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Pageant History

History of MRA

The concept of Miss Rodeo America was developed in 1955 by a group of gentlemen, organized under the name of International Rodeo Management (IRM). Ray Peterson, Sr., from Nevada, was serving as president when they held their first pageant that year, with nine young women competing for the title. Casper, Wyoming was chosen as the site for the first Miss Rodeo America Pageant. Selected as Miss Rodeo America to hold the title for the remainder of 1955 and the year 1956 was Marilyn Scott, Miss Rodeo Wyoming. Fran Blomquist from Idaho came on board and served as president of IRM in 1955, 1956 and 1957.

The pageant moved to Chicago, Illinois and the International Dairy Show in 1956. Dallas Hunt, Miss Rodeo Nebraska, took the still young title of Miss Rodeo America that year. Jack Stangier, of Pendleton, Oregon, was IRM's president in 1958 & 1959, turning the reins of the infant organization back to Fran Blomquist who served from 1960 through 1963.

The pageant moved, this time to San Francisco, California. Jan Porath of Michigan was crowned Miss Rodeo America 1958 during the Cow Palace.

Another move...in 1958, the pageant relocated to Las Vegas. Many of the premier hotels hosted the pageant during the 60's and early 70's. Herb McDonald, from Las Vegas, was an integral part of the pageant's success during this era.

During those years of growth, a new Miss Rodeo America continued to be named. They were 1959-Susan Cox of Idaho; 1960-Martha Lehmann of Arizona; 1961-Marie Mass of Colorado; 1962-Karen Lavens of Idaho; 1963-Joyce Shelley of New Mexico; 1964-Sandi Prati of Texas; 1965-Pat Koren of South Dakota; 1966-Carolynn Seay of Texas; 1967-Nancy Ann Simmons of Nebraska; 1968-Sherry Vincent of Arizona; 1969-Pat Eaves of New Mexico; 1970-Christine Vincent of California; 1971-Lana Brackenbury of Idaho; 1972-Susan Merrill of Utah; 1973-Pam Martin of Nevada; and 1974-Donna Howsley of Texas.

IRM elected new presidents, in those intervening years. Ralph Billings (1964-1965) of Oklahoma was succeeded by Bill Schuft (1966-1970) of South Dakota and Joe Golden (1971-1972) from Arizona.

In 1974 the pageant moved to Oklahoma City, along with the National Finals Rodeo. Connie Della Lucia from Utah received the Miss Rodeo America crown at the Cowboy Hall of Fame for the ensuing year. Ken Cross, also from Utah, served as president of IRM in 1973-1974.

Betty Schnell of Idaho earned the title in 1976, celebrating her victory at the Myriad in Oklahoma City during the National Finals Rodeo.

George Solari of Reno, Nevada, became IRM president in 1976. He saw Terry Ann Edington of Texas receive the coveted Miss Rodeo America crown for 1977.

In 1977-1978, Jim Roush of Wyoming became IRM president while Almabeth Carroll of Colorado was presented with Miss Rodeo America honors in 1978.

Arkansan, Joe "Sandy" Boone was president in 1979-1981. Debbie Johnston of Texas won the crown and became Miss Rodeo America 1979. The following year, Diana Putnam of Kansas won the title.

Miss Rodeo America 1981 was Kathy Martin of Colorado. Donna Keffeler from South Dakota became Miss Rodeo America 1982 and Larry Walthers from Nebraska served as IRM president in 1982-1983.

Brenda Lee Bonogofsky from North Dakota was Miss Rodeo America 1983, Sandy Kay Meyer from Wyoming won the title in 1984. Leslie Patten from South Dakota was bestowed the honor in 1985. Tom Shouse from Idaho served as IRM's president in 1984.

Another milestone was reached in 1985. The pageant followed the National Finals Rodeo and moved back to Las Vegas. Vicki Vest from Utah earned the honor for 1986. Suzy Gillard of Louisiana won the following year 1987, while Jim Jennings from Texas served the organization as president, 1985-1987. Colorado’s Kellie Dilka was Miss Rodeo America in 1988 and Chrissy Sparling from California won the title for 1989.

