Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Ashley Baller assumes her role as the first Latina to wear the crown

The PRCA Rodeo is not just about big belt buckles, boots and bulls.

The rodeo queen plays an important role as the face and promoter of the sport, educating people about animal care, event rules and regulations, and celebrating Western culture that is a long-standing part of the United States.

Last Thursday, Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Ashley Baller took her first lap around the Greeley Stampede Arena, donning her custom-made leggings and the traditional turquoise crown attached to her cowboy hat.

The self-proclaimed ‘city girl turned cowgirl’ is the 66th woman to sit in the saddle of Miss Rodeo Colorado and serve as the face of the state of the sport after Hailey Frederiksen held the title for the past two years due to COVID.

Frederiksen went on to win the 2021 Miss Rodeo America title in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Having the opportunity to follow Hailey’s two-year reign and her Miss Rodeo America title win has been an incredible resource for Ashley. Hailey has been very willing to share her knowledge and experience,” said Megan Bryant, Chair of the Miss Rodeo Colorado Committee “However, each queen defines her reign differently, and Ashley has set her own goals for her year as Miss Rodeo Colorado and has had a very successful year so far.”

Ashley Baller, 25, is originally from Colorado and grew up in Parker. As a child, Baller was an active member of 4-H and spent her time competing in eventing and ranching. (Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo Colorado)

In addition to crown responsibilities, Baller has the honor of being the first Latina to be Miss Rodeo Colorado.

“It’s an opportunity and a privilege. It’s something that I’m so proud to be able to represent my culture, my family and their history,” Baller said. “My family came from Spain to Mexico City in the 1500s and lived in northern New Mexico, Santa Fe and southern Colorado.”

As she looks forward to just about everything at the 100th Greeley Stampede, Baller is especially excited to see the Mexican Heritage Celebration Rodeo on Sunday, July 3.

“Jerry Diaz is bringing the show to Greeley, and I couldn’t be more excited,” she said. “What makes Jerry’s show so unique is that it almost feels like a variety of dances. There are so many talented animals and riders and people who go rope riding. It’s really fun to watch. It’s more of a show than a rodeo. It brings this music and this culture that is so different.

Growing up in Parker as a first-generation cowgirl, Baller participated in 4-H programs and participated in numerous ranch events.

Baller admits she was “bitten by the horse bug” at around age 7 when her grandfather taught her to ride a horse. However, Ballers’ first encounters with horses were not the best. She remembers being repeatedly pushed back and almost giving up “those monstrous creatures”.

“The mare I was learning to ride was rearing and rearing, rearing and rearing, and her neck hit me in the face, and I broke both front teeth just before my very first rodeo,” Baller said. “I had all the guts and guts in the world, and I knew this horse was going to dictate the path of my life.”

Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Ashley Baller graduated from Colorado State University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Equine Science and minors in Business Administration and Spanish.  (Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo Colorado)
Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Ashley Baller graduated from Colorado State University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Equine Science and minors in Business Administration and Spanish. (Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo Colorado)

Baller then graduated from Colorado State University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Equine Science as well as minors in Business Administration and Spanish. Baller hopes to add to his education by earning a master’s degree in business administration.

“I knew I wanted to go to school, so I got involved in many leadership organizations so I could finish college debt-free through scholarships and grants,” she said. “And I was able to achieve that.”

Prior to winning the Miss Rodeo Colorado title, Baller was the Multilingual Resources and Communications Manager for the American Quarter Horse Association’s International Department. In this position, Baller helped run programs that enhanced the member experience of AQHA as well as projects that would help grow the breed globally.

“I was able to get my dream job right out of school and I traveled to different countries and registered horses,” Baller said. “In addition to her duties at rodeo events, Baller will greet women vying for the 2023 Miss Rodeo Colorado title. The contest starts on Wednesday June 29 and the winner will be announced on Saturday July 2.

Miss Rodeo Colorado 2023 pageants are Amber Cook from Wellington, Jessica Emmons from Golden and Randilyn Madison from Montrose.

The ladies must show off their skills in various categories, including riding, familiarization, speech, fashion show and coronation events.

Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Ashley Baller.  (Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo Colorado)
Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022 Ashley Baller. (Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo Colorado)

The public can attend Miss Rodeo Colorado events as well as the fashion show and coronation ceremony.

For more information on the schedule and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3tWR7Mj.

Miss Rodeo Colorado was founded in 1955 to support young people who want to further promote the sport of rodeo in Colorado and celebrate the state’s western heritage and culture. The Greeley Stampede has hosted the Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant and events since 1990.

Like Frederiksen, Baller will compete in the Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas once the rodeo season is over.

“Ashley will be working on the same areas that most contestants focus on preparing for the Miss Rodeo America Pageant, which includes study of current affairs, rodeo knowledge and general horse knowledge,” Nyla said. Bristow, member of the Miss Rodeo Colorado committee. “Impromptu speaking practice will also be a focus, along with modeling and interview skills.”

2020/21 Miss Rodeo America Jordan Tierney places the winning sash on Miss Rodeo Colorado Hailey Frederiksen at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant on Sunday December 5, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV.  (Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo America)
2020/21 Miss Rodeo America Jordan Tierney places the winning sash on Miss Rodeo Colorado Hailey Frederiksen at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant on Sunday December 5, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo America)

If Baller wins Miss Rodeo America, it will be the first time in the pageant’s history that two contestants from the same state have won back-to-back.

“At the end of the day, I just want to show kindness and be an inspiration to others,” Baller said.

The 100th Greeley Stampede runs until Monday, July 4. For more information, visit www.greeleystampede.org.

Edward K. Thompson