Alex Rayppy — Miss Reno Rodeo 2017
Alex Rayppy — Miss Reno Rodeo 2017
By Laura Van Antwerp
photos by Clayton Beck
When Alex Rayppy walks into a room, time slows down. It’s not just the show-stopping smile or the twinkling eyes that make her so compelling. Her movements are a study of grace. Her tone, while enthusiastic, never belies her youth. She’s poised, articulate and exudes an optimism that is captivating, even infectious. When she says things like, “Follow your dreams!” or “If you believe it, it will happen!” it doesn’t feel syrupy or contrived. Rather, it feels measured and earnest. Anything and everything is possible in the world of Alex Rayppy — not just for her, but for you too. It’s an endearing quality that has, no doubt, served her well as Miss Reno Rodeo 2017.
Who is Miss Reno Rodeo?
There’s a lot more to the role of Miss Reno Rodeo than sparkly garments and photo ops. As the goodwill ambassador and face of the “Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West,” the Reno Rodeo queen is expected to take part in a variety of rodeo related events. Rayppy juggles a tight schedule of travelling, speaking engagements and community involvement on behalf of the Reno Rodeo Association, all while pursuing a degree in kinesiology from the University of Nevada, Reno and participating in her sorority, Sigma Kappa. Needless to say, she’s a busy girl.
The process of becoming a rodeo queen is equally rigorous. Interested contestants must compete in a two-day long pageant, wherein a panel of judges assess them based on public speaking, horsemanship skills and equine and rodeo knowledge. It’s a very involved process, intimidating to even the most eligible of contenders.
People had been nudging Rayppy to try out for Miss Reno Rodeo for years. ”Ever since I began participating in the Reno Rodeo, people have asked me, ‘Are you going to try out for Miss Reno Rodeo?’” It wasn’t until a heart-felt discussion with her mother that she gathered the courage she needed. “As much as I wanted to, I was scared. Plus, being only 19, I was on the younger side, so it was really intimidating. But my mom said, ‘Just go for it! You’ll never know unless you try.’”
When it came time to prepare for the pageant, Rayppy decided she would aim for no less than 100 percent. She moved back in with her parents and spent four months studying and collecting advice from past queens. “I really put everything into it. I wanted to go in with no regrets.” Her diligence paid off. In June of last year, Alex Rayppy joined a legacy of rodeo queens as she was crowned Miss Reno Rodeo 2017.
The Making of a Rodeo Queen
Rayppy’s rodeo roots stretch as far back as she can remember – and then some. Her parents became avid fans of the Reno Rodeo as a young transplant couple from California. It was only natural that, when Alex and her twin sister made their way into the world, rodeo life became an important thread in the fabric of their upbringing.
A self-described ‘horse girl,’ Rayppy began riding at the age of six. At eight years old she became a member of 4-H, where she participated in various horsemanship events. She considers her mustang, Boots, to be her best friend, a funny coincidence considering he wasn’t meant to be her horse in the first place. “He was actually meant for my sister. I already had another mustang, and we decided to get a second horse, so she could ride with me.” A then five-year-old Boots was adopted from the Carson City prison program. “I offered to do the training on him, because mustangs are definitely one on one. He trusted me, so I believe he considers me his person.” Sometimes it’s the horse that decides who they belong to, not the other way around.
As Rayppy participated in the Reno rodeo, she became fascinated with the queens and flag girls. “I actually met Miss Reno Rodeo when I was about one year old and again when I was four.” She recalls fondly. “Ever since then she’s been someone I’ve looked up to.”
As for particularly inspiring rodeo queens of the past, there’s one that springs to mind for her. “Abbie Shelton. She was a former queen back in the day. When I met her, she was just breathtaking and confident. I remember saying I wanted to be just like her.”
Adventures and Giving Back
Serving as Miss Reno Rodeo has been nothing short of an adventure for Rayppy. For starters, she’s had to embrace the notion that her horse, Boots, just might be more famous than she is. Rayppy jokes, “I think he believes he’s the queen because everybody recognizes him before they notice me, like, ‘Hey, that’s Miss Reno Rodeo’s horse!” The large black mustang sporting four white boots is certainly hard to miss.
Rayppy chuckles as she reflects on a memory from one of the first rodeo trips she made as Miss Reno Rodeo, where an unfortunate miscommunication resulted in her and her horse, in full flashy rodeo attire, parading along the side of a packed highway. “I didn’t realize the fairground was through the highway. So imagine me walking on my horse on a highway similar to 395 in this whole outfit with people laughing at me!” She says this with the nostalgia typically reserved for flipping through a photo album.
If one thing’s certain, it’s that Rayppy has taken full advantage of the opportunity to give back to the community whenever and wherever she can. She lights up when she talks about the various fundraisers and charities she’s been involved in as Miss Reno Rodeo. There’s the Denim Drive, hosted by the Reno Rodeo Foundation, which raises money to help provide new clothing for children in extraordinary need. Then there’s the Reno Rodeo Roundup, where Miss Reno Rodeo and Smokey Bear team up to visit schools and talk about the three R’s — reading, rodeo and responsibility. “I’ve always loved being involved with the community. Personally, it’s had a huge impact on me, being able to help in whatever way I can.”
As for her adoring fans, Rayppy admits she loves when they run up to her with faces beaming (or blushing) at the opportunity to meet a rodeo queen in person. “I was that little girl once. I know how it felt for me, so I can relate to them. It makes me happy.”
Growth and Moving Forward
Miss Reno Rodeo has given a lot through this experience, but one might wonder: what has this experience given Miss Reno Rodeo? “Honestly, it’s helped me grow so much. It’s made me realize who I am as a person, what my values are, and what kind of people I want to be around.”
When asked about her advice to future contestants, her affirming nature resurfaces. “Be yourself!” Rayppy emphasizes. “You see the pageant world, and it can seem really scary and intimidating. But all these former queens just told me to be myself. I’ve realized I’m not going to be like any other queen; every year it’s different —different personalities, different interests.”
If there’s anything we can learn from Miss Reno Rodeo 2017, it’s this: we should always explore whatever opportunities life affords us. Possibility is always peeking out at us from the nooks and crannies of our life, and with grit and determination, we can take full advantage of this crazy, wild rodeo we call life.
Alex Rayppy’s Reno Rodeo Favorites
Favorite event: Mutton busting, an event that emulates bull riding — except it’s with kids riding sheep. “It’s my personal favorite!”
Favorite rider/performer: Sherry Cervi – Barrel racing
Sage Kimzey – Bull rider “I actually met him at NFR, and I was red in the face!”
Favorite food: Kick-Ass Fries — French fries with pork on top. “So good.”
Favorite Reno Rodeo memory: Meeting Miss Reno Rodeo and watching the flag girls. “I always told my mom I wanted to be just like them.”
Reno Rodeo tips: 1. Get involved!
- Get there early. “It’s the third most popular rodeo [in the country], and it shows.”
- Invite friends, especially those who’ve never been to a rodeo. “Bring people from other cities — or countries even!”