Ashley Baller of Parker was crowned as the 66th Miss Rodeo Colorado on Jan. 8 at the National Western Stock Show, after more than a decade in the rodeo royalty circuit.
Baller began her journey as Elbert County Fair Princess in 2010 and later served as Elbert County Fair Queen and Elizabeth Stampede Attendant. Now, at 25 years old, she wears the state crown representing Colorado on a national stage. She is also the first predominantly Latina Miss Rodeo Colorado.
In the days before her coronation ceremony as Miss Rodeo Colorado 2022, the Elbert County News caught up with Baller at Legends Coffee in Aurora for a Q&A. Sipping her caramel latte, Baller shared her royalty experiences, the rigor of the National Western Stock Show, and her passion for promoting diversity and the Western way of life.
How did you get into rodeo royalty?
I am a city girl turned cowgirl. I did not grow up in the Western world whatsoever. None of my parents ride. I was born in Aurora but grew up in a neighborhood right across from Ponderosa High School in Parker.
My step-grandpa had horses and they lived in Elizabeth. When I was in first grade I decided that I wanted to learn to ride a horse. He got me trained, I learned how to ride, and then I joined 4-H.
One day my mom and I were walking around the consignment shops in Elizabeth and we saw a sign on the door for the Elizabeth Stampede royalty clinic. I was 11 or 12 at the time. It was something I’d never experienced before. I loved it!
I learned that I could try out for Elbert County Fair Princess. I was totally obsessed — all I would do was Google things about rodeo queens all day long, and watch videos and see what they did. I won Elbert County Fair Princess in 2010 and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Why did you want to become Miss Rodeo Colorado?
It has been a lifetime goal for me — a real dream. I won a lot of titles growing up. I was Elbert County Princess and then Deer Trail Rodeo Attendant for two years. I was out for two years and then I was Elbert County Fair Queen and then Elizabeth Stampede Attendant in 2015. I couldn’t get enough of it.
I felt the crown calling so I tried out this past year. It was my first year trying out and then I won. I remember being at prelims and the national director said we need to give ourselves two to three years to try out because she could count on her fingers how many girls had won on their first try.
It was my last eligible year to try out. We’re contracted to try out for Miss Rodeo America as well. It’s exciting because Miss Rodeo Colorado last year, Hailey Frederiksen, won Miss Rodeo America. We’re close friends so it’s really exciting to have another year with my “sash sister.” She has really inspired me through this whole process.
Why the break between your time as Elizabeth Stampede Attendant in 2015 and 2022 Miss Rodeo Colorado?
I decided that I needed to prioritize school. After I graduated from Ponderosa High School in Parker, I went to Colorado State University. I graduated with an equine sciences degree with minors in business and Spanish and just loved it. I got through completely with scholarships and grants. It was a lot of work, but necessary to accomplish my goals.
Soon after my graduation in May of 2018, I received a position as manager of multi-lingual resources and communication with the international department of the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, Texas. I then moved home to be eligible for Miss Rodeo Colorado.
What is Miss Rodeo Colorado’s Role at National Western?
My stock show schedule is nuts! I’m typically there from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and that’s how the full 16 days will go. It is absolutely nonstop. I will be at a ton of events, including every single rodeo performance.
Generally, though, I represent the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association. What I’m doing is promoting rodeo, agriculture, and Colorado’s rich Western traditions. With that, I have to be equipped with the knowledge of the sport, be a good speaker, and ride well. When you are thrown into National Western, you’ve already got your hair down, your clothes down, that is your time to shine. Hop on those horses, run those flags, and show people why you’re worthy of sitting in the saddle.
How does it feel to be the first predominantly Latina Miss Rodeo Colorado and how will that shape your National Western experience?
I am really excited because I get to participate in the Mexican rodeo extravaganza this year. I am really excited for this opportunity to draw a closer connection with my culture and Spanish and English speakers alike in order to grow the agricultural base in Colorado. Diversity is at the core of the future of agriculture. If we don’t learn how to attract a wider demographic, then agriculture is going to go downhill. Most of my family speaks Spanish. My grandparents never taught my mother though, so I wasn’t taught growing up. I decided to pick it up in school and mend that gap in my family.
