CSU rodeo queens showcase commitment to industry through ‘ag-vocacy’

Ashley Baller Hailey Frederiksen miss rodeo

From the top of their cowboy hats to the heels of their boots, 2022’s Miss Rodeo America Hailey Frederiksen and Miss Rodeo Colorado Ashley Baller are the embodiment of rodeo and agriculture in Colorado. 

But their commitment to both runs much deeper than their polished appearance. The rodeo queens exemplify skilled horsemanship and a keen understanding of the agricultural industry, something they both attribute in part to their time at Colorado State University. 

“My time at CSU really helped kickstart my platform as an advocate and promoter of agriculture,” said Frederiksen, 24, who graduated in 2019 with a major in animal science and a minor in agricultural business. After serving as Miss Rodeo Colorado for two terms during the pandemic, Frederiksen went on to win the 2022 national title. 

“I’m really proud of the equine science program because it allowed me access to so many opportunities and the wealth of industry professionals that they have there,” said Baller. The 25-year-old from Parker, Colorado, graduated from CSU in 2018 with a major in equine science and minors in business administration and Spanish. She’s also the first predominantly Latina Miss Rodeo Colorado in the competition’s history. 

Fresh on the heels of completing a whirlwind 29 rodeos in 16 days at the National Western Stock Show, the rodeo queens spoke to SOURCE about their roles as stewards of the industry, the impact CSU has had on their lives after graduation and just what exactly it means to be an “ag-vocate.” 

Q: How did you both get started in rodeo queening?

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Formerly Miss Rodeo Colorado 2020/21, Hailey Frederiksen is the 2022 Miss Rodeo America. Photo courtesy of Miss Rodeo America

Hailey: I like to say that I knew how to ride before I could even sit up. My mom barrel raced, and my dad was a team roper. There are pictures of my mom plopping me in the saddle going to barrel races, and my dad doing leadline classes with me in barrels. I practically grew up in the saddle; and to this day, I’m more comfortable there than I am anywhere else. 

I also grew up in a very prominent agricultural community in Platteville, Colorado, so I got involved in 4-H early. I was an active 4-H member for 11 years showing market and breeding swine. A lot of our friends and family farmed or ranched, so we saw the time and the work that went into running an operation. A lot of people misunderstand everything that requires, and that really propelled me into my passion for not only rodeo, but the agricultural lifestyle, as well.

miss rodeo Colorado ashley baller
Ashley Baller is the first Latina to be crowned Miss Rodeo Colorado in the competition’s history. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Ashley: When I was 12, I stumbled upon a clinic for the Elizabeth Stampede, which is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo in my neck of the woods. From there, I fell in love with queening. My first title was Elbert County Fair Princess in 2010 and then Deer Trail Rodeo Attendant for two years, then Elbert County Fair Queen and then Elizabeth Stampede Attendant. Rodeo queening taught me how to speak in public and how to present myself with confidence, grace and poise, but it also really challenged my limits as a horse woman. For me, it was the pinnacle of being an advocate for the agricultural industry, rodeo and Colorado’s Western traditions. It was also something that I felt could really help propel me forward in the agricultural industry and allow me to have an impact and inspire others.

Q: How did your time at CSU influence you in this role? 

ashley baller miss rodeo colorado
Miss Rodeo Colorado Ashley Baller rides at the 2022 National Western Stock Show. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Ashley: As a member of 4-H, CSU Extension was my first introduction to Colorado State University, and it definitely had an impact. Being a CSU graduate means a lot to me as Miss Rodeo Colorado. I use the education I received at CSU every single day. As I’m sitting here at the Coliseum, at the National Western Stock Show and looking straight across at the Colorado State University sign, for me I feel a lot of pride. I’m proud of Colorado, and I’m proud of coming from Colorado State University and their impact here, including at the new CSU Spur campus. What I love most about this new state-of-the-art campus is how it centralizes CSU’s community influence within our state. Specific to the Temple Grandin Equine Center, it provides a facility where horses and humans can heal, learn and grow together. To have something of that high caliber right in our back pocket is huge for increasing collaboration between rural and urban communities.  

Hailey: I had a phenomenal time at CSU. The faculty and the Animal Sciences Department there were just amazing. And it’s so great – now in this title that I hold – getting to see their impact outside of the campus. My time at CSU really helped kickstart my platform as an advocate and promoter of agriculture. When I won the title Miss Rodeo Colorado, I knew that I wanted my platform to be not only about the sport of rodeo, but agriculture, as well. 

