By Mitchell Willetts
Megan Travis is the uncontested Vale rodeo queen of 2017; uncontested, she says, because nobody else competed.
No other entry packets arrived, so the buckle, serape, crown, and $600 cash prize were hers from the start.
Regardless, the committee deliberated, the judges gathered, and the show proceeded just as it has for so many years before. Travis demonstrated her horsemanship, rodeo knowledge, modeling and public speaking ability, she said, even if there was nothing for comparison.
“I still went and competed like I was up against other girls, even though there were no other girls,” the 20-year-old said.
Last year’s competition may have been a relatively easy win for the Payette native, but then the contest is always the easiest part, she said. From the moment of selection, a queen becomes an ambassador for the rodeo, and their community.
“Being a rodeo queen, you learn that there’s a lot of people who look up to you,” Travis said. “There’s some high expectations you have to stand for and if you don’t … your rodeo board will hear about it.”
Travis has sought to set an example of what rodeo royalty should be, and how they should act.
As an ambassador, Travis has traveled widely, attending community events in Oregon and Idaho, and in the past, Washington, Nevada and California.
“If you have plans, cancel your plans,” Travis said. “My very first title I held for the whole summer, and my parents and I traveled. We put 5,000 miles on the truck, hauling it everywhere.”
With the Vale 4th of July celebrations coming up, Travis is out finding sponsors to support whoever next wins the crown, all while working and taking classes at Treasure Valley Community College.
Once she has her associate’s degree in natural resources from TVCC, she plans to transfer to Oregon State University to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and then get a job with the Department of Fish and Game.
The clock is running down on Travis’ “Queening” days, she said, there is no way to balance it all anymore.
“I won’t be able to give my hundred percent (in the future), and there’s no real reason to compete if you can’t give your hundred percent,” Travis said.
She thinks she has one last competition left in her, so Travis is aiming higher than she has before.
Having previously taken the Nyssa title, and currently holding Vale’s, she is setting her sights on Caldwell.
The crown might sound like a lot of work for just a couple hundred bucks and an ego boost. There was a time when Travis would have agreed.
“I know when I was just a rodeo contestant instead of being a queen, I thought it was crazy,” Travis said. “I honestly thought rodeo queen was just a joke, some girl buzzing around the arena while little kids cheered for her.”
It wasn’t until Travis met another girl who was into “queening,” as she calls it, that she realized she might have misunderstood them.
“They’re not these little Barbie dolls that run around,” Travis said, the judges care about a lot more than looks on or off the saddle.
There’s a reason “Rodeo Queen” makes a great bullet point on a résumé, Travis said. Those two words speak volumes to those who understand what they mean.
The challenges of the title have helped her grow as a person, Travis said, expanding her personal and professional boundaries.
“They really ask a lot of you … they make you push yourself to be a good person,” Travis said. “It’s a good motivation for girls. It’s serious and you can get somewhere in your life with this.”