Ericka and I first connected in our college’s equine arena when our trainer asked me to work with her for a little bit one night. Who knew we’d reconnect a few years later when Ericka was Miss Rodeo New York?
Ericka initially reached out because she needed some updated headshots for upcoming events and the Miss Rodeo America pageant at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. But as we got talking, we quickly realized that this was an incredible accomplishment and really special time in her life that deserved to be commemorated in portraits. She was on a tight timeline for her headshots, so we did a quick session in Warnerville, NY to take those and have them ready in time, then we met up at Dorchester Park in Whitney Point, NY for her full portrait session in October. The leaves weren’t quite as far along as we had hoped, but my, was that evening beautiful.
I’m a sucker for details, and these custom chaps and vest are something special. Ericka had these chaps made for her with her own tastes, but kept the future Miss Rodeo New Yorks that may wear them in mind. Anything really specific to her or 2022 can be removed and replaced with straps customized to a future Miss Rodeo New York, but the chaps as a whole are a tribute to our great state and the people within it.
“I designed my chaps to tell the story of my family immigrating from Holland to settle in Schenectady, New York, where I grew up in the outdoors. I included the skyline of New York City with a focus on the twin towers to honor my grandfather, the military, and all of the first responders that helped save lives on 9/11. This is something that is very close to my heart and has had a huge impact on our country.
“My chaps also display a beaver, rose, bluebird, and apple to portray our state symbols. These symbols have meaning to me as a trapper and to the state of New York as they represent our wildlife and agriculture.”
You can read the full blog she wrote about her chaps for Miss Rodeo America here.
I love really getting to know my clients and I was interested to know more about how someone becomes Miss Rodeo New York and what that year looks like. So, if you’re as curious as me, here’s what Ericka said:
“To become Miss Rodeo New York, you first have to submit an application that the judges will look at to get to know you, and then once it’s pageant weekend, the girls will compete in horsemanship, interview, written test, current event question, and impromptu questions. Before running for the Miss Rodeo New York title, I began coaching with Lisa Lucia (Miss Rodeo America 2017), Katherine Merck (Miss Rodeo America 2016) and Nicole Jordan (Miss Rodeo Idaho 2020-2021). These women helped me practice my interviews and rodeo knowledge. Once I became Miss Rodeo New York I attended the Miss Rodeo Texas clinic.
“Being Miss Rodeo New York, we have certain appearances that are required; this tends to be through our sponsors — Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, Windey Acres, Cowgirl Couture, Gerry Rodeo, Adirondack Stampede and First Frontier Circuit Finals. Throughout the year a variety of rodeos/rodeo committees will reach out to our national director to invite the current Miss title holder to their rodeo. Besides making rodeo appearances, we will attend school visits, hospital visits and anything in between that will help promote and educate the agriculture and the western way of life.”
Our state Miss Rodeo title holders do so much to advocate (and agvocate) for us, and it means they have some pretty cool opportunities. I asked Ericka if there was one thing from the past year that she didn’t want to forget, and here’s what she said:
“There are multiple events that took place that I wouldn’t want to forget, but the biggest take away would be saying yes to every opportunity possible. By saying yes, I traveled to all 4 corners of the United States, which concluded in over 30,000 miles between flying and driving. When you become a state title holder you are told your year is what you make of it and that is very true.
“There were so many cool experiences but one that will stay near and dear to my heart is being able to spend 9 days in Alaska with Miss Rodeo Alaska Mykie. I had dreamed of going there since I was a little girl and being able to make it happen this year was unbelievable. It truly is hard to only share 1 cool experience because when we go to events and each rodeo, the committees go above and beyond to make us girls feel at home. Most places would set up tours for different monuments for us to visit, or like Florida, where we went hog hunting.
“One thing I’ll miss about being Miss Rodeo New York would be meeting people from all over and hearing their stories. As I traveled this year, whether it was in New York or out of state, I would run into at least one person that had either been to New York or lived in New York and being able to talk about the way we grew up and how they are involved in rodeo meant the most to me.”
Her advice to the next Miss Rodeo New Yorks? “Truly embrace what this year has to offer. This year is meant for growth, within us, and for the people whose lives you impact. And in the words of Lauren Alaina, ‘don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled.’”
If you’re celebrating a special event or accomplishment, I’d love to chat about commemorating that with a special portrait session. You will revisit those memories for years to come, what better way to relive them than through portraits you can hang on the walls of your home and see every single day?