Bob Peterson from Nevada, served a three-year term as president of IRM, 1988-1990. During this period, several significant changes in the organization transpired. Long time secretary/treasurer Lee Zachary from Springdale, Arkansas, retired from IRM. Pageant headquarters were moved from Arkansas to Colorado and in 1989. The pageant also moved again. This time, returning to Oklahoma City to be held in conjunction with the National Steer Roping Finals at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The pageant was produced for television and aired on the Nashville Network. Joni James from Idaho claimed the 1990 honors.

During this time, a new Business Manager, Raeana Wadhams from Pueblo, Colorado was brought into the operation of the pageant and its organization. The following year, the pageant returned to Las Vegas, reuniting with the National Finals Rodeo. Nebraska's Lisa Poese became Miss Rodeo America 1991, and the organization elected its first woman president, Judy Gremillion from Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Miss Rodeo Wyoming, Stacey Talbott, became Miss Rodeo America 1992 during a sold-out Coronation Performance at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel. January 1992, the organization was re-incorporated in the State of Colorado as Miss Rodeo America, Inc. and officially became recognized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as the sole entity to select Miss Rodeo America.

In 1992, the pageant reached yet another milestone, $30,000.00 in scholarships was awarded to contestants. This was a historical highlight for the pageant; more educational dollars were awarded in one year than in the entire 37-year history of the pageant.

Ruth Davis from Dodge City, Kansas became President of Miss Rodeo America, Inc., and Sheri Gale Hannigan, from the Sunshine State of California, was crowned Miss Rodeo America 1993. Michele Green, from the Cowboy State of Wyoming, earned the honors for 1994.

Jennifer Douglas from Texas emerged the winner for 1995. Jim Sutton, PRCA Stock Contractor from Onida, South Dakota, whose involvement with the pageant, at that time exceeded 20 years, was elected the organizations president. Through his efforts, and for the first time in the history of the pageant, Miss Rodeo America Pageant contestants were featured in the opening ceremony of the 1995 National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas.

Utah’s, Tanya McKinnon became Miss Rodeo America 1996 and MiQuel Holyoak from Arizona won the title in 1997. Arlene Kensinger from Cheyenne, Wyoming, was elected President for 1997-1998. Utah’s, Mary Shaw won the Miss Rodeo America title for 1998. The Miss Rodeo America Scholarship Foundation was established to oversee the distribution of scholarships.

Shelly Williams became the 6th Miss Rodeo Idaho, to win the coveted title, Miss Rodeo America. Sharon Halligan from Nebraska served as President 1999-2000. Brandy DeJongh from California reigned as Miss Rodeo America 2000. The Foundation received it’s 501 (c)(3) status from the IRS and Trish Fulcher from Arizona served as the Foundation’s president.

Marjorie Murphy, from San Antonio, Texas served as MRAI President in 2001-2002. Tara Graham from Colorado reigned as Miss Rodeo America 2001 and Kara Brown from Athens, Texas was Miss Rodeo America 2002.

PRCA Stock Contractor, Bronc Rumford, from Abbyville, Kansas, was elected President of MRAI for the year 2003. Nebraska’s Lori Bortner reigned as the 2003 Miss Rodeo America and plans materialized to showcase the 2004 pageant at The Orleans Hotel.

Darci Robertson from California emerged as Miss Rodeo America 2004 and Bronc Rumford continued as MRAI President. Plans were revealed to celebrate the Miss Rodeo America Pageant’s 50th Anniversary during the 2005 pageant at The Orleans Hotel.

Nevada’s Selena Ulch became the 50th Miss Rodeo America as the pageant celebrated its first 50 years. Kiki Shumway from Pasco, Washington was elected as President in 2005. The Orleans Hotel is host of the 2006 Pageant.

