Rodeo queen devotes entire life to reign

Miranda Malo

Miranda Malo

Marie Schaller isn’t like the stereotypical rodeo queen. She didn’t compete in rodeo or “grow up” on a horse.

“I’ve always admired rodeo queens growing up. I knew in my heart I had what it took,” she said. “This was something that I decided to do on my own.”

Marie Schaller won her first rodeo queen title, Miss Rodeo SDSU, in 2003.

A year and a half later the Wessington Springs-native and first year graduate student was named Miss Rodeo South Dakota Lady-In-Waiting.

“I want to work to promote the sport of rodeo,” said Schaller, who won the state title in Belle Fourche during the Black Hills Round Up in July.

Some criticize Schaller because she did not enter into queening the way most do.

“Every once in a while I’ll even catch myself thinking, ‘Goll, what are you doing, doing this?’ Then I just remember that it’s my job. I’m a rodeo queen. I promote rodeo and this is my way to get involved,” said Schaller, who is pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum of education.

“I think I had to pull more than my own weight because nobody knew who I was. For people to realize that I’m serious about promoting the sport of rodeo I had to go the extra mile. It’s something that’s very important to me so I’ve put a lot of effort in,” she said.

Even her parents, Lorin and Beverly, were skeptical at first.

“They kind of had the same idea, ‘You’ve never been involved in rodeo. What do you want to do this for?’,” said Schaller, who changed their minds. “They realized it was important to me and they’ve been behind me 100 percent since then.”

It won’t be easy being Miss Rodeo South Dakota, but Schaller is working hard, said Kate Moen, current Miss SDSU Rodeo.

“I definitely think she’s going to have a lot of work ahead of her, as any Miss Rodeo South Dakota would. It helps that she was involved in whatever she could be in,” said Moen, referring to the leadership-type skills Schaller picked up from her involvement in clubs like Post-Secondary Ag Students and Collegiate 4-H.

As a rodeo queen, it’s Schaller ‘s job to be knowledgeable in all of the rodeo events.

“The cowboys and cowgirls are often busy preparing for their event and they don’t always have the time to talk to the fans or the media people, so that’s where the rodeo queen steps in,” she said.

With the queen title comes the responsibility of attending many Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) rodeos, the South Dakota Rodeo Association finals, and making other “appearances”.

This Thursday night Schaller will carry flags for the Last Chance Bonanza, a PRCA rodeo held at the Swiftel Center in Brookings.

“Next year I’ll have an appearance once per month. Appearances vary from year to year,” she said, noting that the summer will find her traveling to rodeos each weekend.

As a former Miss Rodeo SDSU, Schaller has been involved in the rodeo scene since winning the title at the 2003 Jackrabbit Stampede.

“She’s a very good ambassador [of rodeo]. She was very active. She surpassed the effort that it takes to get the job done,” said Terry McCutcheon, SDSU rodeo coach, commenting on Schaller’s performance as a queen.

“She represented us this summer really well. Not only is she a great representative of SDSU’s rodeo, she’s a great representative of South Dakota State University itself in how she presents herself, how she talks with people,” he said.

“She’s super nice and bubbly to everyone,” said Moen.

A typical queen contest consists of horsemanship patterns, short speeches, modeling, and interviews.

“You learn a little bit in each pageant. You improve your speaking. Your confidence improves with each pageant,” said Schaller, who has only participated in a total of four queen contests.

Danci Anderson, 2003 Miss Rodeo South Dakota, has helped Schaller in her pageant preparation.

“Danci’s been right behind me,”said Schaller, who has turned to Anderson for advice on everything from her speeches to her apparel.

“The best part of being a rodeo queen has been the contacts, the people that I’ve met,” she said.

Right now Schaller is busy planning her coronation, a celebration and fundraiser for the year to come.

“I’m getting married to this job. It’s who I am and what I do,” said Schaller, whose reign begins after her Jan. 7 coronation, which will be held at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. There she will receive her crown, chaps, and saddle, and will hold a live and silent auction to raise money for her travel expenses.

After that?

“The fire for Miss Rodeo America will burn,” she said, noting that she’ll be gearing up for the early December contest coming up in Las Vegas. “Miss Rodeo America is the ultimate promoter of rodeo and the western heritage.”

#1.885840:90520517.jpg:Marie Rodeo Queen.jpg:Marie Schaller:Courtesy photo