Life as Miss Rodeo Kansas 2013 begins for Kara Hackney on Jan. 1, which is when she officially becomes Kanas rodeo's queen, as opposed to "lady in waiting."
Hackney, a Hays senior at Fort Hays State University, is Miss Rodeo Kansas for 2013, a title she won at the Miss Rodeo Kansas Pageant at the Dodge City Roundup PRCA Rodeo in August, which is the final stop on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, said Hackney. The Kansas pageant has been held there so long, said Hackney, that people associated with the pageant call it "the home of Miss Rodeo Kansas."
So, how cool is it to be Miss Rodeo Kansas?
"Well," she said, "it's pretty surreal, because I have worked toward this since 2003, when I ran in my first rodeo pageant, and it's just now finally sinking in that I am at the level I have been working toward for nearly 10 years."
But then she sums it up: "It's really exciting, and I feel really blessed for the opportunity."
She is now 21, a college student majoring in communication with a minor in agriculture. The academic career is on hold, though. She won't be able to get back to that until at least spring 2014, because a scholarship comes with the Kansas rodeo crown, but she can't use it until her reign as Miss Rodeo Kansas ends next year.
However, if all goes well at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in December 2013 in Las Vegas, that will be pushed back to spring 2015, because duties as Miss Rodeo America will intervene.
Fort Hays State, she said, has been "great" working with her on a leave of absence so that her FHSU scholarships will be waiting for her when she is done "rodeo queening."
Actually being a rodeo queen was not necessarily a prediction that would have come out of that first pageant at age 11, but, she said, "I was determined to be a rodeo queen one day regardless of the results that day!"
"It was actually my eleventh birthday, the Ellis County Rodeo Pageant," she said. "I didn't win that year, I got Second Runner Up. It was definitely a learning experience. I knew how to ride a horse, talk to people and take care of horses, and that I wanted to be a part of rodeo, but that was about it."
She had spoken to audiences before, and the microphone cutting in and out "didn’t faze me a bit."
"My modeling was the thing that needed the most polish," she said. "I had attitude and enthusiasm, but grace? That came later with practice."
Her horsemanship competition was also hampered somewhat. "I had an old roping horse who didn't like to back up. He was about 20 years old or something, but he was a great old horse anyway. Red Rock was his name."
During the modeling competition, she walked down the runway, smiling all the while, did her turn at the end, then went on into the crowd, where her mother was busy videoing the proceedings. She was done. Except she wasn't. "Mom very quietly whispered to me, 'Get back up there! You have to wait until they are done talking about you.' She said this very sweetly with a smile, but I think she was probably giggling inside at me."
So, she went back up on stage and stood there because she didn't know what else to do. "But I still won the speech-modeling category, so that was pretty exciting," she said. "I'll never forget that day."
And, for the record, she won that pageant the next year and became the 2004 Ellis County Rodeo Princess.
The Miss Kansas Rodeo competition was a four-day affair. Contestants are judged in four categories. Horsemanship tops the list for highest point value, followed in descending order by knowledge, personality and appearance.
In horsemanship, she had to ride one set pattern and one freestyle pattern, both on horses she had never ridden before. Other individual events were a personal interview, an interview over rodeo and horsemanship, a speech competition and an impromptu rodeo knowledge question, a written test on rodeo knowledge, a style show, and a current event question session.
Her duties as queen of Kansas rodeo will be mainly as an ambassador in travels across the state and nation. Her main job at the rodeos will be to sign autographs, interact with the crowds and build relationships with communities and the public. She will help with the production of many rodeos through such duties as carrying sponsorship flags and pushing cattle out of the arena on horseback. She will also be called on to speak in schools and at other venues to promote rodeo, agriculture, animal welfare, Kansas and agriculture.
The extent of the travel and responsibilities mean that a large part of her duties is raising funds through sponsorships. In addition to travel, the year requires a large wardrobe and preparation for the national pageant.
Travel to certain states is assured, Colorado, for the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductions in Colorado Springs, to the Ram National Circuit Finals in Oklahoma City, to the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo., and at least once to Canada for the Calgary Stampede in Alberta.
There will certainly be other states, too. Traditionally, individual queens invite the others to events in their states, which could theoretically result in travel to as many as 25 to 30 states.
For 2012, she said, 31 states have rodeo queens. "There's even a Miss Rodeo New York this year, which is pretty cool. And a Massachusetts. And a Maine." But, usually, 25 to 30 states have rodeo queens.
She looks forward most to the people she will meet. "I will get to see a lot of places and experience a lot of things that I would never have been able to without this opportunity, but it's the people who leave the most lasting impression on you," she said.
"When you're in the limelight like this, you're able to have such an effect on people's lives that you can't as an everyday person. You are really able to affect people in a positive way and reach out to them."
Hackney credits her coursework in communication studies and in agriculture at FHSU for helping her to prepare for the competition. Her reign as Miss Rodeo Kansas will also, she said, advance her career."I'm looking forward to meeting people God will place in my path who will be able to lead me to the next step in my career," she said.
"I want to thank the people who have helped me to get to this point, since I have been rodeo queening consistently for almost 10 years. There's a lot of people who have influenced me and taught me."
"People make the difference in whatever you do," she said, listing her family, the Miss Rodeo Kansas board and the people of the Dodge City Roundup as people who helped her along in her path.
"And most importantly," she finished, "I want to thank God for this opportunity."
Her official coronation as Miss Rodeo Kansas will be Saturday, Jan. 5, in a ceremony in the Unrein Building on the Ellis County Fairgrounds. In addition to the coronation, the evening includes a flat iron steak dinner and a silent and live auction. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door for adults, $12 in advance and $15 at the door for children 10 and under. All proceeds will help defray the expenses of serving as Miss Rodeo Kansas. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., dinner will be served beginning about 6:30 p.m., and the live auction will follow. The silent auction will be conducted throughout the evening.
To arrange to donate auction items, to contribute funds, or to RSVP for the coronation benefit, contact Hackney by email to email@example.com or by mail to P.O. Box 11, Hays, KS 67601. Checks should be made out to Miss Rodeo Kansas.