Arizona cowgirl, Amanda Jenkins, stepped into the saddle and immediately won the hearts of everyone as she completed the year as Miss Rodeo America 2006. Amanda replaced Tressie Knowlton from Colorado who was released of the prestigious title in July of 2006 by the Miss Rodeo America, Inc., Executive Board of Directors. Las Vegas Events, Inc., made a one-time contribution to the Miss Rodeo America Scholarship Foundation in the amount of $10,000.00 to be presented, under the guidelines of the Foundation, to Amanda Jenkins, Miss Rodeo America 2006. Kiki Shumway continues as MRAI President.

Ashley Andrews became the second North Dakotan to receive the title when she was crowned Miss Rodeo America 2007. Tracy Damrell from Evans, Colorado was elected to the position of President of Miss Rodeo America, Inc. Trish Fulcher continued as President of the MRA Scholarship Foundation.

Kansan, Amy Wilson, was crowned the 53rd Miss Rodeo America at the 2008 Miss Rodeo America Pageant. She is only the second Kansan in the history of the pageant to hold the title.

Maegan Ridley of California won the title of Miss Rodeo America 2009. A temporary exhibit at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs commemorated the 55th Anniversary of the Miss Rodeo America Pageant. Tracy Damrell was re-elected as president and Debbie Dilley was chosen as the new President of the MRA Scholarship Foundation. They both served terms in 2009 and 2010.

Kelli Jackson became the first Miss Rodeo America to hail from the state of Mississippi in 2010.

In 2011 Mackenzie Haley from South Dakota became Miss Rodeo America. Tracy Damrell continues as MRAI President and Kelly Baxley from Texas is elected President of the Miss Rodeo America Scholarship Foundation Board. The Pageant dates changed to coincide with the WNFR, and the Pageant moves to the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino.

In 2012 Mackenzie Carr becomes the first Oregonian to win the title of Miss Rodeo America. Tracy Damrell remains President of MRAI, and Kelly Baxley continues as President of the MRASF Board. The MGM Grand Hotel continues as the home for the 2013 Pageant.

Chena Shiner from Utah is the 5th young woman from Utah to receive the title in 2013. Frances Bendele from Hondo, Texas was elected President of MRAI, and her brother Glen Klaus was elected President of the Scholarship Foundation Board the first brother/sister duo to hold these positions at the same time. The 2014 MRA Pageant returns to the MGM Hotel & Casino.

In 2104 Paige Nicholson from Mississippi wins the title of Miss Rodeo America. This is the first year every contestant in the Pageant was awarded an educational scholarship. The 60th Anniversary celebration of the Miss Rodeo America Pageant was hosted by the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. Raeana Wadhams retires after 25 years as Executive Director.

Lauren Heaton was crowned Miss Rodeo America 2015 and is the first Oklahoman to receive the title. Once again, the Pageant called the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino it’s host hotel. Karie O’Donnell Herbers serves as President of the Scholarship Foundation Board. The offices of Miss Rodeo America, Inc. find a new home at 101 Pro Rodeo Drive in Colorado Springs, Co in the PRCA headquarters.

In 2016 Katherine Merck from Washington was crowned Miss Rodeo America. She is the first Miss Rodeo America from Washington State. Kiki Shumway from Pasco, WA. was elected President to fill the term of President Frances Bendele after Frances was involved in a car accident. Karie O’Donnell Herbers from Ellensburg, WA. continues as President of the Scholarship Foundation Board which makes it a triple crown for Washington! Dayna Jenkins from Colorado becomes the Office Manager of MRAI, and Rhianna Russell becomes the Office Assistant. Lori Lancaster is added to our staff as our Corporate Sponsorship Director. MRAI launches a new website. Once again, the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is host to the Pageant.

Lisa Lageschaar from Texas was crowned Miss Rodeo America 2017. The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino continued as the host of the 62nd Miss Rodeo America Pageant. Jeana Linton from Nebraska joined the staff as the Pageant Director. Robyn Martinez from Colorado Springs became a member of the office staff. Kiki Shumway from Pasco, Washington is elected to serve another term as MRAI President. Deb Dilley from Colorado is elected as President of the Scholarship Foundation Board.

