By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
First, it helps to be smart. This past year’s queen, Darryl Kerby, and princess, Elizabeth Gibbs, were both high school valedictorians and are now studying at the University of Idaho. Princess Charli Young is at Lewis-Clark State College.
We asked a former Lewiston Roundup monarch and a current chaperone what else it takes to be a rodeo queen:
1. A HORSE
If you don’t have one, chances are slim you’ll ever end up as rodeo royalty. Tami (Saleen) Biery, Lewiston Roundup Queen in 1994, got this task checked off at an early age:
“I begged my parents for a horse ever since I could talk,” said Biery, whose parents gave in when she was 8.
The assumption seemed to be that it was a passing fancy. Clearly, it was not; she rides to this day.
But a horse isn’t enough; a rodeo queen needs to know how to ride it and ride it well. Tryouts are strongly weighted for horsemanship, and competitors typically have years invested in riding lessons.
2. A Chaperone
Every rodeo queen needs a chaperone, a vague title that, if stated more accurately, might be: The Personal Assistant Who Makes It All Happen. Chaperones are responsible to get royalty to and from events, plan outfits, coordinate event schedules, make sure hats are straight during pictures, fix last-minute dress belt fiascos, store auction items in their living room … they are everything a queen might possibly need.
“Great relationships develop out of it,” said Tammy Thomason, one of the two chaperones for the 2013 Lewiston Roundup Royalty. “I call them our royalty family. I could see having a relationship with these girls forever.”
3. An Outfit … or Two … or More
When asked how many outfits the current year’s royalty has, Thomason pauses for a moment, then:
“Each girl has four pairs of jeans, five to six shirts, two hats — a white one and a black one — riding boots, dress boots, dresses …”
And rodeo queens don’t just shop for all these things — in many cases they actually design them. This year’s dresses were a design collaboration between royalty, chaperones and a local seamstress. Their buckles are self-designed; same with the chaps, which royalty drew up and had made in Spokane.
4. Duct Tape
Cowboy hats and fast horses can be a challenge for someone whose job is to look good at all times. After all, bobby and safety pins can only do so much. And that’s where Macgyver fashion skills come in handy:
“We found a roll of duct tape in the trailer,” Thomason said.
By doubling the tape back on itself, they were able to secure the hats to the heads with a minimum of discomfort when it came time to remove them.
And duct tape is only one item in the bag of goodies that royalty — and more so, chaperones — have at the ready to handle any and all wardrobe disasters.
5. Communication Skills
“The most important skills for a rodeo queen to possess are excellent horsemanship skills and the ability to talk,” Biery said.
As the main public representative of the Lewiston Roundup, rodeo queens do a lot of talking: at school tours, during visiting royalty luncheons, in media interviews, for fundraising. Both public and personal interactions are standard, from starry-eyed little girls in pink cowboys boots to those whose wrinkles and bowed legs hint at a lifetime of cowboy stories.
Without question, a horse with glitter is much more dazzling than one without. So on the glitter goes.
“There is a technique,” Thomason said. “You get the stickiest hairspray you can find and you spray that all over the horse’s rump and tail.”
Then it’s silver glitter — there’s not special horse glitter, any kind will do — and then another layer of hairspray. Then blue glitter. More hairspray. And a final layer of red glitter.
But the glam doesn’t end with the glitter: there’s hoof polish for the feet, a sash that drapes over the back of the horse, and finally flowers that are secured behind the saddle with zip ties.
And that’s just the horses. But with plenty of opportunity to practice, the royalty and chaperones now have it down to where they can get prepped for an event in an hour.
7. Cowgirl Toughness
It looks like their job is just to wave and look beautiful, but that’s only a few minutes of it. Rodeo royalty is a yearlong responsibility with late nights and early mornings. The work begins about a month after the Lewiston Roundup and includes appearing at community events like banquets and chamber auctions, wine tastings and parades. In the summertime, it turns into a part-time job, traveling most weekends to regional rodeos and events.
And the professional stamina isn’t limited to social expectations. One of this year’s royalty had to put down her horse part way through the year. Getting back into the role on a borrowed horse after a loss like that isn’t something just anyone can do.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be a rodeo queen,” Biery said. “Make sure you ride like a queen and have the confidence of a cowgirl.”
if you go:
When: Slack, Tuesday, 8:59 a.m.; Xtreme Bulls, Wednesday, 6:59 p.m.
Where: Lewiston Roundup Grounds, 2100 Tammany Creek Road, Lewiston
Cost: Free for Slack, $20 for Xtreme Bulls. Tickets at www.lewistonroundup.com, (208) 746-6324 or at the Red Barn, located at the Big R parking lot off 21st Street in Lewiston.
Lewiston Roundup Rodeo Performances
When: 6:59 p.m. next Thursday through Sept. 7. Saturday performance includes awards.
Cost: $15-23/adults, $7/youth. Thursday, kids under 13 are free.
Theme: “Ride ’em High, Rope ’em Low and Round ’em Up!”
When: 1:29 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7
Where: Main Street, Lewiston
Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 305-4578.