By Olivia Johnson
A gold and silver crown that reads “Jr. Miss Rodeo South Dakota” sparkled atop Adrianne Schaunaman’s crisp, tan hat as she stood in a dusty stable next to her horse, Quincy.
Although she handed over her title recently to Kayla Engwicht, the new Junior Miss Rodeo South Dakota, Schaunaman said her experience pushed her to continue working with horses and the agriculture industry.
“I’ve always loved horses,” she said. “They’ve been a part of my life ever since I was born.”
Schaunaman, an Aberdeen native and 2016 Central High School graduate, earned her crown last summer. South Dakota’s rodeo queens are crowned every year over Independence Day at the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche.
At pageants around the country, rodeo queens are crowned in each state by the Miss Rodeo America organization. The state queens then compete for the Miss Rodeo America title in Las Vegas each year.
Schaunaman said she grew up competing in 4-H events and is the daughter of a former rodeo queen, which contributed to her desire to compete for the Junior Miss Rodeo title last year.
“It really has tied me closer to South Dakota,” Schaunaman said. “It’s fun to represent something very important.”
Schaunaman said her passion for horses and agriculture strongly affects her ambitions. In the future, she said she wants to open up a therapeutic riding center near Aberdeen that brings new technology to train horses who compete in all kinds of disciplines.
“That’s something that we’re really missing in our area,” she said.
After meeting girls all over the country during her time as a rodeo queen, she said it helped her realize that she’s “not the only one that’s horse crazy.”
Schaunaman said her favorite part of being Junior Miss Rodeo was meeting new people at the more than 20 events she traveled to.
“This is my basketball team,” Schaunaman said of the rodeo queen and horse community. “It’s sad, but it’s humbling,” she said of the end of her reign as a rodeo queen.
Schaunaman said she felt her responsibility as a role model and ambassador for South Dakota’s agricultural industry is important. Her knowledge of agriculture and her experiences as Junior Miss Rodeo pushed her to pursue a major in equine science at Colby Community College in Kansas next year, she said.
Melynda Sletten, who works at Platinum Salon and Spa in Aberdeen, was Miss Rodeo South Dakota 2014 and regularly does Schaunaman’s hair.
“She’s very knowledgeable going into college,” Sletten said of Schaunaman. “Competing for Junior Miss Rodeo … is going to set you up for any skills that you do in your life.”
Sletten said that the role of a rodeo queen is not just to “come to the rodeo and look pretty and sit on a horse,” but to be a role model and spokesperson for the state.
Kristina Sigaty, Junior Miss Rodeo South Dakota in 2008 and Miss Rodeo South Dakota in 2013, said she got to know Schaunaman and her mother through helping with local pageants.
“You learn to be comfortable with public speaking,” Sigaty said. “It really teaches you a lot more responsibility.”
She added that she never would have had some of her career opportunities if she hadn’t been a rodeo queen.
“There’s so many younger folks out there that are nervous and scared to go to their first job interview,” Sigaty said. “You learn so many skills.”