Minnesota rodeo queen prepares for national event

WILLMAR -- During the last year, Jody Bombeck has traveled to nine states, dusted off kids who tumbled from sheep in mutton-busting contests, herded cattle out of rodeo arenas, been in parades in pouring rain and raced around arenas at top speed ...

Jody Bombeck, of Willmar, carries the American flag at the Pine City rodeo held over the Labor Day weekend. It’s just one of the responsibilities Bombeck has while serving as Miss Rodeo Minnesota. Next month she leaves for Las Vegas to compete in the Miss Rodeo America pageant. Submitted

 WILLMAR - During the last year, Jody Bombeck has traveled to nine states, dusted off kids who tumbled from sheep in mutton-busting contests, herded cattle out of rodeo arenas, been in parades in pouring rain and raced around arenas at top speed on horses she had never ridden before while carrying the American flag.

And never once has her cowboy hat and Miss Rodeo Minnesota crown fallen off.

Next month, when Bombeck travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete in the Miss Rodeo America pageant, the 24-year-old Willmar woman hopes to leave with a new crown and a new title of Miss Rodeo America.

"I'm thrilled just to be able to go," said Bombeck, who was selected last year to represent Minnesota's rodeo community and will compete at the national contest from Nov. 27 through Dec. 4.

"If I am blessed with the title - great!," she said.


"If I'm not, I have other avenues and goals in my life," Bombeck said, including competing in the American quarter horse world show for team penning and cattle sorting and focusing on her career as a sales representative for Broyhill, Lane, Thomasville furniture companies.

A formal send-off for Bombeck will be from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Stonewall Farms, located north of Willmar on Solomon Lake.

On display will be some of the 30 outfits that Bombeck will wear at the competition, including cowboy boots, chaps, "western elegance" custom-made evening gowns featuring large rodeo belt buckles, studded leather vests and hats.

The Sunday event will also includes games, horses, a silent auction and other fundraisers to offset Bombeck's expenses to travel to and participate in the pageant.

Horses and competing in horse events have always been a big part of Bombeck's life, which is why being an ambassador for rodeos and the "western heritage" was a smooth fit.

"It becomes a part of who you are," said Bombeck, who said she's grateful for the people she's met in her travels and the local sponsors and businesses who have supported her journey.

Being Miss Rodeo Minnesota has been "everything and nothing like what I expected," she said.

Bombeck has participated in at least 100 official events in the last year, including Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, that features a major rodeo that she said is dubbed the "daddy of them all" by cowboys.


During her first Minnesota rodeo after she was crowned, carrying the American flag in the arena was particularly emotional because her 22-year-old brother, Mitchell Bombeck, had just been deployed with the 682nd Engineer Battalion of the Minnesota Army National Guard.

Bombeck said her brother is scheduled to have surgery at the military base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the same time as the national pageant. That presents a conflict for her mother, Janelle Bombeck - a 33-year Air Force veteran - who had been planning to attend the pageant but may be going to Kentucky instead.

One of the jobs as Miss Rodeo Minnesota is to serve as a "connection" between cowboys who make their living in rodeo and the public who have questions about the events, participants and animals, Bombeck said.

"We teach people what it means to rodeo and what these people do and about the care of the animals," she said.

That knowledge of horses, diseases, how cowboys are scored during events and giving speeches about everything from animal care to world peace will all be part of the national competition, which includes rodeo royalty from 34 states.

The national contest also includes several horse-riding events to demonstrate skills. A part of that challenge is to keep the cowboy hat on the head, no matter how fast the horse is going.

Rodeo queens are given the stern directive that "If you hat comes off, your head better be in it," said Bombeck, who has learned a few tricks with hairspray and bobby pins to make sure that doesn't happen.

Bombeck said her stint as Miss Rodeo Minnesota has reinforced her self-confidence and ability to think on her feet while talking to people and is an experience that has changed her life.


That's not to say the past busy year of traveling to numerous events - and smiling, looking good and engaging with the public even if she's just traveled all night without sleep - hasn't had its challenges.

"It's not all glitz and glam," Bombeck said with a laugh.

During one rodeo when she was barreling out of a gate on a horse to make a "hot lap" around the arena, her left knee collided with the knee of another rodeo queen who was charging into the gate on her horse.

With sharp pain shooting through her leg, Bombeck just smiled and waved to the audience as she raced the horse around the arena.

"We have a joke that you just rub a little dirt on it," Bombeck said of a rodeo queen's motto for working through the pain. "That production must proceed, no matter what," she said.

When she finally went to the doctor three weeks later, she learned her kneecap had been cracked.

Whoever wins the Miss Rodeo America will have a full-time job traveling around the country and the world for about 340 days out of the year.

"My entire year would be encompassed by rodeo and the title of representing, not only Minnesota, but America," she said.

It's a job she said she's ready for.

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