Compiled by Laurie Thoman, Miss Rodeo Wyoming, 1994

Miss Rodeo Wyoming Pageant History

A legacy of cherished memories, hopes, and dreams all began in Casper, Wyoming in 1955.  The first Miss Rodeo Wyoming Contest was held during the Casper Nite Fair and Rodeo.  That initial contest consisted of fourteen entries.  According to Marilyn Scott Freimark (who took home the title of Miss Rodeo Wyoming that first year) competition was keen and the rodeo contractor furnished each contestant with a horse. New horses were drawn for each round.  At the crowning ceremony movie actor, Rex Allen, presented Marilyn Scott with the crown.  Laurie Ann Hayes from Thermopolis was the runner-up and represented the University of Wyoming.

Following the Miss Rodeo Wyoming pageant was the first ever Miss Rodeo America of the Rockies Contest which was also held in Casper, Wyoming.  Soon after the competition the title was shortened to “Miss Rodeo America” which is what it is known as today.  The Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) voted to establish this contest as an annual event.  During the first year of the Miss Rodeo America pageant a set of fifteen judges were selected, five in each division, from all over the United States and even France.  Silent judges were dispersed throughout the audience as well.  The 1955 MRA contest had nine contestants representing eight states of the Rocky Mountain Region and Canada.  Marilyn Scott went on to win the title of Miss Rodeo America that year as well.  She represented Wyoming in the Miss Universe contest and was offered a contract with Paramount Pictures and a T.V. series contract starring Casey Tibbs and Marilyn as the King and Queen of Rodeo.  Although she declined the part as she felt school was the place for her, she stated that she would always wonder about the road not taken.  (Much of the previous information was provided in Marilyn Scott Freimark’s story “Wonder of Wonders and Miracle of Miracles”).

Since the beginning of the Miss Rodeo Wyoming pageant and the Miss Rodeo America pageant in 1955, Wyoming is proud to say that we have had four predecessors take home the title of Miss Rodeo America and many contenders have taken honors in the top five and the top ten.  MRA’s include Marilyn Scott Freimark 1955, Sandy Myer Brazile 1984, Stacey Talbot Sinclair 1992, and Michele Green Mackey 1994.  Both contests have continued to grow, expand, and develop from their solid beginning.  Each year a new young woman is selected to help promote and preserve our western way of life and America’s number one sport--Rodeo. The 2021 Miss Rodeo America and Miss Rodeo Wyoming Pageants (to have taken place in 2020) made history as the only pageants cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  MRA and all of the states opted to have carry over titles so the titleholders served for 2 years.  

From the very start of the Miss Rodeo Wyoming pageant the Douglas Sorority played a major role in putting on the contest.  Chaperones, meals, housing, and transportation were provided.  The Miss Rodeo Wyoming Association took on the sole responsibility of producing the pageant in 2008.  It wasn’t until 1977 that the Miss Rodeo Wyoming Association was formed.  Some original members included Dedee Merritt and Arlene Kensinger.  Arlene was a past president of Miss Rodeo America, Inc.  Wyoming has continued to have a strong organization who helps delegate funds that the queen raises at her coronation each year, a scheduling coordinator sets up appearances and many sponsors help make dreams come true.  The 501C3 Scholarship Foundation was founded in 2019.

Several types of prizes and awards were given over the years.  Lou Tauberts Ranch Outfitters donated trophies that varied in size from one to five feet tall.  Today’s winners receive a $2,000 scholarship, a trophy buckle and saddle, chaps, a commemorative bracelet and numerous other items.  The crowns ranged from leather to jade.  In 1971 a significant change took place.  The first traveling crown was awarded to Lael Wilhelm Good of Wheatland.  The crown had three leaf-like tears that consisted of rhinestones and 45 stones of jade that were inlaid in a gold base similar to the current crown.  Linda Sheehan Engle and the Douglas Sorority helped initiate the idea for the beautiful jade crown and Linda also helped in the designing of it.  During the original 25 years (1971-1996) of the first traveling crown only one other crown had been substituted.  In 1988 Lisa Turner Murphy and in 1989 Jane Scott Chambers wore a replica version in which each of the three tears was solid jade.  Due to the weight and massive headaches it caused, that crown was retired after only one year of use.  A new crown was made in 1996 by Dina Inc. of Johnston, RI.  In 2002 the Wyoming bucking horse and the name “Wyoming” was incorporated into the base of the crown.  

The Wyoming crown is symbolic with jade, Wyoming’s state stone, and still stands as one of the most beautiful crowns in the Miss Rodeo America pageant.  The first traveling crown was the oldest crown worn by a state queen throughout the United States.  The crown has fulfilled the dream of many starry-eyed young girls who have grown into beautiful ladies in just one year under its spell.  It has warmed the hearts and touched the souls of many.  It has been to Pendleton, Oregon, Hawaii, Calgary, Canada, and the Daddy of ‘Em All to name a few.   

INTERESTING FACTS

  • 1963-Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns of Newcastle was the youngest queen to win horsemanship at the Miss Rodeo America pageant at the age of 17; Rhonda was inducted in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame

  • 1970-the traveling crown, saddle, and the school hosting the contestants (contestants previously stayed with host families)were brought about during Linda Sheehan Engle’s year; jade necklaces were given as gifts from Wyoming at the Miss Rodeo America pageant

  • 1972-first saddle; first year dinner was catered by Wyoming Stock Growers when Linda Simons Johnson gave her title up; Lou Tauberts sponsored a five foot trophy with two pillars, engraved with cup, horse, and rider and the very top had a standing queen; velvet was not big and most accessories were dyed

  • 1976-Donna Baldwin Hunt sat on the crown which brought about the first of many repairs

  • 1977-the Miss Rodeo Wyoming Association was formed with Deedee Merritt, Arlene Kensinger, and possibly Donna Baldwin Hunt as original members

  • 1979-first year that crown was insured; it still had a solid metal band

  • 1994-MRW coronation was moved to the fall of the year (end of October or beginning of November) instead of January


   
Gifts and awards:

  • Lou Tauberts donated trophies to Miss Rodeo Wyoming which ranged from 1-5 feet tall

  • Wool flower bouquets were awarded by the Woolgrowers (documented 1972)

  • Fran’s Beauty shop donated a wig (documented 1972)

  • Crowns varied from leather to jade and each winner got to keep it (1955-1970)

  • Contest entry was $50, there were no speeches, judging consisted of appearance, personality and horsemanship, and suits were the “in” thing; Gross Company out of Denver donated two suits to Wyoming (documented 1972)

  • Picture frame with inlaid jade and name engraved (1972)

  • Crown broaches with jade were given (1983-1985)

  • Silver bracelets with title, year, and name are donated by the WY State Fair (1991-present)

  • Jamie Moore was donated a leather banner in which many queens have signed 

  • Hillsboro and Farmer’s Equipment, Brown Company of Wheatland, and  Perry’s Trailer Sales in Sheridan have donated the use of a horse trailer

  • A Scholarship is awarded to MRW by the MRWA

  • In 2007, Laurie Thoman designed a jade pendant/necklace slide out of jade for the MRWA members and MRW’s.  It has 3 jade tears to replicate the tears in the crown.  The MRW bracelet gift has since incorporated jade.  Earrings have also been designed with jade.