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Claiming Folsom Pro Rodeo Queen crown takes more than winning smile

By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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It takes more than a pretty face to be a rodeo queen. Riding skills, horsemanship and brains are just as, if not more, important to take the title of Folsom Rodeo Queen. If you?ve ever been to a rodeo, you?ve seen the well-decorated queen and the current contestants race around the arena waving to the crowd. What you may not know is what it takes to earn that title and become the face and voice of the rodeo. Jessica Haynie, of Jamestown in Tuolumne County, is the reigning Folsom Pro Rodeo Queen. She will hand over her title this year. The 23-year-old UC Davis student, who has been going to rodeos since she was a child, began competing when she was 17. She said horsemanship is 50 percent of the overall score for the Folsom Rodeo. ?It?s a big deal,? she said. ?You have to be able to work your horse in reigning patterns, ride, and carry a flag and dash like all (get out) around the arena.? Aside from demonstrating superior abilities on a horse, sometimes not even your own horse, but one from a ?draw? contestants also have to be able to correctly answer questions about horses, equine anatomy and effectively complete a speech and oral interview. ?There are impromptu questions such as, ?if you had a magic wand for a day what would you do,?? Haynie said. ?The judges are trying to catch the girls up to see how they react to different situations.? As Rodeo Queen, Haynie is the face of the rodeo during her reign. She said the whole job is about promoting that rodeo. Jacki Strand, 23, of Chico, is in the running for this year?s crown. She said she?s been preparing for this type of contest her entire life, but only recently started to pursue it seriously. ?I?m grateful for the Folsom community and those that I?ve met there,? she said. ?They have been very welcoming to me competing and are supporting my aspiration to become rodeo queen in Folsom.? She is running against Mariah Demontigny, 23, of Elk Grove. She came in fourth last year. She said her biggest challenge is the speech portion. ?It killed me last year,? she said. ?For some reason I can?t get a speech down to save my life. Ask me about lyrics to a song or a joke and I got it. Speeches I just can?t memorize.? The new queen will be announced June 29, the first night of the rodeo.