Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2020
Joeli Walrath is Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2020. Joeli grew up in Ashton, Nebraska and is the daughter of Jamie and Jaci Walrath. Joeli’s small-town roots and involvement on the family farm instilled her love for agriculture. She began her rodeo career young competing in junior rodeos in barrels and poles and even a little steer riding. She was raised in the 4-H program , FFA and was a member of the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association.
Joeli is a 2016 graduate of Loup City High School. She went on to attend college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she was a member of the Univeristy of Nebraska-Lincoln Equestrian Team and Horse Judging Team as well as the rodeo club. While at the University of Nebraska, she studied animal science with an equine emphasis. Joeli graduated from UNL in December 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science.
When not traveling and attending rodeos, Joeli enjoys spending time at home with her family, friends, and of course, her horses. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, cooking and baking. Joeli’s slogan for the year is “Be True. Be You.” She believes that being genuine and apologetically yourself is the key to what is most important – happiness. Joeli hopes not only to live by her motto everyday, but also to inspire others to be true to themselves. (Photo courtesy of KC Creations Photography)
Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska 2019
Brylee Thompson, of Hershey, is Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska 2019.
Brylee was crowned in North Platte in June after winning the horsemanship, appearance, personality, congeniality and photogenic categories of the MTRN Pageant.
A student at Hershey High School, Brylee participates in basketball, one-act plays, quiz bowl and volleyball and is a member of the student council. Her activities outside of school include: 4-H Council, horse 4-H, Lonestar Cowboy Church youth group and rodeo Bible camp participant and counselor.
After graduation, Brylee plans to attend Colby Community College and eventually become a registered nurse. Her goal is to work in a large hospital setting – specifically an emergency room. While at Colby, Brylee also plans to compete as part of the college’s equestrian team.
Brylee’s life goal is to always spread kindness and lift others up. She wants to be a person who focuses on the positive in every aspect of her life and to be known as someone who is compassionate and kind to everyone. Her parents are Lucas Anderson and Hanna McConnell. (Photo courtesy of Suzanna Klaasmeyer Photography)
To provide an opportunity for young women of high moral and ethical
character to promote Nebraska and the sport of rodeo.
The concept of Miss Rodeo America was developed in 1955 by a group of gentlemen under the name of International Rodeo Management (IRM).
The same year, the town of Burwell, Neb. selected its first Miss Rodeo Nebraska: Dallas Hunt George of Lincoln, who held the MRN title in 1955 and 1956.
She won the regional title in Omaha at the AK-SAR-BEN Rodeo in 1956 and went on to compete and win the Miss Rodeo America title in 1957.
Laura (Lolly) Cameron Klug won the MRN title in 1957. She also won the Regional title at AR-SAR-BEN and competed at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant. In 1959, she was named as the Buffalo Bill Rodeo Queen and given the title of Miss Rodeo Northwest. She then competed again at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant, where she was second runner-up.
The MRN Pageant has continued every year since its humble beginnings. The goal of it is to select a young lady with the desire and enthusiasm to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the sport of rodeo and the state of Nebraska.
In 1991, after Burwell had hosted the pageant for 36 years, the pageant was moved to North Platte so it could be presented in conjunction with Nebraska’s official state celebration, NEBRASKAland DAYS and the PRCA Buffalo Bill Rodeo.
Also in 1991, NEBRASKAland DAYS started a tradition of presenting a $1,000 scholarship to newly crowned MRNs. The MRNA Scholarship Program has continued to grow and now awards more than $5,000 in scholarship money.
In 2000, the pageant schedule was changed from three days to four days. In 2006 the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association, Inc. expanded its program to include the Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska Pageant.
Hall of Fame Reception for Mardee Swanson and Lolly Klug
2-4 p.m., Jan. 11
La Quinta Inn and Suite
North Platte, NE
Tickets on sale now for Miss Rodeo Nebraska coronation
Photo courtesy of KC Creations Photography
The deadline to RSVP for the coronation of Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2020 Joeli Walrath is Dec. 20.
Walrath, who was crowned as a lady-in-waiting during NEBRASKAland Days festivities in June in North Platte, will officially take over the responsibilities of her reign during the coronation.
The event is scheduled for Jan. 4 at the Trotter Event Center in Ord. Activities will include a social hour from 5-6 p.m., the coronation ceremony from 6-7 p.m., dinner, a live auction and a dance. The event is open to the public.
Admission is $25 for adults and $15 for youth 10 and younger. RSVPs can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or called in to (308) 750-0444.
Swanson inducted into Miss Rodeo America Hall of Fame
Mardee Swanson is recognized as a Miss Rodeo America Hall of Fame inductee. Pictured left to right are Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association member Karen Troyer and Swanson.
A longtime Miss Rodeo Nebraska member has been inducted into the Miss Rodeo America Hall of Fame.
Mardee Swanson was honored Dec. 6 during the Miss Rodeo America Pageant fashion show in Las Vegas, Nev. for her hard work and dedication to the rodeo queen world.
“When I started this journey with the MRA program in 1991, I had no idea I’d still be here,” Swanson said of the recognition. “This program tends to give you a passion to try and help young women obtain their dreams. I feel so much pride in where this organization is today.”
The early days
Swanson didn’t grow up surrounded by rodeo and pageants, but rather developed a passion for them after marrying her late husband, Swede Swanson, in 1960.
Swede began steer wrestling in the late ’60s. He eventually joined the Mid-States Rodeo Association, became a gold card member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and competed as part of the Nebraska State Rodeo Association, through which he won state championships in 1969 and 1972.
