2014 Miss Rodeo Colorado
The four day competition for Miss Rodeo Colorado culminated on Sunday, June 30 as Rhianna Russell was named the Queen for 2014.
Rhianna Russell is the daughter of James and Kimberly Russell of Pine, Colorado. She is currently attending the University of Colorado at Denver with a major in Biotechnology. Her previous associations include the Elizabeth Stampede Queen and a member of the highly regarded Westernaires Drill Team. Russell will serve as the Lady-in-Waiting for the remainder of 2013.
The 4 day competition included horsemanship, contestant speeches, media interviews with Scott James of 97.9 Big Country, a Fashion Show and concluded with the naming of Russell as the 2014 Queen. Other contestants included: Marie Allison, Marie Kidd, Anneliese Phippen, Lizzi Snyder, Hannah Wiens. Hannah Wiens received 1st Runner-up and Lizzi Snyder was chosen as the 2nd Runner-up.
- Horsemanship – Rhianna Russell
- Personality – Rhianna Russell
- Appearance and Photogenics - Hannah Wiens
- Congeniality and Spirit of the Hat - Anneliese Phippen
- Speech - Rhianna Russell
Additional awards were given to Jean Morrell who received the Bob Moore Award for volunteers, and Nyla Bristow who received an award for 25 years with the Miss Rodeo Colorado Pageant.
Anniversary of Miss Rodeo Colorado
Rodeo competition began 140 years ago, after
the end of the Civil War, when cowboys drove large herds of cattle to market
and would challenge each other to see who was the best at riding, roping or
working with cattle. Rodeos and Wild
West shows were frequently performed for entertainment between 1890-1910. Women have been involved in various
capacities, from working with cattle on the ranch to enjoying competition and
demonstrating their skills for the public.
Even before there was an organized Queen’s contest, pretty girls
presented ribbons and trophies at the various events surrounding the rodeo,
fulfilling the role of Rodeo Queen. In
the past 50 years, pageants have evolved to become prestigious scholarship
programs. The pinnacle in Rodeo Queen
competition is Miss Rodeo America
– the young lady who serves as an official spokesperson for the sport of
professional rodeo. And Miss Rodeo Colorado is the First
Lady of professional rodeo for the Centennial
The Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant is celebrating its 50-year
anniversary in 2005, and is one of the inaugural pageants in the national
program. In the early years, the Miss
Rodeo Colorado Pageant moved to different communities within the state, and ladies
from all over Colorado
have worn the crown. That is a rich
50-year history of promoting the love of horses, rodeo and the western way of
life. That represents the work and
dedication of hundreds of people who have worked to make the pageant a success,
hundreds of parents and friends who have helped and encouraged the young
ladies. The pageant is a continuing
legacy of life in the West, the spirit of the settlers, the traditions of
ranching, the excitement of rodeo. Miss
epitomizes the sportsmanship and camaraderie of the American cowboy and their
The young ladies who held the Miss Rodeo Colorado title have gone
on to make their mark in the world; to pursue careers, have families and
instill in their children the same love for horses, rodeo and traditional
family values. Former Miss Rodeo Colorado queens have
traveled far and wide, have settled in the shadow of the Rockies
and within the borders of their great state.
Some have made their homes elsewhere, in nearby Wyoming, the great Northwest of Washington,
the American heartland of South
Kansas, and Oklahoma, or to the
southwest – Arizona
and Texas. The alumni from the pageant share many
experiences; starting with a dream to be a rodeo queen, the competition and
achievement of a goal, the honor of being the First Lady of Rodeo for the State
of Colorado. They share those traditions
and values with rodeo fans, introduce and promote the sport to people who were
not raised with western roots. They
proudly represent their families and sponsors and their state at the Miss Rodeo
pageant. They forever share a common
background with the other ladies who have worn the crown and walked in their
boots. Let us tell you more about the
history of the pageant, and about these 50 special ladies.
