The 60th Anniversary of Miss Rodeo Colorado was celebrated in 2015
Rodeo competition began 140 years ago. 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 60 years, pageants have evolved to become prestigious scholarship programs. The pinnacle in rodeo queen competition is Miss Rodeo America. She is the young woman who serves as an official spokesperson for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Miss Rodeo Colorado is the First Lady of the PRCA for the Centennial State.
The Miss Rodeo Colorado Pageant, one of the inaugural pageants in the national program, is celebrating its 60-year anniversary in 2015. Currently, the Miss Rodeo Colorado Pageant calls the Greeley Stampede home, but in the early years, the Miss Rodeo Colorado Pageant moved to different communities throughout the state. The past 60 years represents the work and dedication of hundreds of people who have worked to make the Pageant a success, a host of outstanding sponsors along with hundreds of parents and friends who have helped and encouraged the many young ladies who have tried for the title.
The women who have carried the title of Miss Rodeo Colorado have enjoyed promoting the love of horses, rodeo and the western way of life. They have gone on to pursue careers, have families, and instill in their children and others a love for horses, rodeo and traditional family values. They forever share many experiences, starting with the dream to be a rodeo queen, the competition and achievement of their goal, and the honor of being Miss Rodeo Colorado.
Elaine Ward, a member of a family who was active in rodeo, became the Colorado State Fair Queen in 1956. She then became the first Miss Rodeo Colorado and went on to compete in the second Miss Rodeo America contest, a regional competition in Omaha, Nebraska. She was followed by former Boulder Pow Wow queen, Donna Thomas in 1957, Adams County queen, Revae Milligan in 1958, and former Jefferson County queen, Sandi Craig, in 1959.
With a long string of honors and titles in Southern Colorado, Marie Mass served as Miss Rodeo Colorado 1960 and became the first Colorado lady to win the coveted title of Miss Rodeo America.
During the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s, the pageant moved around the state. From 1965-1967, Durango hosted the contest. Kathy Dalton won in 1965, but was injured in an accident and was unable to compete, so Kay Popino from Loveland stepped in to represent Colorado at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant. In 1974, Janine Hiatt became the first Miss Rodeo Colorado to wear the turquoise crown. After being stolen, a new tiara was 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 still used today and is currently the oldest tiara in all of the MRA state pageants.
In 1975, a new era arrived for MRC. The Pageant found a home at the Colorado State Fair and established the lady-in-waiting program. Colorado State Fair Queen, Vicki Hallmark, served as Miss Rodeo Colorado from August of that year through the Miss Rodeo America Pageant. The newly selected queen, Bobbie Jo Etter of Grand Junction, assumed her title in January of 1976. Colorado was the first state to have a lady-in-waiting and now almost every state has followed this system.
The following year saw Almabeth Carroll of La Junta wear the crown. She followed that by being the second Colorado Queen to wear the crown of Miss Rodeo America. Soon the State Fair began to limit the number of entries through a preliminary round of competition. In 1980, Kathy Martin of Pueblo won the title and went on to be the third MRC to win Miss Rodeo America. Kellie Dilka also brought the title home from America when she competed in 1987.
Changes at the Colorado State Fair brought more changes for Miss Rodeo Colorado. The Fair was no longer in a position to host the event, so the Greeley Independence Stampede seemed like a wonderful home for the state rodeo queen title. While it was a bit sad to bid farewell to Miss Independence Stampede, the committee knew that they would have a great representative for their event in the form of Miss Rodeo Colorado. So the new MRC committee launched their first pageant in 1989, with the crowning of Lori Shalberg, Miss Rodeo Colorado 1990. Twice since has a Miss Rodeo Colorado been named Miss Rodeo America; Tara Graham in 2000 and Tressie Knowlton in 2005.
The MRC Pageant has continued to grow and thrive in the 27 years it has been in Greeley. The sponsors have been incredible during those years, with many staying on for all or nearly all of those years. The program could not do it without them. Nyla Bristow and Barb Johnson have been with the committee over those years and made continuity a reason for the success of the program. Each February, the pageant hosts a Queen’s Clinic for those young ladies interested in a rodeo queen title. In April, the Preliminary competition is held to determine the contestants who will compete in the final pageant, held during the Greeley Stampede over the 4th of July. Colorado has one of the most active Alumni programs in the nation and has some incredible former Miss Rodeo Colorado’s to thank. All of these past 59 women have possessed an immense pool of talents and knowledge. We congratulate all who have worn this turquoise tiara, as well as those who will wear it in the future.