Every year, many young cowgirls from across the country vie for the coveted title of Miss Rodeo America. In fact, some even prepare for the role for many years of their life, through competition in local and state rodeo queen pageants in hopes of one day achieving this goal.
On Dec. 4, 1999 in Las Vegas, 21 year old Brandy DeJongh of Leona Valley, Ca., was crowned 2000 Miss Rodeo America from a field of 32 exceptional contestants, each representing their respective states at the 45th Annual Miss Rodeo America Pageant, held at the famous Flamingo Hilton.
The trail to becoming the "first lady of professional rodeo" is a very competitive one that requires dedication and passion for the sport of rodeo. Today, it takes experience, training, perseverance plus a little luck to compete successfully at the state and national levels and then go on to win the coveted crown. These young ladies, ranging in ages 18 - 24, take to heart the job of representing America's own sport. They are first cowgirls and athletes in their own right who have the knowledge of their sport and the gift of communication to educate the public and raise the awareness level about professional rodeo and its related industries, such as agriculture, western apparel and entertainment.
Brandy DeJongh, a beautiful blonde with a dazzling smile, swept all major categories of competition, winning horsemanship, speech, personality, appearance and photogenic awards. She also received recognition for her scrapbook and state table. "The excitement is overwhelming, but not the job itself. I know I can handle the responsibility and I'm just looking forward to the year ahead," said DeJongh.
"All of the ladies in this year's pageant were very supportive. Instead of calling myself 'the winner' I think it would be more appropriate to refer to myself as the 'representative' of a great group of contestants."
"I hope to spend the year getting out more information about rodeo, increasing the knowledge base about the sport so more people will come to watch and be able to enjoy themselves more. It's important for spectators to know that cowboys and the animals are partners in the sport. We respect and appreciate all of the animals of rodeo because it is the necessary teamwork between man and animal that makes rodeo unique."
Gaining the title of Miss Rodeo America means that DeJongh will take a year off from her studies, pursuing a career as a dental hygienist, to spend the year 2000 traveling the continent as a representative of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Miss Rodeo America Pageant.