What is a ‘Rodeo Queen Mom’? feat. Sylvia Ladd Sanford

In honor of the Mom’s who have made us the rodeo ambassadors that we are today, we are highlighting some Miss Rodeo Oregon mom’s and Miss Rodeo Oregon’s who are now mom’s to hear from their words what it’s like to be a state title holding rodeo queen mom in Oregon!

Isn’t it funny how you can be so wrapped up in your life and daily activities that you forget the little things that make you who you are today?  The little things that were always present when I was growing up, somehow have transformed into my home.  The idea that we become our parents has been a public discussion and disputed by many.  However, I have embraced that concept a long time ago, but decided to put a spin on it to suit my style of raising my girls and being a strong role model.   

I was raised with a talented hard working woman who raised polled Hereford cattle, drove grain truck, cooked amazing meals and could sew like a professional.  She was raised on a farm and served her country in World War II as an Army nurse.   She always dressed up and wore her Tony Lama Boots and red lipstick to town.  She wasn’t your average farm wife, she was class rolled up into grit.  She was always first up and last to bed.  And she loved to laugh!  She was a 4H leader, and on so many boards that I couldn’t keep up which meeting she was attending just knew she was helping keep our local fair, library and school going.   Knowing how to speak, promote and look the part was the total package of my mom.  

I started representing our local fair and rodeo at the age of thirteen carrying flags for the court.  I worked my way up to princess and queen and loved every minute of it! I proceeded to represent my college as their club queen, at Oregon State University and competed at Nationals in Bozeman, Mt.  It opened so many doors for me that I look back in awe at the years of representing the best sport ever!  I continued my quest and in 1987 tried out for Miss Rodeo Oregon winning 1st Runner up and Miss Congeniality.  I wasn’t going to try out again.  I was tired. But a mentor of mine, a past Miss Rodeo Oregon, Italy June Spratt, talked me into trying out again.  In 1988 I was crowned Miss Rodeo Oregon in June and headed out to my first appearance at the Reno Rodeo.  Back then, we didn’t get a year to prepare to compete for Miss Rodeo America in November.  We hit the ground running literally.  To save money and stand out in a crowd my mom made most all my clothes.  We designed them and she tailored them and when she was done; it was like walking on the runway and I felt gorgeous!

One of the things I was raised with was a sewing machine always was sitting out on a table, material, drawings, patterns, scattered everywhere.  It was just there.  I never thought anything about it. Until now.  My mom was always putting finishing touches on an outfit, or making just one more shirt at midnight.  I always said I doubt I let my kids do queening.  I really didn’t think I would be able to afford it for one, and I didn’t sew like she did.  Oh how I was wrong!

I have two daughters, four years apart.  When Lilly was a sophomore she was approached by a friend and rodeo mom who asked if she would try out for their High School Rodeo Association queen.  I was sure she would say no.  But after we thought about it, we said we would try it.  My girls had started 4H horse, riding at our local gaming club Wranglers and had show horses.  Not rodeo horses.   I bought used queen clothes, made a couple shirts and we went for it.  She did it!  With one month to prepare for the National Queen Contest in Wyoming we had to raise money for the trip, clothes for a twelve day contest and expenses.  It was an education but I dug deep into what I had learned from being Miss Rodeo Oregon and what my Mother had taught me.  With a few prayers and the support of my husband, Rick; we did it.  And it was a great year for Lilly. So much that she tried out again the following year, and won the title again.  This time we were prepared and knew so much more that it was a fantastic year with her winning Miss Congeniality at nationals.  We also had purchased a new horse that did all the rodeo events and the youngest daughter got the rodeo bug.  

When Ivy became a freshman she tried out for the same title her sister held and won Miss Oregon High School Rodeo 2015-2016.  She of course had a different style than her sister so I seem to sew every day.  But, she placed in the top 25 out of 45 girls at Nationals, winning 6th in Impromptu, Appearance, and Personality.   Lessons learned through watching her sister, and other queens compete in these pageants and competing in rodeo. Ivy will be trying out again in June for the same title.  And yes the sewing machine is out year round. 

 One thing I have always loved about being a past MRO is the family.  Once you have held the title, you are a part of family.  You have so many networking possibilities that if you choose to keep them active they are always willing to help you out.   I have found that this ever changing world spins around us.  But our love for agriculture, the western way of life and rodeo stands firm.  We have to keep it alive through representing it in everything we do!  You have friends in every corner of the United States that share that love too.  We work together in one form or another. I have reconnected with so many past Miss Rodeo’s and it is a blessing in my life.  Things have changed and evolved, don’t get me wrong.  But some things stay the same.  The goals, the job, the ideals remain.  But the styles, rules, events, and sponsors have changed a little.  I am blessed, that I had such a great Rodeo mom who gave all she had to my years as a rodeo representative.  Even if I didn’t think I was learning anything from her skills, I was; somehow I was.  And now for the past four years, I have practiced my Rodeo Mom skills in writing speeches, articles, selling and promotion.   I lost my mom in 2008, but as my sister tells me; “Grandma Raine is so proud of you and her granddaughters.”   I hope someday that these skills and love of rodeo continue on with the next generation.


Sylvia Ladd Sandford

Miss Rodeo Oregon 1988

Thank you Sylvia! 


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