2012 Miss Rodeo South Dakota Courtney Peterson coronation event raises $30,000
Nearly 400 people made time on Saturday, Jan. 7 to attend the 2012 Miss Rodeo South Dakota (MRSD) Coronation festivities in Sisseton, SD. Courtney Peterson, who was officially crowned at the event, was overwhelmed by her community’s support.
“People from the community that have nothing to do with horses or rodeo came to support me,” Peterson said of the turnout. Each incoming state rodeo queen has the responsibility of planning her coronation event, which doubles as a fundraising endeavor for her year-long reign. Saturday night’s festivities included a social hour, silent auction, dinner, coronation, live auction and dance. After speaking with past MRSD queens, Peterson set her fundraising goal at $20,000.
She was unsure if she met her goal that night, since Sisseton isn’t a huge community. But the figure was easily surpassed on auction items alone, with the night’s total just over $30,000.
“Some people gave a lot; but everyone gave a little,” Peterson said.
One outpouring of community generosity was the donation of 10 ropes and a custom saddle. Peterson explained that 14 families and businesses purchased a saddle from Sisseton’s local feed store along with 10 ropes, which people would have to purchase for a chance to win the saddle. “The ropes kept going higher and higher throughout the auction. It made it fun and people were really interested in it,” she said. When it was all said and done, Peterson figured the ropes averaged $600 – starting at $325 and building to $975.
“Everyone who purchased a rope was asked to come to the front of the room,” Peterson said, as a way to acknowledge their generosity. Once everyone was assembled, a number was drawn one at a time until there was only one person left standing; they became the lucky recipient of the saddle.
Auction items were practical in nature, such as hay hauling services, Peterson said, which boosted fundraising endeavors. Donations came in all forms – some a complete surprise. At the beginning of the night Peterson knew of 120 donations, but by evening’s end, 180 items sold.
“The generosity of the community was overwhelming,” Peterson said. When asked if she had any difficulty soliciting donations, she was quick to respond “no,” noting that people volunteered to help gather donations. “It wasn’t like I had to pull teeth for fundraising.”
The next challenge on Peterson’s radar is to wisely budget these funds to fuel her reign in 2012. “Now I can do my job right and not have to worry about being able to attend this event or that event,” Peterson said of contributions. “I can’t spend it all on a pretty dress or flashy belts.”
Travel is the largest money item for MRSD, and Peterson’s schedule is already filling up. From Jan. 15 through Feb. 21 she will be home a total of eight days. “If someone wants me to attend an event, I want to be able to go,” she said.
Peterson’s schedule is entirely up to her, thanks to flexibility provided by the MRSD Board of Directors. It will include a variety of in-state and out-of-state events, which will aid her preparation for the Miss Rodeo America contest in Las Vegas next December. In-state events help encourage younger girls to compete for the crown title; out-of-state events help MRSD queens interact with a variety of people.
“Without supporting in-state events, you don’t have many future queen candidates,” Peterson said. “In South Dakota we have a lot of younger queen titles that you can run for. Most of the visiting queens at my coronation event weren’t even 18 yet. These girls are learning skills you can still use after you’ve taken off the crown.”
Peterson laughed when she recounted how her father had her working cattle most of the week leading up to the coronation event. “It’s a good thing I had to wear a long dress so people wouldn’t see all my bruises,” she said after helping a neighbor pregnancy-check cattle and work a group of calves. “I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything.”
Peterson’s family has been in Sisseton for five generations when her great-great-grandfather came to the area from Sweden. The closest hills are the Coteau Hills, complete with brush and rough pastures, which makes horses a must to move cattle.
“I learned from a young age that you don’t cry; and if you fall off, you get back on because they’re waiting for you back at the corrals,” Peterson said. One mile west of her home is rangeland, a mile east is dark, flat farmland. There they raise cattle, corn, wheat and soybeans.
Peterson graduated from South Dakota State University in May 2011 with degrees in agriculture business and agriculture resources and economics. She began pursuing a master’s degree in agriculture economics, which she’s put on hold during her MRSD reign. “It would be nice to go back into production agriculture, but I have three brothers,” she said. “I think my future career will be educating people about where their food comes from and why.”
The tomboy-turned-cowgirl hasn’t stopped pursuing her dream, despite challenges she and her family have faced. After the horrible winter conditions of 1997, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was five years before she died, leaving Peterson’s father with four kids under the age of 15. “How many people have quit when something got hard?” Peterson asked. The loss of her mother left Peterson without a clue as to how to apply makeup or do her hair. Despite this, her coronation event was anything but a pity party.
“I never thought I could be Miss Rodeo South Dakota, but a few ladies along the way encouraged me not to give up. If you have a dream, no matter how impossible it seems, don’t give up and go for it,” she reflected, stating her family has been lucky to grow up around people who encouraged them to “go after your dream.”
“It’s not about the turnout we had at my coronation, the money we raised, or what I do with my year – it’s about not giving up on a dream,” she concluded.
Hometown: Sisseton, SD
Family: Father, Mark; brothers Matt (24), Darin (17), and Derek (14)
Favorite rodeo sport (to watch): Saddle bronc, especially when my brothers are riding
Favorite rodeo sport (to compete in): Goat tying
Do you have a favorite cowboy/cowgirl? Who? Hands down, Billy Etbauer. A South Dakota native who has the record for the most go- round wins during the National Finals Rodeo, and is still one of the most humble people to talk to.
What’s your favorite mount (horse, 4-wheeler, bicycle, pickup truck)? Horse, unless it’s freezing out. Then the floor heater in the pickup is my best friend.
Favorite rodeo queen memory: A few years ago during the Brookings rodeo, I was riding a horse named “Skeeter.” When we had almost completed our lap around the arena, he blew, bucking so hard my crown came off my hat. Since then, Skeeter and I have our share of bonding (and bucking) moments. Nine times out of ten, he’s the pick of the litter, but whenever I’m carrying flags for that particular stock contractor, he always keeps me on my toes!
Role models: My older brother Matt; he’s very quiet and serious most of the time, but is extremely dedicated to family and the hardest worker I know, always planning for the future. Any one with a vision or passion in life intrigues me; they always possess qualities I would like to emulate.
Favorite place to visit in South Dakota? There is a great sushi place that recently opened up in Rapid City. Or Clear Lake during the Crystal Springs Ranch Rodeo.
What’s your best hairstyling tip? Hair looks the best when it’s healthy, regardless of how it’s styled. I get mine trimmed every three months, and I am a big fan of Dove conditioner!
One piece of “bling” you wouldn’t want to live without: Earrings. It’s not very often I go without them.
Favorite activity to do on the ranch? After spending what seems like all summer putting up hay, I love the feeling after all the hay stacks get moved into the yard in the fall. It feels like a huge security blanket that makes me want to say, “Bring it on, winter! We’re ready.”