I ended my last diary entry by remembering the day I nervously met one of my greatest heroes, that hero was Miss Rodeo America 1995 Jennifer (Douglas) Smith. Well, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this year came full circle for me when I got the chance to meet her for a second time, 18 years later.
It was right after the Miss Rodeo America crowning where they celebrated the 60th Anniversary by bringing back their alumni, I hurried through the auditorium to talk to an alumnus that was very special to me. As we stood to take a few photos together I began to well up with emotion over how this special person had influenced my life.
When I met Jennifer Smith as a toddler, I decided I wanted to be a rodeo queen. That was something that would have been life-changing on it’s own, but she inspired much more than my tiara dreams.
After watching Jennifer for so many years doing interviews at the Wrangler National Finals, I decided to attend Lethbridge College’s Communication Arts Program, where I specialized in Broadcast Journalism, and now broadcast at our Canadian Professional Rodeos, still with the hopes of entering the Thomas and Mack someday with a mic in my hand.
Now, I couldn’t explain all this to Jennifer as I choked out the few words I could muster through the tears pouring down my face, but I hope she knows how much meeting her meant to me.
That special moment was one of many I will never forget from the 2014 NFR. I will never forget my first ride into the Thomas and Mack, where the atmosphere seemed almost hazy and I still don’t know if that was from the pyro or my disbelief.
I’ll never forget the kindness shown by the people that put the show together, Angie Burton always made sure the grand entry was nothing but safe and executed precisely, Ashley Baca shared her flag horse “Amos” with me and always knew exactly how many holes the stirrups had to go up, and the crew with the Cowboy Hall of Fame hosted me with open arms every night at the Gold Card room.
I’ll never forget how surreal it was to sit and watch so many passionate girls compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America. Congratulations to former Miss Rodeo Oklahoma, Lauren Heaton, on winning the title! I can’t wait to get to know my “American Counterpart” a little better this year.
The final thing I’ll never forget is the interactions I had with some of the top rodeo athletes in the world. Whether it was being paired up with Steven Peebles, Richmond Champion or Kaleb Driggers during autograph sessions, or having the chance to visit with Fallon Taylor, Matt Shiozowa, or our very own Curtis Cassidy during the buckle presentations each evening, I know what an honour it was to be in the presence of those rodeo greats and appreciated their kindness towards this small town Canadian girl.
I couldn’t possibly name everyone in this diary entry that made the National Finals Rodeo unforgettable but I hope you know who you are!
I’ve got a bit of a break over Christmas time so, until next time, Happy Holidays to everyone!