Hello from the Land of Lincoln! I am Ariel Weinman, Miss Rodeo Illinois 2015 from Brighton, Ill. This year has already been a wild ride and I am looking forward to more adventures as Miss Rodeo Illinois. Last May I graduated from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville with a Bachelor’s of Science in Speech Communications I am also a graduate of Lewis and Clark Community College with an Associate in Science. I have my sights set on a Master’s degree as the next step in my education.
My love of horses started from a young age. My family couldn’t go to a fair or local picnic without me begging for a pony ride or two. I started taking riding lessons when I was 5 years old and never looked back. I often tell people “some kids played soccer, I rode horses.” Since then horses have been a huge part of my life. I enjoy barrel racing and team roping, but I have tried almost every discipline at least once. I spent 3 years as a riding instructor and have spent the last year and a half as a handler for the World Famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Growing up I was an active member of 4-H and I am an alumnus of the Illinois High School Rodeo Association. It seems like everything is coming full circle, as I am now the leader of the Lucky Horseshoes 4-H club in Godfrey, Ill. When I’m not in the saddle, odds are you can find me in my garden, on a pair of water skis, or behind the wheel of my favorite car, a Red 1971 Ford Mustang convertible.
This year has already been an adventure of its own and I am so excited to share what this year has held for me so far. I went to Denver for the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo. This was my first rodeo as Miss Rodeo Illinois. It was an amazing adventure. There is nothing like running flags for the first time as Miss Rodeo Illinois. My next adventure would take me to sunny Florida where wrestled gators, had my first experience with school visits and got to be a part of the Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla. The month of March brought with it the Illinois Horse Fair. It is an expo of vendors and educators from all over the state and Midwest. I was able to talk to so many people about the Miss Rodeo Illinois organization and help cheer on the contestants in the Miss Illinois Horse Fair Queen and Princess Pageant. That trip was made extra special when I was able to carry the American flag during the rodeo performances Friday and Saturday night. My grandfather, great uncle and father are veterans and my brother is currently serving in the United States Navy. Getting the chance to represent not only my state, but to present the colors of our flag will always be special to me. April showers brought with it a trip to Washington, D.C. to represent Illinois in the Cherry Blossom Parade and Festival. I was able to ride in the parade which took us down Constitution Avenue! While there I was able to see all of the sights of D.C. May brought me back home for the local Alton Memorial Day Parade, which is one of the oldest consecutive running Memorial Day parades in the United States.
With all that in my rearview mirror I am excited for what is coming next including the Illinois High School Rodeo State Finals, Shenandoah Pro Rodeo in Galena, Ill., the Pioneer City Rodeo and Miss Rodeo Illinois Pageant in Palestine, Ill. and of course a trip to “The Daddy of them All” in Cheyenne, Wyo.
A highlight of one of my appearances as Miss Rodeo Illinois was to attend a very special birthday party for a very special little boy. Sam Biggs was diagnosed with liver cancer when he was 4 years old. After a long battle he kicked cancer and was in remission. After tests last September showed that the cancer had returned but this time in his lungs and liver, his options were limited. I was honored to be invited to his birthday as Miss Rodeo Illinois to celebrate Sam’s “6 ½ birthday.” Sam will be my guardian angel this year during all my travels.
Everyone has someone they look up too and that inspires them. Perhaps it is a famous athlete or an important political figure. Deborah Lee is the epitome of the western “never give up” spirit. She has a smile that can bring light to any room.She is a brain cancer survivor. Did I mention she is only 8 years old? Deborah Lee is who inspired me to be brave enough to step out of my comfort zone and become Miss Rodeo Illinois. This year I will be able to share her story in hopes to inspire others as she has inspired me. Her cowgirl up attitude is something I strive to have. Because of kids like Deborah Lee and Sam I have made it my personal goal to help tell their stories and raise as much awareness as I can for kids battling cancer.
I invite you to follow my travels on the Miss Rodeo Illinois Facebook page and on our website http://www.missrodeoillinois.com.