Riding a horse while waving to the crowd with a tiara on your cowboy hat is a dream many young women in agriculture have. Serving as a rodeo queen is a privilege and an honor, and serving as Miss Rodeo Nebraska is the highest queen position in the state.
“The Miss Rodeo Nebraska Pageant that began in 1955 continues to be held annually to select a young lady who has the desire and enthusiasm to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the ‘Sport of Rodeo’ and the State of Nebraska,” according to the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association.
The queen this year is Sierra Peterson, from Ashland, Neb. She was selected as the 2012 Miss Rodeo Nebraska at NEBRASKAland DAYS in 2011, where afterwards she served as the Lady-in-Waiting for six months before her reign began.
“It didn’t really hit me at first. Lady-in-Waiting is a really good prep though, and the first time I felt like ‘her’ was the Lincoln PRCA rodeo. I’d been there before with past titles, but to be introduced and carry the flag, it was amazing,” she said.
She added, “You are never given the title. It’s a privilege and honor. To be around my family and friends and share that with them, it was very cool.”
Peterson first thought about the competition in 2009, when that year’s Lady-in-Waiting stayed with her. “She stayed at my house, and described to me what she did and I kind of caught the bug. I thought about it for a long time, and decided to go to the queen clinic. I did that, and it’s history after that,” she said.
Peterson grew up around horses, and her father sold bull riding equipment. She was also involved in 4-H. “I grew a passion for horses throughout my life. They have always been there for me,” Peterson said.
She attended college at Oklahoma Christian University, where she received her degree in public relations.
Her platform is mentoring elementary school students. “If we can get into schools and be mentors to kids, we can mentor them and teach them about rodeo and our western heritage. That will help get them and their families to the rodeo,” she stated.
She continued, “The number one thing that we need to do today with any organization with rodeo is to get people to understand the heart of rodeo, and why it exists. We need to market what we are doing and help the program to continue.”
Peterson will compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America during the 2012 National Finals Rodeo, which is held in Las Vegas, Nev., in December. “I am very excited to compete for Miss Rodeo America and represent the state of Nebraska. It gives me great joy to go to Las Vegas, and do it not just for me, but for the people of Nebraska,” she said.
She knows that hard work and dedication helped her become Miss Rodeo Nebraska, and hopes those attributes will help her in the Miss Rodeo America pageant. “I always work hard, that’s one of my biggest things. You can dream big, but you have to work hard to get there. I pursued my passion. If you can do that, you can do anything,” said Peterson.
Peterson encourages girls to run for pageants, even if they are unsure about doing so. “The girls who are in rodeo and don’t know much about doing pageants, at least try it. It’s the best experience you will ever have,” she said.
She continued, “I enjoy how much it has given me the opportunity to change and to grow. When I got into this, I did this as a business venture to meet people that I could work for one day. I love to be around people and I like to mentor others. It’s an opportunity to meet a lot of people.”
After her reign, Peterson plans to pursue a career in marketing or sales, and would like to go back to school to receive her Master’s degree in agricultural communications or marketing. “I want to be the person who says yes to the people who come to me for rodeo sponsorship,” she said.
Started in 1955, the first Miss Rodeo Nebraska was named in Burwell, with Dallas Hunt George of Lincoln, serving as the first queen. She then went on to win the regional title at AK-SAR-BEN and competed in the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in 1957.
The second Miss Rodeo Nebraska was Laura (Lolly) Cameron Klug, who won in 1957. She then won the Regional title at AK-SAR-BEN, and competed at Miss Rodeo America. In 1959 she was selected as the Buffalo Bill Rodeo Queen and given the title of Miss Rodeo Northwest. She then competed again at Miss Rodeo America where she was selected second runner-up, according to the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association.
In 1991 the pageant was moved from Burwell to NEBRASKAland DAYS and the Buffalo Bill PRCA Rodeo at North Platte, Neb. At this time, a $1,000 scholarship was also put in place to be given to each winner. Today, that scholarship is now $5,000.
Then, in 2000, the pageant was extended from three days to four. The contestants are judged on the categories of horsemanship, personality and appearance.
In 2006, the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association added another part to their program, and that was the Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska pageant.
This year’s Miss Teen is Karlie Osborne of Paxtun, Neb. “I have always lived in western Nebraska and grew up around rodeo. My dad rodeoed, and my mom high school rodeoed. I’ve always been in FFA. I have been in rodeo queen pageants since I was 11-years-old,” she said.
Osborne got into it because she wanted to serve as a positive role model for young girls. “I really just like being a role model for the younger girls. I think with the way the world is going, they need someone to look up to right now,” she stated.
She has dreamed of becoming Miss Rodeo Nebraska, and then Miss Rodeo America. Winning Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska is a step to that goal. “Winning Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska was a dream of mine as soon as the program came out. My mother influenced me, and wanted me to do it. With as young as I am, and as old as the girls I competed against, it was a pretty big deal,” she said.
Osborne just turned 16 in July, and is a junior in high school at Hershey High School.
Her mother passed away in a car accident in November of last year, and she used her story in her speech at the pageant to talk about her hometown and the support she received. “Our topic was to do the speech about your hometown. I decided that I would do it along the lines of technology, because that’s important right now,” she said.
She continued, “If you googled my hometown, this is what you would find out about it. But there is more than just those facts. There is so much hearts and compassion. With my accident, everyone was gracious and awesome about everything. It meant so much to me.”
Family is important to Osborne, and she wants to help show others that the sport of rodeo is also a family. “Kids can come up and talk to us. It’s a way of portraying that rodeo is family event, and not just a rough sport,” she said.
Both girls have enjoyed serving as ambassadors for rodeo, and hope to continue being positive role models for young girls across the state. “We have a good support system, and have had a great year,” Peterson said. ❖
“I enjoy how much it has given me the opportunity to change and to grow.”
~ Sierra Peterson, 2012 Miss Rodeo Nebraska Queen