PEORIA — Walking into the office at a basement service company, you probably wouldn’t expect to see a pig in the desk chair. But Bo goes everywhere with the newly crowned Miss Rodeo Illinois, Ivy Weirather, even to work.
As marketing coordinator for Bix Basement Systems in Peoria, 22-year-old Weirather has found ways to make her two jobs work together.
“It’s kind of cool because Miss Rodeo Illinois is basically marketing myself, so I’ve learned a lot here in my job that I’m able to apply in my job as Miss Rodeo Illinois,” she said.
Weirather began her reign on Jan. 1 after earning her title last September at the Pioneer City Rodeo in Palestine, Ill. In the three-day pageant, she competed in horsemanship and speech, with an interview segment and a written test judging her knowledge of rodeo, equine topics, current events and animal welfare vs. animal rights.
Miss Rodeo Illinois was Weirather’s first multiple-day pageant, but definitely not her first rodeo queen win.
“I have rodeoed my whole life. I barrel race, and I’ve done other rodeo queen pageants,” she said. “They actually have kind of a smaller level leading up to the state and the national level.”
An Iowa native, Weirather won several rodeo queen pageants, including Miss Wapello Rodeo Queen 2015, Miss Fort Madison Saddle Club Queen 2013 and Miss Pride in the Sky Rodeo Queen 2012, before moving across the Mississippi to East Peoria two years ago. Her horse, Dolly Boy, has been with her since her first rodeo queen win in 2008, and she said he has taught her everything about teamwork and unconditional love.
“It’s pretty incredible to have come up to this level with him and now be Miss Rodeo Illinois,” she said.
Her coronation on Jan. 27 doubled as a fundraiser, as she will spend her yearlong reign traveling across Illinois and the country, promoting rodeo and Illinois.
“I would like to see as many (rodeos) as my budget would allow me,” she said. “That’s kind of the hard thing is, my travels rely exclusively on sponsorship. I’d like to be someplace every weekend if I could be. I definitely plan to be in at least one other state once a month, hopefully more than that.”
Weirather spent January visiting schools and nursing homes throughout Illinois with her miniature potbellied pig, Bo, at her side. She will take her first trip as Miss Rodeo Illinois this weekend, traveling to Kissimmee, Fla., for the Silver Spurs Rodeo.
Bix Basement Systems is one of Weirather’s sponsors helping her make her way across the states. Weirather said she is proud to represent a great family-owned company that supports her in more ways than one.
“I’ve already had to take a lot of time off work,” she said. “They’ve been really great for allowing me to take time off and supporting me through that.”
At 22, Weirather is still a student, but she said between work, rodeo and school, she is able to find a balance.
“I’m taking online classes through Illinois Central College. It makes it easy, so I can do it really wherever,” she said.
Her thousands of miles of travel will all lead up the the 60th Wrangler Nationals Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where Weirather will compete for Miss Rodeo America — a title never before held by a contestant from Illinois.
“There actually hasn’t been a Miss Rodeo Illinois in the top 10 in over the last 15 years,” she said. “That is definitely my goal this year, to break that streak.”
Crowned at the end of the competition in December, Miss Rodeo America 2018, Keri Sheffield, was Florida’s first national winner.
Weirather saw Sheffield’s win when she attended the pageant as lady-in-waiting to Miss Rodeo Illinois 2017, Emily Westfall.
Weirather said another goal for her reign is to really promote Illinois rodeo when she visits bigger rodeo states like Texas.
“We are a rodeo state. We are a farm state,” she said. “It was very encouraging for Florida to be the first Miss Rodeo from that state, so it’s definitely possible.”
According to the Miss Rodeo Illinois website, Weirather’s job is to serve as an ambassador of goodwill, promoting “the western way of life keeping education, leadership and personal growth in the forefront and doing so with the highest level of integrity.”
After her reign, Westfall said her best advice for Weirather is to take everything one day at a time.
“Cherish every moment and don’t stress over the little stuff,” she said. “The Miss Rodeo America pageant was an incredible whirlwind of incredible food, great people and a million unforgettable memories. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.”
As a spokeswoman for professional rodeo, Weirather said the most important part is being a role model and sharing her passion for the sport.
“I like to share that passion with other people, and I’m just really happy that I get the experience, for people to hear my voice about that passion,” she said.
Kelsey Watznauer can be reached at 686-3194 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kwatznauer.