Background of the Miss Rodeo America
In January 1955, the International Rodeo
Association (IRA) appointed a committee to formulate a plan to launch the Miss
pageant in 1956. Formerly the Rodeo Association
of America, the IRA had been the sanctioning body for organized rodeo since
1929. Their goal was to choose a queen,
based on beauty and personality and horsemanship. To find attractive girls who photographed
well for publicity shots, who had charm and intelligence for radio and TV
appearances, and were skilled at riding.
According to a December 1955 Western
Horseman article by Bob Latta, “They contacted the Miss America and Miss
Universe pageants, the Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen Go-round, Salinas and Nampa Queen Contests, stock
contractors, publicity men, and many others.
Using this information, they drew up a first draft of the rules and sent
out invitations throughout the Rocky
Mountain time zone for a
tryout contest at the August Central Wyoming Nite Rodeo in Casper.
Nineteen queens showed up, eleven for the Wyoming elimination and eight from Rocky Mountain States and Canada. The 19 had eliminated 355 competitors – many
in state-wide competition.”
These queens were chosen by many
methods, ranging from ticket sales to popularity contests, and they quickly
realized they needed to set up a definite scoring breakdown, judged by
specialized judges. The young women who
competed at Casper
proved beyond a doubt that they exemplified rodeo and the western way of life,
and sponsors and the media were very interested.
Wyoming cowgirl Marilyn Scott was chosen
during that first pageant in August of 1955, and requests for bookings began
rolling in immediately. The IRA made a
final draft of rules and organization for the first international contest to be
held in 1956. It would be judged
“one-third for appearance, judged by professional photographers; one-third for
personality, intelligence, and expressiveness judged by experienced educators,
preferably speech instructors; and one-third on horsemanship judged by seasoned
horse show judges.”
Later that year, with the demise of
the IRA, the International Rodeo Management group took over the contest and it
continued under its stewardship. With
this framework in place, Colorado
was one of the first states to organize an annual state pageant and the
tradition of Miss Rodeo Colorado
earliest years of MRC – 1956-1964
Elaine Ward was the Colorado State Fair Queen
in 1956, her entire family was active in rodeo.
The State Fair committee asked her to go to Durango and compete in the first Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant. She competed in the second Miss Rodeo America
contest, a regional competition in Omaha,
Nebraska and placed in both
Personality and Horsemanship. In 1957,
former Boulder Pow Wow queen Donna Thomas bested seven contestants to win MRC
in Monte Vista. She competed against 18
state queens for MRA at the Grand National in San Francisco. In 1958, former Adams County
queen Revae Milligan won the MRC title in Brighton. Sandi Craig of Golden was the former JeffCo
rodeo queen who won the MRC title in her hometown in 1959.
With a long string of honors and
titles in 4-H, the Southern Colorado Horseman’s Association, Little Britches
and High School rodeo in Southern Colorado,
Marie Mass added the title of Miss Rodeo Colorado
in Castle Rock. She was the first from Colorado to win MRA from
a field of 19 contestants in Las Vegas. She was followed by racehorse trainer
Rosemary Larson from Brighton in 1961, Margie
Mowry of Hugo in 1962, and in 1963 Sue Guilliams of Montrose was chosen in
Limon, World Champion Cowboy Bill Linderman was one of the judges. In 1964, Sherry Boyer from Durango came to Castle Rock over Labor Day
to win the title.
During these years, the pageant
moved from city to city each year, hosted by some of the larger rodeos within
the state. The only name associated with
the pageant directorship is Cheddy Thompson, owner of a large western store in Colorado Springs. He helped organize the pageant, supported and
sponsored the queens.
MRC - The
next decade – 1965-1974
At this point, rather than moving every year,
the pageant settled into a host city for several years in each place. At some point, Cheddy Thompson and Floyd Hill
turned the directorship over to Jim Moreland, with the assistance of Pat Rowe.
From 1965-1967, Durango played host to the contest. Kathy Dalton won in 1965, but was injured in
an accident and unable to go to MRA. Kay
Popino from Loveland
stepped in to compete at MRA with only a few weeks to prepare. 1966 queen Jo Beth Smith from Trinidad was selected from a field of 15, and went on to
be named 2nd Runner Up at MRA.
