Miss Rodeo USA visit Glyndale ahead of Rodeo at the Beach

Students at Glyndale Elementary School got to ask Kealanne Quinonez, this year’s Miss Rodeo USA, whatever questions they wanted Thursday morning, and most of them revolved around horses. One wanted to know if she’s ridden from Texas to Glynn County on one.

“I rode here on a four-wheel-drive horse,” she laughed, before revealing the more mundane truth.

Another elementary schooler asked if she had a flying horse.

“I wish, that would be cool,” she said, good-naturedly.

Much of the questions revolved around horses, as most of the kids hadn’t seen one yet.

Quinonez is in town to promote the Brunswick Exchange Club’s Rodeo at the Beach this weekend. The gates open at 5:30 p.m. today with International Pro Rodeo Association-sanctioned competitions and events, prizes, food and plenty of games and activities for kids and adults. It continues on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

“It gets better each year, it’s growing and growing and growing,” said Steven Floyd, one of the organizers with the Exchange Club.

Quinonez told the kids about her passion for raising horses and training colts especially, but that’s far from everything to her. In January she was named Miss Rodeo USA, but that journey to get there was tough.

There was some pageantry, but she also had to prove she knew her stuff when it came to academics, public speaking and all things horses. There seemed no end to the interviews she had to get through before earning the recognition, but it was worth it to be Miss Rodeo for a year, she said.

Quinonez earned a master’s degree in business science from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s in animal sciences from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

Contestants in the Miss Rodeo competition also had to present their platforms. Hers is “Nose to the grindstone, eyes to the rhinestones.” Basically, that translates to “Work hard to achieve your dreams.”

She handed out some rhinestones to the children who asked questions on Thursday, and some weren’t happy to be left out. She told them, though, that everyone has a little rhinestone in themselves called their life’s dream.

The platform is essentially a simplification of her life philosophy: Hard work and always striving to learn something from every experience will lead to success in nearly every endeavor. She’s been involved in a little bit of everything throughout her life, from her work on animals and ranching to leading a Girl Scout troop and management consultation.

The thread that ran through all of it was hard work.

The rodeo kicks off today at 6 p.m. with a parade led by Quinonez.

“They’ll bring out Miss Rodeo on a horse, she’ll carry the American flag, our singer will sing the national anthem,” Floyd said.

Some kids games like Gold Rush and Cash Scramble return, he continued. In Gold Rush, the rodeo clown hides trinkets in a pile of hay and the kids hunt for it. Cash Scramble is for older kids. A cash prize goes to the one who gets a ribbon off a calf’s tail.

“They chase the calf — and hopeful wear themselves out — and the winner is the one who pulls the ribbon off the calf’s tail,” Floyd said.

At 6:30 p.m. today, representatives of local elementary schools will compete in a mechanical bull riding competition for a cash prize they can use for anything they want at the school. On Saturday, middle and high schools compete.

From 7:30 onward, the IPRA-sanction bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and breakaway roping, team roping, steer roping and ladies breakaway roping will go on in the rodeo arena.

All throughout the evening, kids can play on bounce houses, run obstacle courses and look at tractors and farm equipment on display, he said.

Tickets to the rodeo are $20 and can be purchased online at rodeoatthebeach.com or at the gate at the Brunswick Exchange Club Fairgrounds, 101 Emory Dawson Parkway in Brunswick. Kids 5 and under get in free.