answered with time.”

How will being a rodeo queen influence you throughout your career?

“The skills I gained as a rodeo queen will help me tremendously throughout my life and career. It taught me a lot about determination and try. I was able to achieve my best in so many aspects because it challenges you to be the best ‘you’ that you can be. Competing in pageants allows an opportunity to find inner strength and courage that we all possess. It has given me the chance to discover my strengths and perfect them, realize my weaknesses and transform them into strengths.”


Katy interviews 2013 Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Bull Riding Season Leader Tanner Girletz.

I’ve found there are many stories just like Taci’s. Stories of rodeo queens that go on to something they have an extreme passion for, the infamous ‘dream job’ that we all search for.

After my year as Miss Rodeo Canada 2015 is over I plan to work in the sport where I am happiest, rodeo. I hope to continue to advance my skills and give back to this sport by creating media opportunities for contestants and broadcasting at rodeos across Canada, and someday all of North America.

So when I look at the big picture, I don’t see a woman that feels lost without a crown on my head, but someone who still lives each day dedicated to the sport I cherish, and that’s my happy ending to this fairytale.

I’ll end with the message I sign on autograph sheets for hundreds of little girls that believe in princesses and fairytales…

“Always wear your invisible crown.”

The Wave


Real Life Rodeo Queen Secret Number 6:

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do “the wave”.

Often the subject of jokes and criticism as seen by Corban Livingston’s hilarious interpretation, our wave is a symbol that is uniquely “Rodeo Queen”.

Like many aspects of the rodeo queen world our wave is derived from tradition. The rodeo queen wave has evolved overtime and can be different from country to country, and even have vastly different styles between states.

In Canada, most queens wave with what is sometimes referred to as a “wax on, wax off” fashion, using your elbow as a pivot point you smoothly wave your hand from side to side.

Many Miss Rodeo America’s wave with just their hands, keeping the elbow locked and rotating the hand in front of you. Miss Rodeo American 2015, Lauren Heaton says, “We’ve always been taught to make ours really casual and natural, like waving at a neighbor. The way American rodeo queens see it, it’s our way to interact with the audience and be personable and inviting.”

I spoke with Danika Boland, Miss Rodeo Australia 2015, who I will be visiting in the fall and she said “There isn’t really a specific way we have to wave it’s more personal style. I personally wave mid way between front and side so if you where looking straight ahead at a clock my arm would be at 2,3 o’clock and then just give a gentle wave with a little but of arm movement. Sometimes I change it up midway and mix in a little open shut hand wave. Wow sounds so strange trying to explain it!”

I’ve also seen variations with less or more arm movement, sometimes very fluid motions, and even a salute. There’s also different waves for different occasions, waves for riding fast, riding slow, sitting on a stationary horse, or standing on foot.

Anyway you do it, a rodeo queen’s wave is a powerful thing. It’s what welcomes the crowd to the rodeo during the grand entry, it’s what gets young girls on their feet pointing for mommy and daddy to look at the pretty princess on horseback, and I know it’s the image that helped inspire me all those years ago to become the rodeo queen I am today.

Plus, we’d look pretty lackluster riding around the arena with our free hand at our side! So Corban Livingston, thank you for making sure our waves are at an acceptable standard!

Real Life Rodeo Queen Secret #5

Life’s too short for flat hair.

I was recently asked by a Western Horse Review fan, “What is the deal with the hair?”

She wondered why she’d never seen a queen with straight hair and why on earth do the curls have to be so big? She even joked about the greenhouse gas emissions from our obsessive use of hairspray!

I think there are many misconceptions about the rodeo queen “look”, one of the biggest one’s being about our hair. Many think it’s frizzy, teased, and as dry as the hay we feed our horses. Well, 20 years ago we gave Dolly Parton a run for her money, but today rodeo queens are moving towards a much smoother, healthier and softer look with our hairstyles. Short hair can be seen from time to time along with straight styles, ponytails and even braids.

But you know what? I love big queen hair! It’s what sets us apart from everyone else at the rodeo and it gives us our identity. In a western world where styles are getting less and less flashy and more simple and classy, it’s what makes us different from other female rodeo athletes that walk in wearing the same Roper shirts and Wrangler jeans.

Sometimes I do tire of waking up extremely early to blow dry, hot roller, hairspray, brush out, hairspray, back comb, hairspray, bobby pin, hairspray, hairspray and then just for good measure, hairspray again, I don’t think I would want to change. I only get one more year of queening and that time is just too short for flat hair!


Photo provided by Shelly Thacker-Bjarnason and the Miss Rodeo Canada Organization.

The contestants of the 1975 Miss Rodeo Canada Pageant, many with short hair and buns with their newly crowned queen Shelly (Sis) Thacker-Bjarnason.


Photo provided by Trish Seitz.

Trish (Kostelansky) Seitz sporting full-on queen hair during her reign as Miss Rodeo Canada 1991.


Photo provided by Codi Ann Miller.

Codi Ann Miller sports a trendy braid as Miss Rodeo North Dakota 2014. Codi finished in the top 10 in the 2015 Miss Rodeo America Pageant.


Photo by Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography.

Miss Rodeo Canada 2014, Nicole Briggs during a 2015 pageant event, notice her smooth curls and healthy hair.