How do you become a rodeo queen? Bobbie Ward knows, and she's more than willing to tell.
She was the sweetheart of the rodeo, with a crown to prove it. But being a rodeo queen was a lonely experience at times for Bobbie Ward.
"I really had no one to help me at all," said Ward, a former Miss Rodeo Kansas, Miss Rodeo Kansas State University and Abdalla Shrine Rodeo Princess. "There's a few people around here who are involved in rodeo, but there aren't that many involved in the queen part of it."
Today, though, rodeo queens and contestants have someone to turn to. Since 1991, the year she won Miss Rodeo Kansas, Ward has been serving as something of a queen mother, helping outfit, groom and tutor rodeo queens.
Need a sequined tuxedo shirt? The 26-year-old Lawrence native can whip one up in a single night, while dispensing tips about how to impress a judge with your riding.
Her advice is built on experience.
Ward, a home economics and health teacher at Central Junior High School, said she won her first title -- Miss Rodeo KSU, 1988 -- after joining the rodeo club at KSU.
"My parents rodeod, so I'd always ridden," she said. "But when I joined the club, I didn't have horse that could really compete at that level, so I got into the queen side."
From there, she competed in a number of rodeo pageants, from Miss Northeast Kansas Rodeo in Sabetha to Miss Rodeo America in Las Vegas.
Along the way, she designed and made her own clothing based on her observations of crowd and judges' tastes.
"I wore a lot of red, white and blue, especially in '91 when the Gulf War was going, because rodeo is a very American, patriotic event," she said. "I also wore lots of white in the arena, because it really stands out. I went through a lot of pairs of white jeans."
Ward estimated that she collected about 75 garments, which she could mix and match to create hundreds of outfits. Besides making clothes for queens, Ward lets her clients borrow outfits from her closet.
For originals, Ward draws from a menagerie of material, from straightforward cotton to fur, leather and sequins.
"I also do horse show clothes," she said. "They're not as flashy, and they have more special requirements -- collars, cuffs, and they're just looking at not as many sequins. They're a little more reserved than your average rodeo queen's outfit."
Ward said she had worked with about 10 women, including Angie Morton, who was crowned Douglas County Charity Rodeo queen earlier this summer.
Besides providing clothes, Ward gives lessons on showmanship, interviews, applications and other ingredients of a queen competition.
"I volunteer with 4-H, I do lessons, and I do lots of activities like that," she said. "Growing up, I always had a lot of people helping with horses. I'm just kind of giving back what I was given.