Q: Hailey, you ran on a platform of “ag-vocacy,” what does that phrase mean? 

Hailey: It’s about being an advocate for agriculture. What that means to me is representing the men and women that work hard around the clock. It’s a very misconstrued industry that is constantly being critiqued, and I think it’s something that needs to be put in the spotlight with the facts behind it. I think a lot of people tend to look to social media or other platforms that don’t always have the best things to say about the industry. Instead, I think they need to know about all the work that goes into agriculture and understand the stories behind the families that farm and ranch. My goal is to share those stories and share those facts. 

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions people have about the agricultural industry? 

hailey frederiksen miss rodeo america
Miss Rodeo America Hailey Frederiksen carries the American flag at the 2022 National Western Stock Show, January 15, 2022. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Hailey: I would say probably one of the biggest misconceptions of the Western lifestyle in general is that we don’t treat our animals with the utmost respect, and that is not the case. We pride ourselves on the respect of our animals, and that’s why we need to share those stories, both in the rodeo arena and on working farms and ranches. When I went to CSU, I got to take a class from Temple Grandin, who we all know is the founder of the animal welfare movement in agriculture and in the sport of rodeo. The time I learned under Dr. Grandin was such a pivotal moment for me in understanding the importance of promoting animal welfare. There is so much that goes unseen by the public eye when it comes to the purchase and consumption of animal proteins, such as the animal husbandry practices that go into producing a quality product. Quality animals start with quality care, and that is what we need to bring “to the table” for the everyday consumer to understand. Dr. Grandin’s way of viewing the livestock industry is practical, efficient and refreshing. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to learn from her as I did. 

Q: Speaking of misconceptions, I bet a lot of people have some about what goes into being Miss Rodeo Colorado and Miss Rodeo America. What are some of the duties involved in this role? 

Ashley: A rodeo queen’s core responsibilities are to advocate for the agricultural and Western industries, as well as educate others about agriculture. We are feeding the future of the globe with more people and fewer resources and land, and it’s kind of a dying breed. We’re extremely passionate about educating others and promoting this industry that we love. In addition, you can find us at community events where they need a spokesperson who is an inspiration and a role model. We want to inspire youth and give them someone to look up to, someone to want to be like. That’s so important today more than ever because those lines can be blurred as far as what clear role models there are for youth. We’re really the original brand ambassador. People throw around the word influencer these days on social media, but rodeo queens – since their inception around the 1950s – have been the model of the Western brand. And that brand is integrity, respect, confidence and boldness. 

Q: Ashley, you made history as the first Latina Miss Rodeo Colorado. What does that mean to you?

ashley baller miss rodeo colorado
Miss Rodeo Colorado Ashley Baller rides at the 2022 National Western Stock Show. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Ashley: For me, it’s an honor and a unique way to have an impact on the industry. As the first predominantly Latina Miss Rodeo Colorado, a primary part of my mission is to increase the collaboration between English and Spanish speakers alike. Because it’s a barrier that, if lifted, could benefit the entire industry. Regardless of your language, we are united through the passions we share. By working together, we can share practices and celebrate why we’re proud to interact with our animals and within this Western lifestyle. We all want it to flourish and have a strong future, but this will only be possible by linking arms and removing cultural division. I was also able to play a role in the Mexican rodeo extravaganza this year, which Miss Rodeo Colorado typically isn’t involved in.

Q: Hailey, you also made Miss Rodeo Colorado history. Due to the pandemic, you held the title for two straight years – 2020 and 2021. What was that like? 

Hailey: When I was asked if I wanted to continue on in the role for another year, there was no hesitation at all. I knew I wanted it for another year because to me, it is a job, but it’s so much more than that. It’s something that I’m just very passionate about. God really put a wrench in our lives the past two years, and I think it tested a lot of us. But I think it also made us even better. I look back and if I were to have had a normal year in 2020, and I don’t think I’d be holding the crown of Miss Rodeo America. 

Q: Ashley, how has the pandemic impacted you in your role so far? 

Ashley: Of course, there were plenty of negatives that we are all very aware of from the pandemic, but I have a very optimistic spirit. What a huge opportunity it’s been being able to have the reach that we have now – from neighbors to people around the world. I can educate them about rodeo and our Western traditions here through social media, on a simple Zoom call or on Facetime. The advances that the digital world experienced throughout the pandemic have lowered the barrier to access our Western world. To have that reach is just fantastic.