by Kellie Henderson
||2006 Miss Rodeo Alabama Amanda Buckelew shops Opp’s Co-op regularly for Horizon Horse Feed in addition to supplies for their poultry farm.
Amanda Buckelew of Opp is exactly the kind of person you like to see do well. Smart, hardworking, personable, and refreshingly unaware of how adorable she is, the 2006 Miss Rodeo Alabama is going to make a fine representative for the state and the sport of rodeo.
Last year’s First Alternate, Amanda has competed in the Junior and Senior divisions of the Miss Rodeo Alabama competition for 5 years, and this year she took her victory lap around Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum during the second Saturday performance of the Southeastern Livestock Exposition (SLE) and Rodeo in March.
"I rode in the 4:00 Grand Entry as last year’s first alternate, and during the intermission about 5:00 the contestants entered the arena for the announcement of this year’s Queens. They announced the Junior Queen, the Senior First Alternate, and then Miss Rodeo Alabama. I was a little nervous, my horse was nervous, Mama was in the stands filming, and Daddy and several of my family members were up there on pins and needles. Then, they called my name," Amanda said.
Amanda’s parents, Jeff and Tammy Buckelew of Opp, have been Amanda’s biggest supporters, and Tammy says the whole family is excited about her achievement.
"Even her brother Ty is so proud of her, and he doesn’t get excited about anything," says Tammy.
After her victory lap, Amanda was whisked off for about two hours of photos and a quick bite to eat, then she was back on her horse and in the Coliseum for the Grand Entry of the 7:30 performance.
"During the rodeo that night, I got to ride in the wagon with several of the SLE members, some Junior Cattlemen, the Junior Miss Rodeo Alabama, and Miss Rodeo Mississippi. But the most fun thing of the night was riding in the barrel truck before and after the barrel racing," she said.
|Amanda Buckelew (right) with her breakaway roping mare 2K. Amanda is thankful for Opp’s Co-op Manager Ben Courson (left) and Opp’s Co-op’s support of her efforts in the Rodeo Queen contest.
Amanda’s rodeo roots run deep, and she credits her mother with her love of horses. "Mama is a barrel racer, and I was at the horse shows with her when I was still in diapers. She used to let me trot around the barrels as soon as I was old enough to sit a horse. I was in 7th grade before Mama felt comfortable letting me compete," said Amanda.
"She won fifth place at the end of the year in barrels, and received her first award. It was a pink T-shirt. She still has it and still wears it," said her mother.
Amanda has continued to run barrels since she was 12 in the Opp Saddle Club and the Dixie Barrel Racing Association. She was involved in the Covington County 4-H program and held several state 4-H titles, including 2003 Breakaway Roping Champion. She competed in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, and breakaway roping in the Alabama High School Rodeo Association. Amanda was also the 2002 Miss Opp Saddle Club and the 2003 Miss Rodeo Covington County, and said these experiences were invaluable.
"If it were not for the Covington County Rodeo and the Opp Saddle Club, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If they have any local competitions in the area, I encourage anyone interested in rodeo to take advantage of that experience. I also would encourage any cowgirl to be in the queen’s contest. I’ve made so many friends, and sponsors allow families like mine who are on a budget to compete," she said.
Amanda would like to give a special thanks to all the family and friends who have supported her efforts, and the sponsors who helped her accomplish her dream.
"As Miss Rodeo Alabama, I am excited to promote my state, the sport of rodeo, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, the SLE, and the beef industry. I have the unique opportunity to travel across the country and experience the true meaning of the Western lifestyle, none of which would have been possible without the encouragement and financial support of my sponsors, my friends and family," she said.
Amanda has had the first-hand look at farm life to motivate her promotion of agriculture. She and her family have a 40-acre farming operation in Covington County including four poultry houses and eight horses, which is why she has such a good relationship with one of her sponsors, Opp’s Co-op, Inc. General Manager Ben Courson said Opp and the local Co-op are proud of Amanda.
"Here at the Co-op, we really enjoy sponsoring rodeos. Our sponsorship is a great way for us to support the community and encourage youth’s interest in agriculture. Maybe one day my little girls will want to be cowgirls, too," Ben said.
Amanda says anyone interested in competing for the title of Miss Rodeo Alabama should know it’s never too early to prepare.
"Public speaking skills are very important, and so is good information for the speech and interview portions of the pageant. Contestants should practice their riding skills to prepare for the horsemanship patterns, because horsemanship is much more than just staying on. And again, start small. Become involved in local rodeo and horse club events," Amanda says.
Amanda remains involved in several barrel racing series in her area and is a coordinator for the Opp Saddle Club Queen’s Pageant. She has an Associate degree from Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia and is currently a junior at Troy State University pursuing a degree in Elementary Education. Amanda says she loves being outdoors, and when she’s not working or studying, she enjoys riding her horses, fishing, waterskiing, and just being with her family and friends.
Already Amanda has had to begin her preparation for national competition in Las Vegas later this year, and she is looking for the sponsors who can help her make it out there.
"I’m so excited about Nationals and just traveling out there. The farthest I’ve ever been from home is North Carolina, so it’s exciting to think about making the trip to Las Vegas," Amanda said.
Amanda’s mother is already looking forward to the trip too. "I got the map out this week, and Nevada sure is a long way out there," Tammy said with a laugh.
Amanda says when her rodeo days are over, she’d still like to stay involved with horses. "It’s in my blood. I’d like to breed mares to produce the next generation of roping and barrel racing champions," she said.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.