Miss Rodeo Nebraska Prepares for Vegas
It’s a good thing her boots were made for walking, because Joni Qualm has certainly done her fair share of that this year – and driving and flying. “I don’t even know how far I’ve traveled at this point,” said Qualm, Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2015. “I’m going to estimate about 40,000 miles.” The Ericson native has spent the past year representing her home state and the sport of professional rodeo at schools, celebrations, parades, style shows, and of course, rodeos across the country.
As is tradition for MRNs, Qualm selected a slogan to define her reign: “Leave Your Legacy.” Providing those she met with a glimpse of the “good life” in Nebraska and a better understanding of the rich heritage that accompanies the western lifestyle was a personal goal of Qualm’s on all of her travels. However, she never lost sight of the fact that her appearances were an opportunity to learn as much as they were to share. “I’ve changed a lot over the past year,” said Qualm. “I’ve grown. I’m more confident and professional when asked to speak publicly, and I have a new perspective on people who travel for a living.”
Her connections have also broadened, and Qualm has gained a whole new circle of friends – friends for life. “I’ve had a really good group of state queens to travel with this year,” said Qualm. “We all get along really well. I would definitely consider them family. No one knows exactly what you’re experiencing, unless they are experiencing it too.”
From wrestling alligators in Florida to hunting hogs in Texas, Qualm has participated in activities she never imagined herself doing. She’s traveled to places that have always been on her bucket list. “My favorites were the Pendleton Round-Up, in Pendleton, Ore., and Nebraska’s Big Rodeo in Burwell, Neb.,” said Qualm. “I loved Pendleton because it’s such a historical rodeo, and Burwell is my hometown rodeo. My mom was on the Burwell pageant committee when I was growing up, so that was my first glimpse of rodeo queens.”
Hawaii and Washington, D.C. were just a couple of the other highlights from Qualm’s busy reign. It wasn’t until October that she had an entire weekend at home. “Gina Jespersen [MRN 2014], warned me that the year would go by so fast, and she was right,” Qualm said. “I can’t believe it’s only 30 days until my send-off.”
The send-off will give the public a chance to thank Qualm for her service and wish her luck as she prepares to compete at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in Las Vegas from Nov. 30-Dec. 6.
“I think I’m pretty well prepared for the competition,” said Qualm. “Right now, I’m just studying, finishing last minute wardrobe details, setting up mock interviews and practicing my horsemanship skills. I’m also preparing myself mentally and physically by taking vitamins and using essential oils.” People will get a first-hand look at the outfits Qualm will wear at nationals during the send-off. The event is scheduled for Nov. 7 at Harbor Lights Gatherings, 711 East North Lake Road, in North Platte. It will begin with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available by calling Lolly Klug at 308-582-4523. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for children, Lil’ Cowgirls and visiting royalty.
Whitaker wins record seventh Linderman Award
Kyle Whitaker won the seventh Linderman Award of his career in 2015, which extends his record for claiming the prestigious honor. The 39-year-old cowboy from Chambers, Neb., first won the Linderman Award in 1998. “I do appreciate it a lot more now than the first time I won it when I was 21,” Whitaker said. “It just means a lot more now, and it could be the last one for me. I really didn’t figure I’d still be qualifying for the Linderman when I was 39.”
Following him with four Linderman Awards are his father, Chip Whitaker, and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Phil Lyne, a five-time world champion.
The Linderman Award recognizes excellence at both ends of the arena. To qualify, a cowboy must win at least $1,000 in each of three events, and those events must include at least one roughstock event and one timed event.
The Linderman Award is named for ProRodeo Hall of Famer Bill Linderman, who won six world championships: all-around (1950, 1953), bareback riding (1943), saddle bronc riding (1945, 1950) and steer wrestling (1950). “When I was in college, I did a lot of research on Bill Linderman,” said Kyle Whitaker, who graduated from Nebraska with a degree in agricultural business. “He was a tough, true cowboy and I think that’s what this award honors. I want people to think of me as a tough cowboy that’s handy and can do whatever it takes.” Whitaker earned $39,175 during the 2015 rodeo season – $31,679 in steer wrestling; $4,980 in tie-down roping; and $2,516 in saddle bronc riding. He was the only cowboy to meet the difficult requirements in 2015 and gain eligibility for the award.
“Winning the Linderman is always my goal,” said Whitaker, who is married and has three daughters. “There are a lot of young guys with the talent to win it, but it takes a lot of dedication. Part of the difficulty of winning the award is staying healthy enough to qualify.”
Parade Route Remains Unchanged for 2016
The route for one of the largest events during NEBRASKAland DAYS will remain the same for 2016 after Celebration officials were notified that the construction on Jeffers Street will continue into the Spring of 2016. The Nebraska Department of Roads is unsure how far into the Spring construction will continue.
“We consulted with the State and the City about this decision for the coming year,” says Executive Director David Fudge. “There is not a great deal of confidence that construction will be concluded by the time the Celebration gets underway on June 15th, so it seemed prudent to plan this way.”
The route will once again move West down 4th Street from Bryan before turning South on Dewey. It will conclude at H Street, at which point Parade entries will be routed East.
“Frankly we received a lot of positive feedback from law enforcement, sponsors, and the City on this route,” says Fudge. “It proved to be very popular with those folks, and safer for participants who didn’t have to navigate up and down the viaduct. Ultimately, we feel the construction delay has given our organization an opportunity to study the long-term feasibility of this route.”