The Miss Rodeo Wyoming pageant crowned its 2023 winner on August 18 to represent the state’s rodeo scene at events across the state and on the national stage. The annual event has been a staple of the Wyoming State Fair for years, and for many, celebrates and represents the sport of rodeo and the Western way of life.
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The first Miss Rodeo Wyoming, Marilyn Scott Freimark of Cheyenne, was also the first winner of the Miss Rodeo America pageant, which was held in Casper in 1955. Since then, three other Wyomingites have achieved the title.
Three contestants competed for the title this year.
“I rodeoed when I was younger, and it’s just an opportunity to really show what Wyoming is and who our community is and represents,” said Reata Cook, 21, Miss Sheridan WYO Rodeo.
Cook and the others began preparing for this competition a long time ago, like Crystal Myers who held the title in 2007. Now Myers is the National Director for the pageant. She understands the preparation and effort that goes into competing for the title.
“I mean, most of them have been preparing for over a year for this pageant, and so the rodeo knowledge they have to know, the horsemanship they have to know, current events, public speaking, they have to give an impromptu speech that they have 10 minutes to prepare for,” she said.
Myers added that they ultimately are looking for a title holder that will represent the state well, which includes competing for the Miss Rodeo America title in Las Vegas. But she said that things have changed over the years, which led to a decline in the number of women competing.
She added that they’ve discussed why this is and what they feel can be done to promote the pageant and its benefits to young women. Emphasizing life skills, such as public speaking and building self-confidence, are just two of the aspects they’re trying to convey to prospective contestants.
But this year’s contestants understood that there’s something bigger than themselves in competing for the Miss Rodeo Wyoming title.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to support rodeo and be the person to help it out and inform people about the sport,” said Jordan Lutz, 21, who grew up in Jackson.
Competing in rodeos and showing horses at the state fair in addition to holding several rodeo royalty titles beginning at the age of eight are some of her previous experiences with rodeo and agriculture, though she said she’s a first-generation cowgirl. She most recently held the title of Miss Historic Jackson Hole Rodeo before deciding to go for the Miss Rodeo Wyoming title.
“I grew up with Desiree Bridges, who was Miss Rodeo Wyoming 2014, and so she was a big role model in my life, and so I always looked up to her. And when she won, I was like ‘That’s where I want to be when I’m about her age,'” she added.
Alexis Wheeler, 20, is from Laramie and was crowned Miss Laramie Jubilee on New Year’s Eve of last year.
“As I was doing my Laramie Jubilee Day stuff, I was just meeting all these state queens and I thought it’d be an amazing experience to try out for a state queen title,” she explained. “Even if I didn’t get it, it would be a great experience at the pageant.”
After a long day of competition, the three hopefuls waited to see which one of them would be crowned.
A grandstand full of spectators cheered and applauded for Cook.
“I was very surprised,” Cook said. “I think me and Alexis and Jordan were very, very close. We were all great competitors, and everything that I got to see, of course, personal interviews I didn’t get to see, but all of us are excelling in our horsemanship, our speaking, our personality, and our appearance. And I was truly surprised when I won. I couldn’t have done it without those two girls challenging me, pushing me this whole week.”
Cook will now go on to compete for Miss Rodeo America in Las Vegas, Nevada from Nov. 27- Dec. 4, which is held in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The last Miss Rodeo Wyoming to win that title was in 1994.
Courtesy of Wyoming Public Media