Rodeo Queens & the Western lifestyle
For the past year, 20-year-old Chantel Miles has served as a "walking, talking billboard" for the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo.
Miles, a junior at the University of Arizona, has balanced her nursing studies with traveling the state as the 2010 Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Queen.
Senior Court Queen Rebecca Johnson, 18, will attend Mesa Community College this fall to start her studies in secondary education with an emphasis in history.
Don't be deceived by the tiaras on their cowboy hats or the rhinestone-covered jackets. These are hard-working young women. Together, they have traveled more than 10,000 miles and represented Prescott and The World's Oldest Rodeo at more than 100 events during the past year.
Miles started riding when she was 12 and began "rodeoing" at the age of 13. The Frontier Days Rodeo Queen is her fifth title. While a run for Miss Rodeo Arizona is in her future, she said it would have to wait until she finishes school.
For Miles, the best part of being a rodeo queen is meeting people, young and old.
"Throughout the year, it has been great to see how kids look up to you, especially the girls," Miles said. "You walk into a room and their jaws drop. One of my favorite things was Valentines for Veterans at the VA hospital. I enjoyed talking to the veterans and hearing their stories. I felt so appreciative."
Unlike other pageants where contestants rely on talent and appearance, rodeo queens must have knowledge of rodeo, horsemanship and Western history.
During the pageant, contestants, who must own their own horses, demonstrate their riding ability by completing a designated pattern. They display their rodeo knowledge during a personal interview, give a prepared speech and answer impromptu questions from at least three judges.
"Rodeo queens need a ton of rodeo and horse knowledge," Miles said. "This is not a beauty pageant. It is not that at all. We have to have so much knowledge about rodeo and the Western lifestyle."
Through the nursing club at UofA and the Cowgirls Historical Association (GHA), volunteering is a large part of Miles' life.
The GHA is dedicated to preserving Western heritage.
It was the GHA that led Johnson to "queening. It has a Cowgirls 101 class which teaches young girls how to be poised."
Johnson started riding at the age of 5. Although the senior court is her third title, her real love centers on "anything with cows. I am really interested in cutting, reining and sorting."
Miles and Johnson will be busy during the two weeks of rodeo events.
They are at every performance and ride in the Grand Entry. During the events, they push cattle. When not on horseback, they sign autographs at the rodeo booth. They also appear at other official rodeo events, such as the special needs rodeo.
"People don't realize how committed we are to rodeo," Johnson said.
According to Miles, being a rodeo queen is "not about glitz and glamour. We know how to ride, so we are not afraid to get dirty."