This week, the 141st Clark County Fair takes over the small town of Ridgefield, Wash., and erupts into a 10-day flurry of wild rides, cotton candy, elephant ears, dozens of vendors, animals of all shapes and sizes, demolition derby and monster trucks. All the good, traditional fair activities aside, the Clark County Fair lands near to my heart. Apart from having shown horses at the fairgrounds for most of my life, I represented the fair across the Pacific Northwest in 2004. I was a Clark County Fair Court Princess.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. Oh. One of those girls. Well, I was. However, the world of rodeo queens stems far from the typical beauty pageants.
For me, the equestrienne court was a chance to practice public speaking and travel the state, all from horseback. I landed my first published clip because of the court, guest writing an article for the Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.) about life in the court. At the time, that was huge for me!
The court serves as ambassadors to local events, parades and rodeos to promote the Summer’s Best Family Party – the Clark County Fair. We rode in grand entries for dozens of rodeos, waved to crowds at countless parades and mingled with other local and state royalty at luncheons and pageants. We spent all 10 days of the fair living on the grounds—signing autographs, judging various contests, doing grand entries and so much more. Early mornings, late nights, lots of fair food and hair spray to keep those curls intact. It was heaven.
I went on to compete in another pageant and was crowned the 2005 Miss Teen Rodeo Washington. Another year of priceless experiences.
Recently, I’ve realized how my years as a rodeo queen helped me later in life. After dozens of interviews, I hold a new respect and perspective as I entered journalism as a major. Only when you have been misquoted in print can you truly understand the importance of accuracy and due diligence.
Giving impromptu speeches and thinking on your feet has paid off time and time again. In college, I served as the editor in chief of the newspaper and magazine. I led class discussions and taught reporters—four years earlier I wouldn’t have seen myself quite that confident.
Finally, at writers conferences and more, the goal is to sell yourself and your work, thus do your own PR. Posture, etiquette and eloquence all come into play and while I can credit my parents with laying the groundwork, the finishing touches came from two years of hair fluffing, sparkling rhinestones and high-speed grand entries. Yee haw!
Learn more about current rodeo royalty: