All hail the queens: North Dakota's newest rodeo queens share personal journey to the crown
At the heart of every rodeo queen is a tough cowgirl. Meet two of North Dakota's new queens and discover the journeys they faced to earn their crowns.
DICKINSON — Two North Dakota cowgirls are living their fairytale dreams, with sparkling crowns and silk sashes. Eleven-year-old Ashlyn Klatt and 17-year-old Rebekah Peterson were crowned rodeo royalty in early June. For these girls, representing North Dakota rodeo and the western way of life is both a magical and an unforgettable experience.
Both queens grew up on horseback and compete individually in rodeo events.
Klatt was introduced to horseback riding at age four and has been working toward this goal her whole life. To prepare for the pageant, she wrote and memorized a two-minute speech called “If Arenas could Talk” and presented it in front of a panel of judges. She also spent hours studying the National High School Rodeo Association Rule Book and had to pass a 25-point written test. But that’s not all. Klatt demonstrated her control and poise in the saddle in a horsemanship test, answered impromptu questions, completed a private interview and showcased her modeling skills for the judges before she was chosen to bear the title: Ms. North Dakota Junior High Rodeo Division Queen 2022-2023.
She officially received the distinguished honor and its iconic crown and sash June 9th at the Four Seasons Arena in Bowman, ND. Klatt says the title has given her the opportunity to meet friends, travel and help work Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) events.
“It makes me feel proud to represent North Dakota and to promote the sport of rodeo,” Klatt said. “I love being a queen because I get to talk to people and get to know them. I wanted to pursue this because I love rodeo and horses so much.”
Not only is the 5th grader an inspiration and role model to her piers, she is helping promote the importance of reading and literacy by working with local public libraries to implement “The Book Coral Program.”
“As a queen I want to encourage people to communicate more with others,” Klatt said.
She is a member of the Dickinson Rodeo Club in the ND Junior High Rodeo Division and competes in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping and ribbon roping. In late June and early July, she will be competing in the National Little Britches Rodeo in Oklahoma for her third straight year. Non-stop practicing with her 13-year-old gelding Evy has won the pair a barn full or bridles, buckles and halters.
Klatt and Peterson had the pleasure of wrangling cattle and carrying sponsor flags together at the Roughrider Days PRCA Rodeo.
Peterson’s rodeo queening journey is similar to Klatt’s but different in many ways. She went on her first pony ride at just nine days old and earned her first rodeo queen title at age seven. Several of Peterson’s cousins competed in rodeo pageantry and she grew up watching them. One year she decided to give it a try.
“I wasn’t expecting to win because it was my first time, but I got the title and I had a lot of fun doing it,” Peterson said.
She was officially crowned with her third title June 12, 2022 at the Ms. North Dakota High School Rodeo Pageant in Bowman, ND.
“This title meant a lot to me because I am involved in North Dakota High School Rodeo and I want to be able to share that with others,” Peterson said. “I especially want to get more kids involved in high school rodeo. I love talking to the kids and answering their questions about my horse.”
Peterson is a former Ms. Boss Cowman Princess 2011 and Ms. Perkins County Junior Queen 2020.
Because she is so tall, her mother designs and hand-makes some of her flashy rodeo gear and pageant wear. Peterson says one of the most important parts of a queen competition is demonstrating an ability to ride well and maintain horsemanship skills because it isn’t always her horse that she has to ride, especially at far away rodeos.
She says she likes to think of a rodeo queen as a link between the sponsors, contestants and fans. At most rodeos, her job is to promote the sponsors, educate fans about rodeo and the western way of life, interact with the crowd and help clear the arena.
Like Klatt, she had to spend hours studying the NHSRA Rule Book and perform repeatedly in front of judges or audiences, which for Peterson, is the most challenging part about representing the title.
“Being on stage is not the most comfortable,” Peterson said. “I’m better one on one. I always do my best, have fun and let the outcome be what the outcome is going to be.”
As a queen, she spends most of her weekends at 4H shows and high school rodeos. But she also competes in barrel racing, pole bending, team roping and cattle cutting. She just won the short go at State Finals June 9.
“Rodeo Queening has showed me that I am capable of being more outgoing and that I have to be myself and do my best for every title that I can,” Peterson said.