Cowgirl Queen Contest

Fair | Clip
Aug 17, 2022 | 6 min

The Iowa State Fair Cowgirl Queen Contest is a long-standing tradition going back to the 1960s and is a favorite each year.


Let's start with a long standing tradition, it's an exhibit of showmanship, horsemanship and fellowship. It's the Cowgirl Queen Contest. ♪♪

LOLA SVEC: There was a lot of nerve leading up to today, and once I got in the arena, I calmed down and thought let's just do this and show everybody how I do it. ♪♪

KARYLYN CONNOLLY: Getting ready for this is unlike anything else. You can practice all day at home, then once you're out there with the energy and the crowd and the noise, once you go in and feel very confident in your ability and your preparation, it's so exciting. It's such a fun experience. ♪♪

JERRY NOLTING, ANNOUNCER: We have approximately 120 girls, 60 juniors, 60 seniors. There will be three judges, and tonight we will crown a junior queen and her four attendants, a senior queen and her four attendants.

MEGAN HUMPHREY, JUDGE: I will be judging the Cowgirl Queen Contest tonight, and this contest is special and dear to my heart. I grew up showing in it myself in both the junior and senior division. I'll look for that young lady who has that confidence, she's got that smile, she's got that good riding ability, that rider who can utilize their four natural aids to their seat and legs and hands and voice and communicate in unison with their horse.

LOLA SVEC: Training for the Cowgirl Queen Contest has helped me grow as a rider and helped me learn my horse better so we're able to work as a team more and helped me learn different training styles, mental training and physical training that goes into this. I'm now able to keep learning at everything I love to do. My advice is just make sure you are all ready for it. You are all good to go, you're not going to freak out when you go super fast and have to do a sliding stop. And make sure you're nice and relaxed. If you're super tense, your horse is going to feel that, and that's never good.

ELIVIA PAPCUN: I have been trying to win this competition for almost seven years, ever since I was a little girl and could compete in the competition, so this was definitely a very big achievement for me, especially with this horse. I've had her since I was 8 years old. She's definitely the horse I want to win it with. So June of this year, I had a horse accident and broke my pelvis. As soon as I could ride, I was back on competing, and this is my second show back, and I really just wanted to prove a point that you can overcome anything, and I couldn't be happier.

JERRY: All of these young ladies, by the time they get here, they're very well experienced in the horse industry. They're fine riders in their own right, and they can be very proud of what they do.

SAUNDY ANDERSON: The Cowgirl Queen Contest really affords these kids an opportunity to work toward a goal. The confidence building that this competition provides for these girls is amazing.

MEGAN: Growing up with the Cowgirl Queen Contest, I remember this as a family event. And I remember how nice that was with my family being there and my friends and all the support and just what a great community of horse industry people all coming together for one big event, one big special event we had that one time of the year. And how we always looked forward to it every year, going to the Iowa State Fair and being at the Cowgirl Queen Contest.

KARLYN: My advice for handling the energy and excitement would be to truly trust in your training. There's no need to go in and change anything about how you're riding. How you've practiced is perfect. It will be what it needs to be. It's important to go in with confidence, yet not be cocky. Take it all in. It's not about winning. It's about getting to compete in this competition. 

My best advice for doing the cowgirl queen salute is to make a plan and not a decision on the fly. It's best to have it planned out and know what's best for your horse and what will show off you and the horse's ability best.

TALENA BALASCH: This is my first year ever doing this, and we won it. I can't believe it. I have always dreamed of doing something like this, and it's absolutely a dream come true to be able to make it here and win it. I never thought that this could happen, and it did. Honestly, I'm never not going to not try something. Anything is absolutely possible, and I can't wait to see what the future brings.