Keri Sheffield becomes the first Miss Rodeo America from Florida as she is crowned to reign as Miss Rodeo America 2018 at our host hotel, the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. Kiki Shumway from Washington continues to serve as MRAI President. Jeana Linton, Pageant Director, had an increase in duties added to her job description and Robyn Martinez continues to keep the office running smoothly. DeShannon Davis was hired as the official scheduling coordinator for MRAI. Deb Dilley from Colorado is President of the Scholarship Foundation Board.

Taylor McNair from Mississippi was crowned the 2019 Miss Rodeo America. This year the Pageant moved to a new home at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Kiki Shumway was elected to another term as MRAI President. Karie O’Donnell Herbers is elected President of the Scholarship Foundation Board. Our MRAI staff remains with Jeana Linton, Pageant Director, DeShannon Davis, Scheduling Director and Robyn Martinez, Office Manager. The Miss Rodeo America, Inc. organization was granted 501c3 status from the IRS this year. The annual midyear meeting was held in Las Vegas at the Tropicana.

Jordan Tierney from South Dakota was crowned the 2020 Miss Rodeo America. The Tropicana Hotel & Casino once again hosted the 65th Miss Rodeo America Pageant. Kiki Shumway from WA. continues her term as MRAI President. Karie O’Donnell Herbers remains President of the Scholarship Foundation Board. The MRAI staff is led by Jeana Linton, Pageant Director/Operations Manager, DeShannon Davis, Scheduling Director and Robyn Martinez, Office Manager. Midyear meeting was held at the Tropicana in Las Vegas.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) dominated 2020. For the first time in history the 2021 Miss Rodeo America Pageant was cancelled. Jordan Tierney was offered the opportunity to keep her title for the year 2021and graciously accepted. Americans were asked to follow local and state guidance on prevention strategies, such as social distancing, good hand hygiene, and wearing a face mask while in public. Many lives were lost to the disease. Rodeos were cancelled and Miss Rodeo America was sent home when Rodeo Houston shut down in March. Schools were closed, businesses closed, and travel was limited. Las Vegas as we know it, shut off the lights on the strip as one by one Hotels and Casinos shut their doors. We all learned to carry on with business and quickly mastered how to do “Zoom” calls. The States with a MRAI Participation Agreement were given the option of offering their 2020 state titleholder another year added on to their reign. The voting body of MRAI voted to extend the terms of the MRAI Executive Board for one year. There was no midyear meeting or annual meeting held in 2020. The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo moved to Texas and Jordan was able to attend as Miss Rodeo America. A Covid vaccine became available.

2021 brought more challenges but rodeos began to be held again with fans in attendance across the country. The Tropicana remained closed, and we began looking for a new home for our Pageant. We happily signed a contract with the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa to hold the 2022 Pageant there and we were able to hold our midyear meetings at our new pageant home in June. Stephanie Sartin was hired to work in the office in Colorado Springs. Jeana Linton was given a new title as the Miss Rodeo America, Inc. Executive Director. Morgan Wallace joined our staff as our Social Media Director. The WNFR moved back in Las Vegas. Hailey Frederiksen, Miss Rodeo Colorado 2020-2021, was crowned Miss Rodeo America 2022.

The annual Miss Rodeo America Pageant is showcased in the "City of Lights," Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant is held in conjunction with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Annual Convention and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

The organization continues in a positive growth pattern thanks to our valued volunteers and loyal, generous sponsors. The excitement of the city of Las Vegas, coupled with the electrifying events of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo; compliment the beauty, talent, and integrity of the Miss Rodeo America Pageant.

For today's sport of rodeo enthusiasts, it's difficult to imagine the world of professional rodeo without Miss Rodeo America: her beauty, intelligence, kindness, and most notably, her ability for turning rodeo spectators into rodeo fans. Miss Rodeo America is a part of history ... yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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