Taylor Howell, 17, of Sonora, was crowned Mother Lode Roundup Queen at Sunday night’s coronation at the Sonora Elks Lodge.
Howell, a straight-A Sonora High School junior, is the daughter of Gary and Krista Howell.
“I’m just so excited, I can’t stop smiling,” Howell said Sunday night.
The coronation night included competition in modeling and speech. Howell’s winning speech was about what the rodeo means to her.
She spoke about the grand entry to the rodeo and how three groups come together — the Sheriff’s Posse, contestants and fans — and how announcer Coy Huffman kicks it off with three words, “Ride cowboy, ride.”
Judging is based 45 percent on horsemanship, 25 percent on a personality interview, 20 percent on coronation night judging, 10 percent from silent judges who watch the contestants’ behavior throughout the contest, and rodeo ticket sale totals, which are used only to break a tie.
“I won every category except (Miss) Photogenic,” Howell said. “I just wanted to jump up and down and scream.”
Taylor will ride in the Mother Lode Roundup Parade and in the grand entry of the 55th annual rodeo and festivities over Mother’s Day weekend.
She will represent Tuolumne County throughout California and the western states at rodeos and parades.
Howell said she has been involved in rodeos and showing horses her entire life and has attended the Mother Lode Roundup every year of her life, except her first birthday, as it fell on that weekend.
She celebrated her 17th birthday Sunday night.
Howell has two brothers and two sisters and has been involved in high school volleyball, swiming and soccer. She is a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Her future plans include attending college and majoring in business or communications.
Howell’s interests include rodeo, skiing, running and promoting athletics to youth. She also enjoys showing horses, camping, hiking, coaching and trail riding.
Howell has competed in numerous horse cutting events, barrel racing and pole bending including two years in the high school rodeo circuit. She has also participated in 4-H and gymkhana and received numerous equestrian-related awards and recognitions.
Howell said she has carried sponsor flags in past rodeos and has ridden her horse in the Mother Lode Roundup Parade 13 times.
“I love the Roundup weekend in Tuolumne County ... being part of this western tradition in Tuolumne County is a highlight for me every year. Competing for the title of Mother Lode Roundup Queen just seems natural,” Howell said in her queen biography statement.
To qualify for the competition, each contestant had to sell 200 adult tickets to the Mother Lode Rodeo, ride in the grand entry at the La Grange Rodeo, ride in the Oakdale Parade, face legendary rodeo “villain” Coyote Sam and participate in other posse events.
Contestants must be female, aged 16 through 23 at the time of the coronation, never married or have had children, and be a resident of Central California.
The Mother Lode Queen receives a $2,000 John E. Kelley Memorial Scholarship, given over a two year-period for school expenses; use of a horse trailer during her reign with a buy-out option; custom pleasure saddle, matching breast collar, reins and perpetual flag boot, silver queen buckle, queen tiara, portrait and frame, Mother Lode Roundup chaps, Stetson hat, queen sashes and sterling silver sash pin, cellular phone with one year free service, and other prizes awarded to all candidates.
Prizes awarded to runners-up include individual portraits, 10 percent of all money they earn in ticket sales over 200 tickets, $300 for first runner-up, $200 for second runner-up and $100 each for all other runners-up. All contestants receive 2012 personalized sashes and hand-tooled leather breast collars.
Other prizes include a silver headstall and engraved silver buckles for horsemanship; an etched crystal picture frame for most photogenic; a three-piece silver buckle for Miss Congeniality; a silver buckle for high ticket sales; a leather organizer for the best speech; and a show halter for the best appearance.
The Roundup Queen contest’s other two contestants were Layne Olson, 18, of Soulsbyville, and Trisha Berg, 16, of Sonora.
Olson was first runner up and Miss Photogenic and Berg was second runner up.