It’s been an honor and a great privilege to represent the great cowboy state as the 60th Miss Rodeo Wyoming. To be part of a legacy of great women who came before me while becoming part of my state’s history has been one of my lifelong goals. I’m Laurel Ann Austin and I proudly share my coveted title with my hometown of Laramie, Wyoming.
Living in Laramie has been an experience in itself. My love for agriculture began at the age of five riding my first paint mare, Double-Stuff, in the pastures of the Biddick Ranch. When I was old enough to join 4-H, I began showing livestock with my older brother, Ian. I then graduated to FFA (Future Farmers of America) where I competed in Ag Sales, Livestock Judging, Agronomy and Agriculture Issues where we placed first at the state level and fifth at the national level. I played club and high school volleyball for nine years, earning All-state/All-conference recognition and was the top defensive player in the state.
One of my dreams was to play college ball out of state, but another opportunity came knocking when I was encouraged to try out for our local queen title. I never imagined myself as a rodeo queen; I would have preferred getting dirty at the ranch or playing with my team on the volleyball court. Looking back, competing for the local title was one of the best decisions I ever made. Prior to the state competition I was Miss Laramie Jubilee Days and Miss Albany County Farm Bureau. Now my experience as Miss Rodeo Wyoming has literally changed my life.
I put my education on hold at the University of Wyoming and began my adventures at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, a familiar setting, as I had shown animals and spectated there with family many times. Being there as MRW was the cherry on top of my life’s goals. A group of the state queens and I were able to attend the Steamboat Cowboy Downhill. I’d been skiing my whole life, but had never raced before let alone going off a 3’ jump. The girls who accompanied me on this trip have continued to be some of my closest friends along with some of the other state queens. Recent travels led me to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Festival and Parade. Traveling to the east coast was an experience I could check off my bucket list. My other travels this year included Black Hills Stock Show, Silver Spurs Rodeo, Ram National Circuit Finals, National Steer Roping Circuit Finals, the Wyoming Horse Expo and Guymon Pioneer Days to name a few. I have several other rodeos and functions on my schedule this year. I am looking forward to the College National Finals Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cody Stampede, Colorado and Wyoming State Fairs and many more.
Whether traveling across the beautiful state of Wyoming or flying across the country to a rodeo, I have met many incredible people. When I meet a complete stranger in the airport and they tell me I made their day and they were blessed to have met me, it makes my experience that much more special because I know that I have influenced people in a positive way. One airport conversation has led me to an internship opportunity with Cargill for animal nutrition and feed when I return to school. My community of Laramie has been not only influential to my adventures but also very welcoming when I am home, especially the Ag community I grew up with. Several of them are also sponsors and I can’t thank them enough. It’s an unmeasurable feeling to describe how fortunate I am to have so many sponsors who make my travels possible. My family has also been remarkable for all their love and support. There’s nothing like coming home to mom’s cooking and to one of my favorite meals, steak and yams!
As I began my travels this year, I wanted to keep in mind the values of integrity and honesty so as to stay true to myself and my beliefs- the beliefs shared by many Wyomingites. In doing so, I keep one of my favorite quotes in mind, “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it”. With those thoughts in mind as Miss Rodeo Wyoming, I have enjoyed an exhilarating ride thus far and made memories I will cherish forever.