Rodeo royal navigates unusual, challenging but satisfying reign

Queen Tara Ryan began her reign in 2019, and then the pandemic set in. (THOMAS C. DUNCAN/Submitted by Tara Ryan).

VALE – When Tara Ryan felt the tiara on her cowboy hat during the 2019 Vale 4th of July Rodeo, she felt a sense of accomplishment and anticipation.

Even as a child, Ryan wanted to be a cowgirl. She realized that dream – and her selection as Vale 4th of July Rodeo Queen opened up an array of possibilities. She planned to visit rodeos and other events – such as parades – across the region.

Then Covid arrived, and everything changed.

Now, two years later, Ryan will be back in the rodeo arena during the July rodeo, this time to hand off her tiara to a new queen.

Her moment in the spotlight comes as Vale’s 4th of July Rodeo returns from a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The rodeo opens Thursday and runs through Sunday.

Pre-rodeo action starts at 7 p.m., the grand entry at 7:45 p.m., and the main show at 8 p.m.

In addition to kids’ events, such as mutton busting nightly and the pig scramble on Thursday and Saturday, the rodeo will include coronation of a new queen at 7:45 p.m. Sunday.

In an interview, Ryan said she enjoyed her time as queen but admits to some disappointment with the gig because of Covid.

The pandemic shut down rodeos, parades and other events that traditionally feature rodeo queens.

 “I was super upset about it to be honest. Because I only had the end of 2019, which was only like a few rodeos,” said Ryan.

Ryan said she attended at most about 10 rodeos, almost all in Idaho.

“I am very grateful for what I did get to do, but I definitely didn’t get the full experience. It was a weird year,” said Ryan.

Still, she believes her experience representing the local rodeo was well worth it.

Ryan said she didn’t specifically set out to be Vale’s rodeo queen.

She said that as she attended Treasure Valley Community College, two of her friends were rodeo queens. 

“They were like, ‘You should do it,’” said Ryan.

One of those friends, Jaeden Forrey, was selected as the 2020 Nyssa Nite Rodeo queen.

Ryan said she filled out the paperwork and then attended a brunch where the queen candidates met with local residents and members of the Vale rodeo board.

Ryan and other candidates were judged on their horsemanship, modeling and a personal interview.

Winning the Vale tiara was “humbling,” said Ryan.

She was pleased to win for another reason. Her horse, Freight Train, wasn’t an animal specifically trained for rodeo events.

“It is my old ranch horse – who had never been in rodeo arena competition,” she said.

Ryan said the best part of being a rodeo queen was interacting with children.

“They look up to us. I like that we can inspire them,” said Ryan.

Ryan recently received her associate degree in applied science in horse production from Treasure Valley Community College. Now, she’s contemplating several different avenues for her future.

“I am thinking about going back to school,” said Ryan.

As for a longer-term goal, that’s simple.

“I want to own my own cows,” said Ryan.


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