In 1967, former Colorado State Fair Queen Jerry Bond of Ordway won both
horsemanship and appearance to take the MRC title.
The pageant moved to Trinidad for 1968 and 1969. Kate Flinn from Fort Collins won the title in 1968, Mary Ann
Bledsoe of Hugo won Horsemanship and Personality to take the title in
1969. When the pageant next moved to
Rocky Ford at the Arkansas Valley Fair, Janett Donley from Pueblo won the 1970 title. Next, Gail Hughes from Olney Springs was
chosen from a field of 17 ladies, and was crowned by Governor John Love. The 1972 queen was Yvonne Ann Winter from Trinidad.
played host to the pageant for the next two years. De Anna Swetzig from Greeley won Miss Personality and the 1973
title, she remembers dancing with All-Around cowboy Phil Lyne at the rodeo
dance. Janine Hiatt from Grand Junction won all
three categories of judging to take the title in 1974.
Members of the Steering Committee
were Darlene Schutte, Bessie Armstrong, Byron Syring, Jean Haigler, Bill
Skains, Milo Wilson, Jr. and Ward Mathias.
The members of the State Committee were Jerry (Bond) Draper, Jack Lutz,
Victor Maio, John Chalanda, Lee Roy Casper, Suzanne Halandras, Shirley Stewart,
Mrs. George Kerst and Mozelle McMillan.
And they were to make a decision that changed and strengthened the Miss
MRC at the Colorado State Fair -
1974 - 1989
The pageant was ready to move again after a
couple of years in Monte Vista, and a new host city could not be found. Ed Moreland came to the State Fair and asked
them if they would be willing to hold it in Pueblo.
Raeana Wadhams worked in the office for the Colorado State Fair, and the
Fair agreed to take the pageant under one condition – that they would keep it
there. They agreed, and this arrangement
allowed one other major change – the beginning of the selection of Miss Rodeo
Colorado-elect and the holdover title.
The current State Fair queen would take the title in August and compete
at the Miss Rodeo America
pageant that December. The newly
selected queen would assume her title and begin her reign in January 1976. Colorado
was the first state in the MRA system to do this.
Colorado State Fair Queen Vicki
Hallmark from Meeker assumed the MRC title for the remainder of 1975. State Fair Manager George Scott and Assistant
Manager Larry Wagner were warm supporters of the pageant. In 1976, Bobbie Jo Etter of Grand Junction was given her crown; the
beautiful, distinctive turquoise and silver tiara made by Silversmith Gene
Trujillo in South Fork, Colorado. The leaf or feather design contained one
hundred four grams of silver and seventy-five carats of gem quality Morencia
turquoise. The traveling tiara was
sponsored by Byron and Betty Jo Syring of Monte Vista. It is currently the oldest tiara in all of
the MRA state pageants.
The crown was next worn by Almabeth
Carroll of La Junta, who competed for the title with 21 other ladies. She became the second Miss Rodeo America from
the state of Colorado,
winning the Speech, Horsemanship and Personality divisions in a field of 52
contestants. For 1978, Barbara Seitz
won the title, while winning all three categories, and was 4th
runner up at MRA with 49 women in the competition. Back home, the State Fair began limiting the
number of entries through a preliminary round of competition. The next winner was Debbie Pech from Thornton, who won
Horsemanship on her way to winning the title.
In 1980 Kathy Martin of Pueblo won the title, and
became the third MRC to win Miss Rodeo America.
Kim Nogel of Trinidad
succeeded her to hold the title in 1981, and was named Top Ten at MRA. Jill Lovelace was next in 1982, and won the
Speech award and was 4th runner-up at MRA. Vanette Ruzanski of Pueblo won all three categories on her way to
MRC 1983. The title then passed to
fellow Puebloan Kym Cooper for 1984.
With some changes of duties at the State Fair office, Raeana Wadhams
stepped back into an advisory role and state delegate ‘Sudzy’ Ruzanski ran the
pageant in 1985 when Taleen Jenkins was named MRC, and she went on to be Top
Ten at MRA.
