Tradition keeps patrons coming back to the Sheridan WYO Rodeo each year and the same holds true for the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Royalty pageant.
The competition started in 1936, crowning Gladys Accola as the first Sheridan WYO Rodeo queen. Accola’s court consisted of lady-in-waiting Virginia Kerr, flag bearer Joan Churchill, Crow Indian Princess Myrtle Big Man and Cheyenne Indian Princess Josephine Stands-in-the-Timber.
Throughout the next 44 years, the program ran but inconsistently. One year royalty was chosen by a secret committee, and political considerations were more important than horsemanship. This caused a woman with no horsemanship experience to be elected, and she needed riding lessons to make it through rodeo week.
“Not anymore,” Rodeo Royalty board member Kerri Parr said.
The current pageant places heavy emphasis on horsemanship, making it 50 percent of the overall score for each contestant.
The pageant became too much for the rodeo board, and it was dropped as an official competition by the board in 1979.
“We affiliated with the WYO Rodeo board back in 2007,” Parr said. “Since then, (we’ve) grown our organization with more sponsors, board members, girls with titles and opportunity for our WYO Rodeo royalty.”
The competition was officially picked up again in 2008 and has remained consistent since. The new queen program formed its own Sheridan County Rodeo Queen Board to help keep the program running smoothly.
The pageant includes a non-competitive Lil’ Miss Rodeo activity that takes place while the contestants prepare for casual modeling. The activity gives young girls the opportunity to walk across the stage and be introduced by Parr, and it helps promote the program to young children and their parents.
Royalty contestants must complete two modeling sessions, an impromptu question, impromptu speeches, media interviews and individual interviews with the judges. Judges elect candidates if they have received 70 percent or higher in each category, including horsemanship. Before the set rules of the current competition, though, contestants simply earned the crown by winning over the audience in attendance.
Emma Jean Veach Hando earned the crown in 1965 by receiving the most applause, mostly because of her expert riding abilities.
“She came into the arena, and her horse was bucking all the way around the arena,” Parr said. “So therefore she got the loudest applause because she was staying on.”
Hando said the crown holds more responsibility now but requires fewer actual skills on a horse.
“It’s totally a whole new world and a more expensive world for the parents,” Hando said. “Fifty years ago, it was just plain.”
Now, crowned contestants must attend several rodeos and other functions around the state.
They volunteer time at events and nonprofits, such as the community dinner in Sheridan, Toys for Tots, Rocky Mountain Elks Foundation, Friends of the Library and Pheasants Forever.
This year, the contest will take place June 29 at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center in downtown Sheridan. The event will begin at 10:30 a.m. The horsemanship portion of the contest will take place at the Sheridan College AgriPark at 5:30 p.m.
The coronation will take place at 6:30 p.m. July 13 in the arena of the Sheridan County Fairgrounds during Sheridan WYO Rodeo.
Miss Sheridan WYO Rodeo
Katie Bailey is the 23-year-old daughter of Joel and Anna Bailey of Sheridan. She is a 2014 graduate of Sheridan High School, where she was involved in high school rodeo, 4-H and FFA, showing horses and steers, and livestock judging. Bailey attended Eastern Wyoming College, where she was a member of the college rodeo team and studied agriculture business. Bailey grew up participating in Cowboy Mounted Shooting, Sheridan Cowgirls Association, Sheridan Hockey and carrying flags for Sheridan WYO Rodeo. She is currently a member of the WYO Rodeo Wranglers and Sheridan Cowgirls. Bailey has experience in training polo, cutting and barrel horses for various equine barns. Bailey plans to contine her education by pursuing a career in radiology technology.
Sheridan WYO Rodeo Princess
Lainey Konetzki is the 16-year-old daughter of Larry and Lisa Konetzki of Sheridan. She is a junior and honor student at Sheridan High School. She is an active member of the John B. Kendrick FFA Chapter and is involved in Drama Club, Outdoor Club, the high school musicals, band, Symphony Orchestra and 4-H. In the future, Konetzki would like to attend the University of Wyoming and compete on an equestrian team.
Sheridan WYO Rodeo Senior Princess
Katie Bammel is the 19-year-old daughter of Debbie Purdy and Michael Bammel. Bammel is a 2018 graduate of Sheridan High School and is attending the University of Wyoming, where she competes with the UW Ranch Horse Team. Bammel has been involved in 4-H, participating in all equine events. She is a member of NRHA. Bammel’s ambition is to be an equine veterinarian, so she can help spread awareness for infectious and contagious diseases for horses.
Sheridan WYO Rodeo Junior Princess
Paige Craft is the 13-year-old daughter of Dave and Jennifer Craft of Sheridan. She will be an eighth-grader at Sheridan Junior High School this fall. Craft is a member of the WYO Rodeo Wranglers and carries flags in the WYO Rodeo. Her hobbies include camping, fishing, gardening, riding horses, hanging out with friends and playing with her many pets. When Craft finishes school, she wants to be a physical therapist by day and a horse chiropractor by night.