Nebraska siblings serve as queens
Rural Nebraska sisters, Bailey and Brooke Lehr, are sharing more than their sisterly bond this year after, for the first time ever, two sisters have won state level rodeo queen titles in the same year. In June, the pair competed in the 65th Annual Miss Rodeo Nebraska Pageant, resulting in Bailey, 20, being crowned 2022 Miss Rodeo Nebraska and Brooke, 16, being crowned 2021 Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte, Nebraska.
The Lehrs grew up in Columbus, Nebraska, where horses and cows have always been a part of their lives, although their parents run a truck stop in the small town, both parents come from large Nebraska cattle operations.
“Honestly, it all started in 4-H,” says Bailey. “We had some friends say, ‘Hey, you should try rodeo,’ so there were the little kid junior rodeos and then it got a little more serious with Junior High Rodeo and it was so much fun.”
While Bailey took a break from rodeo during high school to focus on sports, Brooke’s break from rodeo was forced upon her in eighth grade after a horse wreck left her with a traumatic brain injury when her horse had a heart attack coming around the third barrel during practice.
“My horse died directly on top of me,” Brooke says. “Thankfully my mom is a nurse and she ran over and resuscitated me, my good friend called 9-1-1 and I was life flighted from there.”
The road to recovery wasn’t easy, but Brooke says she feels blessed and thankful to be back in the saddle and that the accident didn’t turn out worse.
On the plus side, the accident pushed her towards becoming a rodeo queen, with encouragement from their mom, who says that queening is somewhat safer than other rodeo events.
Both sisters have held numerous queen titles in the past, Bailey being the Miss Clearwater Rodeo Queen, Miss Oregon Trail Rodeo Queen, Miss Old West Trail Rodeo Queen and Miss Nuckolls County Rodeo Queen and Brooke holding the Little Miss Burwell Rodeo, Miss Old West Trail Princess and Miss Clearwater Rodeo Queen titles.
“When it came to Miss Rodeo Nebraska, I just felt that I was ready for it,” Bailey says. “There are just certain times for certain things and I just looked at my future and felt that this fit into my timing perfectly to try for it this year.”
Bailey recently graduated from Central Community College and is preparing for her first semester at Kansas State University this fall where she will be majoring in agricultural business. She is undecided yet if she will take online classes during her reign, which will begin on January 1, 2022 and end on December 31, 2022. During her year as Miss Rodeo Nebraska, Bailey’s responsibilities will include representing the state at all local PRCA rodeos, as well as many out of state.
“My biggest goal for this year is to travel,” Bailey says. “They give you a list of things to attend, but if you want to attend anything outside of that, you can do so personally. I want to go to Pendleton, Calgary, Houston, it’s on my bucket list to hit as many big rodeos as I can to represent rodeo in Nebraska.”
Brooke, as Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska will be sent to all the amateur rodeos in the state. While Bailey will be provided a different horse to ride at each pro rodeo she attends, Brooke hauls her one-eyed Quarter Horse mare with her to each of her assigned rodeos.
“Me and her work well together,” Brooke says. “When we’re in the arena it’s all business and we’re not fooling around. You would think flags or the crowd would bother her having only one eye, but she does great and it doesn’t faze her.”
Having grown up with horses, both sisters agree that the horsemanship portion of their respective competitions were their favorite parts of the competition, although Bailey had just come off of crutches from her third torn ACL and meniscus the week prior.
“We don’t bring a horse, we just get a random draw and I love that,” Bailey says. “It’s fair and equal and really comes down to who is going to handle the horse best and it’s reflective of what rodeo queening really is.”
The biggest challenge for Bailey though, was the style competition where the contestants had to learn a dance, then perform it. Needless to say, one of Bailey’s accessories for her outfit that day was a knee brace.
Throughout their years of queening, the sisters have collected outfits that are quite literally fit for queens, some custom made and some happened upon used and for sale from former rodeo queens. Last year, Bailey bought a used blue leather queen dress and months later Brooke also found a similar colored blue, used leather dress from a different queen. After they posted a picture in their similar dresses on social media, they were blown away when a designer commented that she had created both dresses.
Some things, like the fitted leather dresses, can be pricey, but sometimes there are ways to cut corners, like buying western shirts from thrift stores and taking them to a tailor to be fitted and fancied up.
“It’s really important how your clothes fit, you don’t want them too baggy or too tight, you really want them to fit just right,” Bailey says. “No matter what, jewelry will pull an outfit together.”
And of course, for the few rodeos that the pair get to travel to together, the sisters will be able to share accessories or flag boots, as the situations arise.
For now, while Brooke is traveling and representing the state as Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska until June of next year, Bailey is traveling as the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Lady In Waiting until her coronation on January 1, when she will take over as Miss Rodeo Nebraska.
“Me and Bailey go to a lot of rodeos together anyway, so traveling and promoting the state of Nebraska and this sport together is going to be a lot of fun,” Brooke says.
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