Search For:

Share This

Meet the “first ladies of professional rodeo”

The Miss Rodeo Kentucky pageant began in 1975, with Adonna (Winchester) Florence being crowned. Since then, many other young women have held that title, but each of them had something in common—their passion for the sport of rodeo. 

Recognized as “Kentucky’s first ladies of professional rodeo,” these young women serve as advocates, educating the public about both the rodeo and agriculture industries, as well as the Western way of life. To earn the title, contestants take a written exam and are judged on modeling, horsemanship and speech delivery. 

Kimberly Bellah, national director for Miss Rodeo Kentucky and a West Kentucky RECC consumer-member, says of this year’s rodeo queens, “They are a phenomenal group of young women, who are personable and enthusiastic about what they are doing.”  

Colby Rice, Miss Rodeo Kentucky 

One day, as Colby Rice of Olive Hill scrolled through posts in a Facebook horse group, she noticed a post about Miss Rodeo Kentucky. Rice had participated in other beauty pageants, but didn’t come from a rodeo background, though she did grow up on the back of a horse. “Before I was born, I had a miniature pony waiting on me,” says Rice. 

Rice recalls the moment in 2021 when she told her family, who are Grayson Rural Electric consumer-members, of her future rodeo pageant plans: “I called my mom randomly one day, and I was like, ‘Hey, Mom. I’m going to enter a rodeo queen pageant.’ And she was like, ‘What in the world are you thinking?’” 

That year, Rice did not win. But she the experience challenged her. “It made me a better horsewoman, along with making myself more aware of what else was out there.” 

Even so, Rice walked away from the pageant with one goal—to go back the next year and win. So for an entire year, Rice prepared for the November 2022 pageant. She researched books, practiced horsemanship and stayed glued to the Cowboy Channel. “And I went back, and I ended up winning,” says Rice, adding that it was an awesome experience to dig deeper into the rodeo world to learn more about the sport. 

“Colby is an example of persistence,” says Bellah. “She set her mind she wanted to come back and compete, and she did.” 

Rice says she never realized how many opportunities the rodeo industry had: “The industry is one big family that loves the sport, the animals, God, and our country.” 

She officially began her reign as Miss Rodeo Kentucky in January of this year. Her platform is Walking Together in Hope, with a mission of raising awareness of the Shriners Hospital, a personal cause for Rice. When she was 10, Rice herself was a patient there, receiving care for fourth-degree leg burns. When she got to the hospital, she was in a wheelchair and unable to move her legs. “And within a couple of hours, they had me walking out of the hospital, perfectly fine,” says Rice. “It’s just an awesome organization that the Shriners have.” 

As Rice serves as a rodeo ambassador this year, she aims to stay true to herself. “I just want to show America, and the judges, and all the other rodeo contestants, and people involved in the industry who I really am,” says Rice. “And I just want to showcase Kentucky and to show them how proud I am of our state.” 

When Rice isn’t traveling across Kentucky and the nation promoting rodeo and agriculture, she can be found giving horseback riding lessons to area youth. She hopes to open her own equine therapy program one day. 

Abigail Williams, Miss Teen Rodeo Kentucky 

Morning View resident Abigail Williams knows her way around horses. “Equine has been part of my life since I’ve been able to walk,” she says. 

The 17-year-old Holy Cross District High School senior, whose family are Owen Electric consumer-members, previously jumped horses before getting into western pleasure riding. Then a friend suggested she try barrel racing. Williams took her friend’s advice and fell in love with the sport. Her outlook: “Give 110 percent because you never know what opportunity is in front of you.” 

Williams currently competes in pole bending, as well as barrel racing through National Barrel Horse Association and International Barrel Racing Association. 

Williams says it was the mom of her best friend who first suggested she enter the Miss Rodeo Kentucky pageant. However, Williams wasn’t so sure about the idea. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy. I’ve never walked in a dress. I don’t wear heels.’” 

