Pierce woman returns to Colorado from Kentucky to compete for Miss Rodeo Colorado crown | TheFencePost.com

Pierce woman returns to Colorado from Kentucky to compete for Miss Rodeo Colorado crown

Tommy Simmons

The 2017 Miss Rodeo Colorado competition was going to be Kelsie Winslow's last. The competition is not open to women over the age of 25, and the Pierce native is 24 this year. For Winslow, this meant she had one last chance at completing a lifelong goal.

She'd made some hard decisions, she said in a 90-second speech to pageant judges. After she graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in broadcast journalism, she had a choice — she could pursue her career, or she could return home to take part in the competition.

"It was around Thanksgiving, and I was reflecting a lot on the fact that this was going to be my last year of eligibility," she said. "It was sort of a now-or-never moment."

It was about more than the competition, though. Winslow was chasing a dream it seemed she was born to fulfill. Her cousins had won the title in the past. Her father had participated in rodeos when he was younger. Both Winslow and her sister had competed in 4-H growing up and transferred to rodeo later on.

The speech, and returning to Colorado, paid off. Winslow was crowned Miss Rodeo Colorado at this year's Greeley Stampede.

It was a culmination of a life lived in and around the sport of rodeo.

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"I think I was a toddler the first time I was on a horse," Winslow said. "I've been in the saddle for as long as I can remember."

She started competing in rodeo in middle school. She also began taking part in pageantry, eventually winning the title of Colorado High School Rodeo Queen during her senior year in 2009. As a result, she took part in the Miss National High School Rodeo Queen competition, which was her last pageant experience until returning to Colorado.

In coming home, she was returning to something she's always loved.

"I had a blast during this pageant," she said. "I really bonded with the other contestants because you have to compete in a lot of preliminary events first. It didn't even feel like a competition, it just felt like hanging out with friends."

That's not to say there's anything simple or easy about the competition.

It consists of seven categories, including appearance, personality and speech, all three of which Winslow took first place. She also won the congeniality award, which was voted on by the other contestants. It was during the speech section that Winslow addressed her decision to leave Kentucky to compete in the event.

"My topic was 'when you get to a fork in the road, take it,'" she said. "Our speeches are extemporaneous, which means you have 10 minutes to pull together a minute-and-a-half speech. That's not hard for me because of my broadcast background, but there are a lot of people watching and it is still nerve-wracking."

Contestants also are expected to know a massive amount of information about the sport of rodeo, including an in-depth knowledge of the history of the sport, the current standings of human and equine athletes, and a familiarity with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rulebook and hall of fame. They also are quizzed on a variety of topics in equine science, such as horse care and nutrition.

All this is to say nothing of the horsemanship section of the competition, in which participants are judged based on their riding ability and level of control of their mounts.

The grueling process is important, because the title of Miss Rodeo Colorado comes with a lot of responsibility.

"You're the representative of rodeo for the entire state of Colorado so you have to hold yourself to a standard of grace," said Madelaine Mills, who won the competition last year and who Winslow was quick to list as a friend and role model. "You get to travel around and meet a lot of new people and ride a lot of different horses and get to know them as well, but you might be asked to speak at an event five minutes before that starts. In that situation, you have to be able to handle yourself with grace."

It all came together for Winslow in a coronation ceremony on July 1 after a four-day competition at the Greeley Stampede.

"It was just absolutely surreal," Winslow said. "It was kind of a life-flashes-before-your-eyes sort of thing, and you realize all the trials and tribulations you went through have paid off. I had my friends and family in the audience and I had this moment where I knew my dream had been realized."

Winslow's reign as Miss Rodeo Colorado doesn't begin until Jan. 1, 2017. She's still busy. As the lady-in-waiting to Mills, she has already been to various events, meeting sponsors of the competition, including representatives from Chevrolet and Roper Apparel.

She also will attend the Miss Rodeo America competition with Mills in Las Vegas this December, where Mills will compete for the national title.

"That's the pinnacle of rodeo queening," she said. "I'm really excited to see how the Miss Rodeo America pageant is conducted, because I've never been. I'm also excited to watch Madelaine and cheer her on. She's an awesome person and I know she'll do great." ❖

Miss Rodeo Colorado 2017 results

Miss Rodeo Colorado 2017 — Kelsie Winslow, Pierce.

1st runner up — Sierra Knodle, Evergreen.

2nd Runner up — Sara Sage Coblentz, Gunnison.

Horsemanship award — Sierra Knodle, Evergreen.

Personality — Kelsie Winslow, Pierce.

Appearance — Kelsie Winslow, Pierce.

Speech award — Kelsie Winslow, Pierce.

Congeniality award — Kelsie Winslow, Pierce.

Spirit award — Mary Oulliber, Sedalia.

Written Test — Mandi Larson, Erie.

Photogenic — Nadia Postek, Denver.