CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The Benton County Fair put a brand new spin on their classic rodeo with their very first all-girls event. The girls say it's about time they showed the world how capable they really are.
Several female participants said rodeos are absolutely male dominated, and it can be intimidating to try and do everything the boys do. Luckily there was already some female representation with the rodeo queen pageant.
The contestants showed off their horsemanship Wednesday morning as a part of the pageant. They were fighting for the chance to represent rodeo for their county.
“I get to go around all of Oregon and represent our community and our county as a fair,” said Breeana Denue, the 2018 Benton County Rodeo Queen.
Most of the rodeo queen hopefuls have been involved in all things rodeo for most of their lives. One contestant said she loves it because it feels just like home.
“It's really just a great family. I mean, everybody around here, you smile at them even if they don't know who you are, they'll wave, they'll ask you how are you doing, how's your family. They could not even know your family, and they're still just that kind-hearted,” said Olivia Henderer, a 2019 Rodeo Queen contestant.
Along with their pageant events, the contestants took part in the barrel race portion of the rodeo. Other events included pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping. In a typical rodeo, the women would only compete in a couple of these events.
Rylee Henderer is Olivia's sister and the 2017 Benton County Rodeo Queen. She said it's been amazing to see these women prepare for these events.
“Team roping is a male-dominated sport, and tonight you're going to see teams of just women,” Henderer said. “So I think it's really great to see that we can do this just as well.”
The rodeo is officially called the Larry Bell Memorial All-Girl Rodeo. Bell was a founding member of the Benton County Rodeo Committee and a huge proponent of women in agriculture. Through his children and grandchildren, this rodeo was put together to honor his views of equality.
After “Ladies Night” on Wednesday, the fair goes back to co-ed. The rodeo will run Wednesday through Friday starting at 7 p.m.