But then she began researching the pageant’s website and even reached out to former 2022 titleholder, Allie Congleton, who offered support. Williams decided to apply. As soon as she arrived at the pageant, she says she realized that’s where she needed to be. Last November, Williams was crowned Miss Teen Rodeo Kentucky and began serving in that role in January. 

What does Williams hope to accomplish as a rodeo queen ambassador? “I’m here to educate, not only on the rodeo side and the equine side, but the agriculture side, because in my hometown many farms are being sold out for subdivisions,” she says. “Nobody’s understanding what it really means to be a part of the agriculture life and the equine life, so I’m just trying to be an advocate for our Western way of life and just educating people.” 

Bellah describes Williams as an old soul in a teenage body, with a sense of responsibility rarely possessed by teenagers these days. “She is so thoughtful and intentional in all that she does and keeps her mind focused on what is right and how it will affect others around her,” says Bellah. 

Williams encourages other young women with an interest in rodeo to visit the Miss Rodeo Kentucky website to learn more. “I really think that if you have a little bit of interest that you might love it,” she says. 

An active 4-H member, Williams currently serves as vice president of the Blazing Bridles 4-H club in Kenton County and president of the Boone County 4-H Young Guns Equestrian Drill Team. This fall, she will attend Murray State University and hopes to compete on the rodeo team there. 

Current Miss Teen Rodeo Kentucky Abigail Williams shows off awards at the Kentucky State Fair 4-H Horse Show in Louisville. Photo: Mary Williams

Carsyn Cecil, Junior Miss Rodeo Kentucky

Carsyn Cecil started riding horses when she was just 3 years old. Her family, Kenergy consumer-members, have enjoyed attending rodeos together since Cecil was a little girl. Even back then, she dreamed of being a barrel racer. A few years later, Cecil made her first run around the barrels. 

“I was like, ‘Hey, I’ll give it a try,’” recalls Cecil. “And then I really liked it, so I just stuck with it.” Now 13, the Owensboro Innovation Middle School eighth grader competes on her horse, Sonny, in both barrel racing and pole bending. 

Cecil also liked was beauty pageants. She was a contestant in both the Miss Pre-Teen and Miss Teen Daviess County pageants. With an interest in both rodeos and pageants, Cecil began looking to see if there was a way to merge the two when she found Miss Rodeo Kentucky. She decided to give it a try, and last November, was selected as the winner in the Junior Miss Rodeo Kentucky division. 

“Getting to represent Kentucky as a rodeo queen is very special to me. It’s such an honor to be able to do it,” she says. 

As this year’s rodeo queen ambassador, Cecil plans to focus on agriculture. “My dad and my grandpa are farmers, so I’ve been on a farm my whole life,” says Cecil, adding that agriculture has a huge impact both in Daviess County and in the state, and she plans to educate youth on the importance of the industry. 

Cecil also hopes to promote literacy. In fact, she plans to visit area elementary schools and read books to at least one class in every school. 

Bellah says Cecil is focused on serving others and her community, noting that she volunteers at her local humane society and has participated in a St. Jude Radiothon. “She is always looking for opportunities to give back to others in selfless ways,” Bellah says. 

In the rodeo arena, Cecil has advice that anyone can use in any forum in life: “Just don’t give up on yourself and keep trying. If something goes wrong, work on that, and then next time, it’ll be better.” 

In 2021 and 2022, Cecil and her horse partner, Sonny, received honors in the 4-H horse show. Her future goals include joining a college rodeo team and later becoming a professional barrel racer. 

Barrel riding thrills 

Watch as UK’s head rodeo coach Kelly Curry rides DWD Driftn Kate at Bulls, Bands, and Barrels in Lexington.

See Curry riding Taxi at one of her Barrel Racing Clinics at K Bar C Ranch

Miss Rodeo Kentucky

Facebook: Miss Rodeo Kentucky, Inc. 

Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.