Tonganoxie grad makes debut at Shrine Rodeo

Competing Friday in the 53rd annual Abdallah Shrine Rodeo at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds had extra significance for Paige Boylan.

The 2011 Tonganoxie High School graduate not only competed in her hometown in the barrel-racing event of the Shrine Rodeo for the first time but also it’s is part of what she is calling a rebuilding year with her teammate: her quarterhorse Queenie.

A year ago, her horse was diagnosed with equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, a condition in which a parasite affects the central nervous system. Three months later, Queenie suffered a bone infection in one of her back legs and lost 200 pounds in the process.

“I’ve had a big support group throughout my horse being sick and people upping my confidence and my horse getting better,” she said. “I thought she was done after last year.”

But a resilient Queenie has gained back the weight and now weighs nearly 1,100 pounds.

“Looking at her today, you would have never known she was sick last year,” Boylan said.

Though an official place wasn’t known Friday night, Boylan finished with a time of 16.114 seconds as she and Queenie maneuvered around three barrels. She said they came up on the first barrel quickly, “but the second and third barrels, she ran really nicely.”

Boylan is no stranger to barrel racing, or the Shrine Rodeo for that matter.

Now 19, Boylan’s been involved in the sport since she was 5, “so it’s been a couple years,” she said.

And the last two years she vied for Aballah Shrine Rodeo Queen, finishing as first runner-up in 2011.

Boylan mainly competes in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, but in April participated in the National Barrel Horse Association World Finals in Mississippi. Eventually, she hopes to compete in Women’s Professional Rodeo Association events. She is involved in roughly 100 competitions a year, but still finds time to attend Kansas City Kansas Community College. She plans to later attend Johnson County Community College for dental hygiene schooling.

Friday night was second of two nights of Abdallah Shrine Rodeo action has other activities — bareback riding, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping and bull riding also taking center stage. The announcer and a rodeo clown offered some comedic relief as well.

Potentate Mike Tavares estimated Friday’s crowd as between 2,500 to 3,000, which he said was the best Friday night “in quite some time” for the rodeo. Thursday night yielded about 1,000 spectators.

This marked the fifth year the Shrine Rodeo has taken place in Tonganoxie following a long stint in Wyandotte County.

“We love it,” Tavares said. Tonganoxie’s a great place. It’s far enough out of the city.”

Organizers added a demolition derby this year, which starts at 7 p.m. today. The final night of the Shrine Rodeo craft show starts at 6 p.m.