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‘Give-back’ time for new Miss Rodeo America

As the Miss Rodeo America competition rolled on day-by-day last week, Kennadee Riggs made sure to start out each day right. She first got good with God. Then she took to her daily journal.

“I’d pray every day to be calm. That swallowed up my nerves, and I was able to be myself,” Riggs said. “And I kept a journal all week long, and each day, I would start off by writing: ‘Another day of miracles.’ ”

On Sunday at the South Point, Riggs was elevated from her role of Miss Rodeo Arizona, winning the annual Miss Rodeo America Pageant. So she will represent the rodeo world throughout 2023. The win took her right back to her daily journal entries.

“The best way I could describe this last week is in one word: miracles,” Riggs said.

In a field of 28 state rodeo queens, it came down to just two: Miss Rodeo Arizona — Riggs — and Miss Rodeo South Dakota Adrianne Schaunaman.

“It trickled down to me and one of my best friends, which you’d think would be awkward, but it was really special,” Riggs said. “I think she would’ve made a better Miss Rodeo America than I would have. I was at so much peace either way.”

When the judges found in Riggs’ favor to wear the Miss Rodeo America sash for the next year, she even more appreciated that friendship with Schaunaman. Riggs said Schaunaman was nothing but gracious and supportive from the moment on stage where two contestants were whittled down to one winner.

“That’s because of the good heart that Adrianne has. I’m very thankful for her,” Riggs said. “We talked afterward, and we’re gonna be good friends forever. I’m living her dream, but she’s choosing to be happy for me. I couldn’t be more touched by her example.”

But what about Riggs’ reaction to all this, as over the next year, she takes on the huge responsibilities of being a national ambassador for the sport and the Western way of life?

“I was so stunned. But I was mostly sentimental,” she said. “There’s just so much joy and pride for my family. It’s seven generations of cowboys, ranching and rodeo. The reason I even ran for Miss Rodeo America is because my family says to give back to the people and things that have blessed you.

“And the Western lifestyle has blessed me. It’s shaped the family I ended up with, the childhood I had and the person I’ve become. This is my give-back to God, family and the Western way of life.”

On Tuesday night, as the Wrangler National Finals sixth go-round began, Riggs made her first major public appearance since the coronation. She got to ride out in front of 18,000 rodeo fans at the Thomas & Mack Center. It was quite a pulse-elevating moment for the cowgirl from Queen Creek, Ariz.

“The thing running through my heart and mind was the (NFR) contestants who’ve seen me grow up, like Junior Nogueira, and my parents seated there in the front row,” Riggs said. “It was special to have them there, watching me grow up in front of their very eyes.”

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