“As a little girl, I always wanted a horse, but lived in town, so it didn’t happen,” Mardee said. “When Swede started steer wrestling and bought a couple of horses, I, at the age of 26, really wanted to learn to ride. So, I became a charter member of a newly formed women’s riding club, the Velvet Spurs.”
From there, she was smitten. Mardee was elected president of the Velvet Spurs in 1972, 1973, 1995 and 1996 and co-president in 2018.
Sequins and tiaras
Mardee has been involved with NEBRASKAland Days, Nebraska’s official state celebration, since its inception more than 50 years ago. She joined the Buffalo Bill Rodeo Queen Committee in the early 1980s.
When the NEBRASKAland Days board was approached about moving the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Pageant to North Platte, Mardee was instrumental in helping with that move and the formation of the current Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association in 1992.
Mardee spent the next decade as the MRN Association’s state delegate in addition to terms as president and chair of the scholarship committee.
She was also asked to join the NEBRASKAland Days board of directors in 1990. She served a four-year term and was elected board president in 1994.
In 2005, Mardee and Swede were honored with the Trail Boss Award from The Buffalo Bill Rodeo Committee, and in 2009, she was presented with the Dale Studley Award for her support of the NEBRASKAland Days celebration.
At the national level
As for her MRA involvement, Mardee has both been a part of and chaired numerous MRA Pageant committees. She completed her sixth year on the MRA Executive Board in December of 2018. She is currently a Gold Member of the MRA National Advisory Council.
She has judged several state pageants over the years and the National High School Rodeo Queen Contest twice.
“Mardee is one of the hardest working people we have ever had in Miss Rodeo America,” said Tracy Damrell, fellow MRA Hall of Fame inductee. “Need help on a committee? Ask Mardee, but more likely, you won’t have to ask – she’ll volunteer.”
Damrell said Mardee’s motives for volunteering are never for accolades or attention.
“She doesn’t seek recognition. She seeks roles and responsibilities where she can make a difference,” Damrell said. “She does it because she believes in the program and the ideals of Miss Rodeo America. I can think of no more deserving honoree than her.”
Mardee believes the most precious thing she has gained through her involvement with the MRA is friendships. Those friendships, along with the satisfaction of knowing she’s helping to put young women on the path to success has made all the time and effort worth it.
“My daughter gives me a calendar every year called, ‘Women Who Do Too Much’.” Mardee said. “It has many good thoughts, and recently one day it read, ‘If I am going to do too much, I want to be sure it is about the things that matter.’ MRA does matter, and I’m proud and very humble to be selected to be inducted into the MRA Hall of Fame.”
Miss Rodeo Nebraska finishes in Top Three at national pageant
A year and a half worth of work paid off for a Merriman woman Dec. 8.
Eva Oliver, Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2019, earned second runner-up honors at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in Las Vegas, Nev. after winning the speech and written test categories.
“It was such a rush to make it to the Top 10 and then the Top Five on top of that,” Oliver said. “It blew my mind. It’s something I had always dreamed of, but finally being there was astonishing.”
Oliver spent a week in the Entertainment Capital of the World vying for the MRA crown alongside 27 contestants from across the nation. In addition to speech and written test, they competed in the areas of horsemanship, personality, appearance, photogenic and congeniality.
“Competing was so much fun and super relaxed for the most part,” Oliver said. “We had a great set of judges and the other girls really made my week so special and memorable.”
Oliver won a second runner-up buckle from Montana Silversmiths and about $10,000 in scholarship money in addition to a variety of smaller prizes.
“Eva worked really hard throughout the year, and it really showed in Vegas,” said Cindy Petersen, MRN Pageant chair. “Nebraska and the MRN Association are extremely proud of the job she has done, not just at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant, but also throughout her reign. She is an amazing young woman, and the future is very bright for her.”
Now that the pageant is over, Oliver plans to spend a year working while also taking online college classes in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in marketing or sales. Her long-term goal is to go into the field of pharmaceutical sales in the animal industry.
A little history
Oliver was crowned Miss Rodeo Nebraska Lady-in-Waiting at the first performance of the Buffalo Bill Rodeo during the 2018 NEBRASKAland Days celebration in North Platte. She officially took over as MRN 2019 in January of this year.
Since that time, she has spent countless hours promoting Nebraska, the MRN Association, the sport of professional rodeo and the western way of life at schools, rodeos, parades and a variety of other events across the country.
The Sponsors of Miss Rodeo Nebraska
We are so grateful to the many gracious sponsors who make the Miss Rodeo Nebraska program possible. We couldn’t do it without you! For more information about sponsorships, or to learn how to become a sponsor, contact Lacey Williams at email@example.com, or Peggy Moorhead at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NebraskaLand Days, Inc.
Buffalo Bill Rodeo Committee
Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association
Hyannis Veterinary Service
Town and Country Western Wear
Orr’s Dry Cleaning
Jody’s Auto Sales
Security First Bank
Twin River Band
Marshall Custom Hats
American Family Insurance
Joseph Angus Ranch
Niobrara Valley Vineyards
Haythorn Land and Cattle
Western Sire Services
Winner Circle Feedyard
Shadbolt Cattle Co.
Shadbolt Horse Training
Oliver Cattle Co.
Dry Creek Western Wear
Young’s Western Wear
Abbott Cattle Company
Nebraskland National Bank
Welker and Fevold
North Platte Telegraph
North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau
Gordon Livestock Market
Forster Well Drilling
Ted and Lolly Klug
Hurry! The deadline to enter the Miss Rodeo Nebraska/Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska Pageant is April 1!
The Royalty Scrapbook
(Photo courtesy of KC Creations Photography)