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Becoming Miss Livingston Roundup

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Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Claree Tecca trades horses with fellow contestant Amber LaCross before performing rail work during the horsemanship part of the pageant competition on Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Livingston. The contestants have to switch horses for the final piece of the competition so the judges can see how well the contestants handle a horse that they have not trained or worked with before.

For the first time in three years, a new Miss Livingston Roundup will be crowned.

Under normal circumstances, the queen crowned at the Livingston Roundup Rodeo serves for one year before going on to compete for Miss Rodeo Montana. If she wins there, she will go to Las Vegas to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America. 

But in 2019 there weren’t enough contestants to hold a competition for a new queen. Then, in 2020, COVID-19 hit, preventing the rodeo from happening at all and halting a rodeo queen tradition dating back to the 1950s. 

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Briann Grimshaw, pets her horse, Buddy, during the pageant competition on Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Livingston.

This year, however, there are two women competing for the title: Amber LaCross, 21, a Bozeman native and a senior at Montana State University studying early childhood education, and Claree Tecca, 22, a fourth generation Livingston resident who works construction with her father and brother and owns a property management company with her mother. 

One of them will replace Briann Grimshaw, holder of the Miss Livingston Roundup title for the past three years.

Last Saturday, LaCross and Tecca spent the first half of the day in the arena where they were judged on their horsemanship abilities. They were asked to memorize and perform reigning patterns, flag carries and rail work. After completing the horsemanship challenges, the two women did one-on-one interviews with the judges and took a written exam. They were also tested on modeling and public speaking.

The new queen will be named during the rodeo Sunday night. 

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Claree Tecca, left, and Amber LaCross, right, sitting before the judges on horses during the horsemanship part of the pageant competition on Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Livingston. The contestants have to switch horses for the final piece of the competition so the judges can see how well the contestants handle a horse that they have not trained or worked with before.

To Tecca, being a queen is more about representing horsemanship and rodeo than just being a "pretty face." She said a big misconception is that they "know more about makeup than we do horses."

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Claree Tecca, 22, is a fourth-generation Montanan living on a ranch in Paradise Valley. Tecca said she grew up surrounded by horses. Her dad was a professional bull rider, her brother was a saddle bronc rider, and her mom played polo. "I just love going to rodeos and having a great time," she said. "I enjoy being in the arena and getting to help pick-up men. I just think it's a lot of fun, you know, pushing cows and just getting to interact with people.”

"We're not super, you know, 'girly-girls.' Like, the most makeup I ever wore was at the pageant on Saturday. I had to buy a curling iron just to do this competition," Tecca said.

LaCross said that "queening" appeals to her because it marries her two passions, teaching and rodeo.

She said she tried to run for the Miss Livingston Roundup title last year before COVID hit, “so it’s kind of been a two-year process for me.”

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Amber LaCross, 21, was born in Bozeman and ranches with her family on the north end of the Bridger Mountains. Growing up, LaCross said she always watched the queens at the rodeo. "It's always been something that interested me," she said.

“Just the little experience I’ve had with working in Big Timber and Wilsall. It would be amazing to be able to push that even further and go to some of the other PRCA rodeos and even some of the other NRA rodeos. it would just be an honor,” she said.

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Amber LaCross, unsaddles her horse after competing in the horsemanship portion of the pageant competition on Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Livingston.

Queen Director Carla Williams says she has seen the pageant evolve a lot since she was a kid. She remembers when queens only wore jeans, boots and a hat. Now she says they change two or three times during the pageant competition.

Contestants are also expected to be able to answer questions about everything rodeo: the PRC guidelines, who the top ranked cowboy is that day, horsemanship and bovine health.

In a day, a rodeo queen might do interviews, sing the national anthem, push cattle, carry the flag, educate the public, participate in a parade, sign autographs or help organize and run a kiddie rodeo.

“They’re basically the ambassadors of rodeo,” Williams said.

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Claree Tecca, far right, checks her shoes before her one-on-one interview with the judges on Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Livingston. Meanwhile, Miss Southeastern Montana Rodeo Teen Queen Adrianna Eller, left, and current Miss Livingston Roundup Briann Grimshaw, center, wait for the other contestant, Amber LaCross, to return from her interview.

For her part, the outgoing queen, Briann Grimshaw, is excited to start preparing for the Miss Rodeo Montana which will happen in Great Falls in August.

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Briann Grimshaw, 23, has held the Miss Livingston Roundup title for the past three years. Grimshaw grew up on a family ranch in Montana breeding and raising quarter horses. She says being a rodeo queen is like a typical pageant. "It's just our talent is our ability to ride horses and our rodeo knowledge instead of just the general current events sort of knowledge. We also have to have rodeo with equine and Western knowledge on top of it.”

“In terms of my reign is going to end in a few days, I’m not sure that it’s quite hit me yet.” she said. “I’m sure come next Monday it will have hit me that I don’t have to be at a rodeo almost every day of the summer and I will not be quite as busy as I have been for these past three years.”

Rodeo Queen, Photo Page

Briann Grimshaw, current Miss Livingston Roundup, watches contestants compete to become the next Miss Livingston Roundup during the horsemanship part of the pageant competition on Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Livingston.

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Rachel Leathe is a Chronicle staff photographer. She can be reached at rleathe@dailychronicle.com.

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