What is your platform for this year and how does it tie to your culture?
My message for this year is “Vivir Sus Sueños,” which is “Live Your Dreams” in Spanish.
What I am proud of is going after my dreams and making it happen. I want people to see that. You don’t have to be the cookie-cutter 10th-generation rancher to be an avid representative of the Western way of life. Being the first predominantly Latina Miss Rodeo Colorado, I also wanted to include the Spanish aspect of it. I want to promote diversity and bridge the gap between cultures here in Colorado.
Being Miss Rodeo Colorado must be exhausting. Do you ever get stressed or tired?
I do. I get very stressed and tired, but that is all a part of it. Something I’ve learned over the years is how to deal with the stamina and endurance piece of rodeo royalty. You are on nonstop, so you must come up with different ways to maintain that lively persona. I’ve been really digging into my faith to help me through it all. I completely credit my relationship with Christ in getting me through each day. And coffee — I also credit coffee!
Do you feel like you are a different person outside of the crown and regalia?
Not at all. The reason is because when you compete at the state level, it is very strenuous. This year’s pageant was three days and Miss Rodeo America is an eight-day pageant. To fake being yourself for that long period of time is hard. So, what I have found is that being you and being the most genuine and authentic version of yourself is what wins hearts. That is how you can make the most progress and motivate people to learn about agriculture and become involved. For me, it would be hard if wasn’t myself 24/7. Who I am with and without the crown is the same person.
What do you do on your down time?
Last week I resigned from my position at the American Quarter Horse Association so I could be Miss Rodeo Colorado full-time. So now that I’ve taken on this role, my downtime will look very different. Now, my downtime is filled with preparing for events and developing my platform. Finding opportunities and learning to better myself for the next event.
I also want to make sure that I’m keeping up on my Spanish and studying Latin American culture. I also love to ride my horses. Sixth County Angel is my American quarter horse that I trained up at CSU for a project. She’s my little barrel pony. And Jazzy is my American paint horse, and she is my old faithful. So I am really focused on studying my Bible in the next year, speaking Spanish, and riding my horses.
Do you feel that being involved in rodeo royalty has set you up for lifetime success?
Even at a local level, rodeo royalty polishes you up to be a better individual. From a professional standpoint and a personality standpoint, it just teaches you a lot about who you are and how to engage with the world around you. I completely owe my professional success to local rodeo queening growing up. That’s the fun part! Getting this far and winning a state title, you really learn how to embrace yourself.
How often do you do things for Miss Rodeo Colorado?
Every day. I like to say that we were brand ambassadors before it was cool. We have lots of sponsors. Social media is huge for us, so we need to make sure we’re maintaining a digital presence when we’re not in crown. I’m also constantly prepping for events and always making sure I’m getting things taken care of, be that making sure my clothes are polished, getting my hats shaped, making sponsor visits, maintaining relationships, etc.
Do you think social media has changed the way rodeo royalty functions?
Definitely. I think it’s a huge opportunity for us. We have a much farther reach. We can teach so many more people about agriculture. Sitting here in Colorado, we can educate our friends in Japan, in Germany, and all over the world. It is a really cool opportunity to have that level of engagement with people from all over the world. People are hooked on our Western culture abroad! It is fun for them, and they love it. Rodeo was born here in Colorado, and I love sharing that with the world.
What are your post-Miss Rodeo Colorado goals?
Miss Rodeo America is at the pinnacle of rodeo queening. This is it! There has never been before a back-to-back Miss Rodeo America from any state. So, I am excited for that potential opportunity. If it doesn’t happen, I have many more opportunities in my life, but right now, Miss Rodeo America is the next big goal for me.
One of my goals after Miss Rodeo Colorado is getting back into the international realm. Because of the bilingual aspect of my previous job, I grew to really love it and I find it just so fun. Doing work like that is my dream job. I am passionate about people, agriculture, and language. I can see myself getting a master’s degree in Spain. That is what I would love to do.