Contestants say rodeo helps preserve western lifestyle

Lacy Price, 17, of Texico, whispers to her quarter horse, Baby, Monday after being crowned the 2005 Pioneer Days Rodeo Queen. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

One by one, the nine rodeo queen contestants briskly rode their horses across the Mounted Patrol Arena on Monday during the 2005 Pioneer Days Rodeo Queen coronation ceremony.

In the end, only four would win the top honors in their age groups.

“(Rodeo) teaches kids a lot of responsibilities,” said Texico’s Lacy Price, who took top honors at the pageant and was named queen for the oldest age group. “And it also helps them reap the benefits of their hard work.”

In addition to becoming a local ambassador for rodeo, the 17-year-old will have the opportunity to ride in Saturday’s Pioneer Days Parade and compete at the State Fair in September, she explained from atop her quarter horse named Baby. The Texico senior-to-be said she has been riding since she was 6.

The girls are judged on appearance, personality and horsemanship skills in the competition, rodeo officials said.
New Mexico’s top rodeo queen, Brittany Bennett of Portales, was on hand for Monday’s ceremony. Along with Miss Rodeo Arizona, Amanda Jenkins, she said rodeo events such as Pioneer Days help sustain the western way of life.

“The rodeo and the western way of life is a very big deal,” said Bennett, who was crowned Miss Rodeo New Mexico in January.

Jenkins added that she has met life-long friends in rodeo pageants, which she has been competing in since she was 12.

“I think people who hang onto those (western) values are really genuine people,” she said.

Besides upholding the western way of life, rodeo pageants also teach life-long lessons to the young girls who compete in them, said Miss Rodeo America, Selena Ulch of Reno, Nev., who is in Clovis for Pioneer Days.

The youngest victor at Monday’s pageant was Audrey Wren, who at the age of 6 clinched the Little Buckaroo Rodeo Princess title. But she doesn’t just ride for show, she said. She also competes in barrels, poles and stakes — and occasionally works cattle.

Clovis’ Holly Harrison took the Miss Rodeo Princess title. She said riding in rodeos is a great way to meet people and keep up the “old-timey” way.

“One of my favorite things to do is round up cattle with my grandpa,” she said. “It’s just fun to do.”

Perhaps modesty is part of the old-timey way, because Clovis’ Kyla Myers showed plenty of it after winning the title of Little Buckaroo Rodeo Queen.

“I think some of the other people would have deserved it,” she said, “but I feel OK about it.”

Myers won three awards besides rodeo queen, and will be making appearances over the next year to help promote rodeo.

“I don’t know if my mom is, but I’m looking forward to it,” the 8-year-old said with a grin.