Mikayla Jo Lawrence, the 2018 Nyssa Nite Rodeo queen said her job means meeting lots of new people and encountering new experiences and engaging the community. (The Enterprise/Submitted photo).
NYSSA – Mikayla Jo Lawrence, 2018 Nyssa Nite Rodeo queen, knew that she had to be polite to the man who stood near her at Nyssa’s Thunderegg Days last summer.
But the man’s voice was growing louder as he talked.
He wanted Lawrence to know he believed that certain rodeo events were cruel, that the animals were mistreated.
As a rodeo queen, Lawrence’s assignment is to be outgoing and cordial to everyone.
She carefully and slowly explained to the man the roots of rodeo.
Of how calf roping, for example, began as a way to secure the animals so they could be treated for infections.
“He was very civil at the end of it. I think he realized he was making a scene,” said Lawrence.
She said she held no ill will toward the man.
“A lot of people, it isn’t their fault. They’ve just never been exposed to it,” said Lawrence.
The encounter at Thunderegg Days underscores the variety of people, challenges and responsibilities a rodeo queen must tackle. Lawrence said the job isn’t just about sitting on a horse looking pretty. In her role, “a lot of it are the appearances, trying to engage the community and letting people know what the rodeo is,” said Lawrence. Lawrence, 21, said one of her goals when she became a queen was to help empower younger women and girls.
“When I was younger, I wanted to be a cowboy but you always had to be a boy to be a cowboy. But I hope that I have showed some little girls that you can be a lady and work as hard as the boys do,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence will preside over the 73rd edition of the Nyssa Nite Rodeo Friday and Saturday. The rodeo kicks off both nights at 8 p.m. The queen’s banquet was Tuesday night where Lawrence’s successor was crowned in an event too late for presstime.
Along with the rodeo the Nyssa Nite Rodeo Parade will move through downtown beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Lawrence said her choice to try out for the Nyssa Nite Rodeo queen was all about timing.
“I just happened to be in the right situation at the right time and I had a good horse that could do arena work. Most of it, though, was spur of the moment and I was like ‘What the heck, why not try out?’” said Lawrence.
Lawrence said she relished the idea of being an ambassador for rodeo across the region.
However, that meant a lot of work.
Like most rodeo queens, Lawrence was required to attend certain events, taking a lot of her time.
She eventually quit her job at Producers Livestock in Vale to focus on her queen duties.
“I wanted to be able to represent to the best of my ability,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence said she attended 27 rodeos and special events such as parades in her first three months as queen.
Lawrence said the experience was great but, at times, exhausting.
She traveled to Joseph for the county’s Chief Joseph Days, returning at 3 a.m. She had to be at an Idaho event five hours later.
Lawrence believes her role as the Nyssa rodeo queen was important.
“It is one of those lost arts of being a respectable person and I think it is one of those things that challenge you to do your best in every situation,” said Lawrence.
Her work as queen came to an abrupt halt last October. While buck-a-rooing, her mare spooked and Lawrence was thrown to the ground, suffering a concussion. Her doctor advised her not to ride after the mishap. During queen try-outs, one of the key tasks for the reigning queen is to set the riding pattern during the horsemanship trials. Though Lawrence will be at the horsemanship try-outs, she won’t be able to set the pattern.
“Which is kind of a bummer,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence said the Nyssa Nite Rodeo pays some of her expense, about $400, to travel.
“As far as outfits, unless you get a sponsor, that is on you,” said Lawrence
Lawrence said, though, she was lucky because many people locally stepped up to help.
“I have had sponsors throughout the Nyssa community. I had to go get them but people are so generous and nice,” said Lawrence.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.