Meet The Queen: Illinois

imageWhat an amazing year that God has blessed me with! When I stop and think about all of the opportunities and things that I have been involved with so far this year as well as the many wonderful things to come, I can’t help but be humbled. I am so honored to be representing my state as Miss Rodeo Illinois. Most people don’t think of Illinois as being a rodeo state, but I hope to bring more awareness to the prominence of the sport and the horse industry here as I travel throughout my year.image

When I was a little girl, I can remember wishing year after year that my mom and dad would buy me a horse. Finally my greatest wish came true at the age of eight years old. Since then I have turned my horse addiction into so much more than my parents ever imagined. I grew up being involved with my local 4-H club in Jackson County Illinois, and through that program met so many influential people in the equine industry. My very first judge at our county show turned out to be the woman who would inspire me to make a career out of my passion.

imageWhen I graduated from Trico High School in 2012, I knew that Southern Illinois University Carbondale would be the place I needed to go to further my equine knowledge. I am currently a senior there majoring in Agribusiness Economics with a minor in Equine Science.

Not only was I hungry for more knowledge about horses from school, but I was also looking for different avenues to pursue with my horsemanship. This prompted me to submit an application for my first ever pageant. In the spring of 2013, I competed in the Miss Illinois Horse Fair pageant. This pageant was open to all disciplines of riding. I was over the moon when I was crowned the Miss Illinois Horse Fair 2013. After that I was hooked. That year I was introduced imageto the current Miss Rodeo Illinois Cassandra Spivey. Right then and there I knew that someday I wanted to be able to compete for the title of MRI. Three very short years later, it’s hard to believe I am standing in those shoes. I want to use this year to not only promote the sport of professional rodeo and the western way of life, but also to help encourage and support the youth in the horse industry. Programs like 4-H and FFA are vitally important to providing kids the chance to become involved with horses and rodeo just as it provided me with that chance not so long ago. Again I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of this year has in store for me!

God Bless,
Virginia Smith
imageMiss Rodeo Illinois 2016

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