In 1986, former MRC contestant and
first runner up Deb Dilley from Canon
City stepped in to run
the pageant and Chris Wilder from Colorado
Kellie Dilka from Pueblo
was the next to wear the Colorado
crown for 1987, and Colorado
again brought home the MRA title, as well as the Speech award. Patsy O’Grady, long-time committee member
with MRC took the reins of the pageant and under her leadership, Mandy Wheatley
from Kremmling was chosen from eleven contestants in 1988, and was named Top
Ten at MRA. Kimber Solberg of Falcon was
the last MRC to be selected at the State Fair and went on to become 1st
Runner-Up to Miss Rodeo America.
MRC at the Greeley Independence Stampede - 1990 - 2005
Fifteen years ago, the Greeley Independence
Stampede became the host rodeo for the Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant. A chain of events led to the relocation of
the pageant. With an impressive resume
and years of involvement with MRC, Raeana Wadhams was named to the coveted job
of Business Manager to the Miss Rodeo America pageant in 1989. That, along with some other changes at the
State Fair set the MRC committee looking for another home for the pageant. The Greeley Independence Stampede, the
largest 4th of July rodeo in the country, seemed like a wonderful
home for the state rodeo queen title.
Fifteen years before, they had had to pass on the pageant coming to
their city, and now the time seemed perfect for the pageant to move
northward. Raeana, Patsy O’Grady, Sally
Anderson, Gerry Maloney and Deb Dilley, all integrally involved with the preservation
and guardianship of the pageant, got in the car and went to meet with the
Greeley Independence Stampede Committee.
They knew it would be a good home for the pageant, but there were some
matters to be discussed. Would the
long-time sponsors from Southern Colorado
support the pageant if it moved away from the Colorado State Fair? What about the long history of their own
Stampede queen? The issues were worked
out, and the Greeley
committee welcomed the pageant with open arms.
Dick and Kathy Hodge, Nyla Bristow,
Barb Johnson and Rita Carey were some of the people who worked to make the
pageant a success.
The first lady to win the title in
the new location was Lori Shalberg from the small town of Sheridan Lake
for 1990. Ginger Greene of Jefferson wore the crown in 1991. Terri Lynn Bunker of Fort Collins was the next winner, followed by
Melissa King of Avon who placed in the Top Ten
at MRA. Our next queen was the first of
three pairs of sisters who have won the crown – Susan Boensch from Fort Collins was MRC in
1994, and was Top Ten at MRA. Paulette
Woods of Pueblo
was MRC 1995, and in 1996, Susan’s sister Sara Boensch of Fort Collins took the crown. She did her state proud, winning Miss
Photogenic and 2nd Runner-Up at MRA.
Stacy Reid of Falcon reigned in 1997, and she won the Speech award and 4th
Runner-Up at MRA. Aspen Emmett was
chosen as MRC for 1998, and went on to be named Top Ten at MRA, winning the
Western Regional Scholarship. Some of
the other people who helped run the pageant and support the queens were Bob
Bollinger, Susan Jensen, Mary Bohlender, Karen Keller, Steve Holdren, Pete
Morrell, Bob and Cathy Moore.
Audrey Williams from Loveland was MRC in 1999,
and was Top Ten at MRA and won the Western Regional Scholarship. Loveland
was the hometown of MRC again the next year when Tara Graham won on her third
try. The experience paid dividends when
she won Miss Rodeo America 2001 – the fifth MRC to be chosen the first lady of
rodeo. Allison Munger of Berthoud was
her successor and held the title in 2001.
In 2002, Addie Knowlton of Fowler represented the state and made
everyone proud to be named Miss Horsemanship and 2nd Runner-Up at
MRA. Christy Spurlock of Penrose wore
the crown proudly in 2003 and did well at MRA, named 2nd Runner-Up
and being selected as the winner of the Raeana Wadhams Spirit Award. Cassidy Reid of Falcon followed in her
sister’s footsteps in winning MRC for 2004.
And the third of the sister-pairs won for 2005, Tressie
Knowlton of Fowler is the current Miss Rodeo Colorado. The ladies follow a proud tradition and set a
high standard for others who will follow.