Kennedi Stinson of Hereford was crowned the 2022 Sonita Rodeo Queen during the Sonoita Labor Day rodeo earlier this month.
Stinson, 17, the daughter of Steven and Crystal Stinson and a senior at Buena High School, won the Sonoita Rodeo Queen competition in August. She had to wait until the Grand Canyon Pro Rodeo that was held Labor Day weekend to receive her crown, chaps and officially begin her reign.
For the past four years Stinson has been part of the Arizona High School Rodeo Association and the Willcox Junior Rodeo Association. In May she competed in seven WJRA events and won Reserve All-Around. She was the junior rodeo princess for the Sierra Vista Riding Club in 2017-18.
She’s had it in the back of her mind that maybe someday she would compete for the Sonoita Rodeo Queen.
“Sonita has always been a very prestigious program for royalty in my opinion,” Stinson said. “They have very high standards and there’s a reputation we need to uphold. It’s a very respectful rodeo community. In previous years the queen competition was open to those 18 to 26 (years of age),” she said. “This year they dropped the age to 17. That’s when I saw my chance and knew this was something I had to take advantage of.”
According to an article that ran in the Nogales International, a sister newspaper of the Herald/Review, after two years without a full-fledged rodeo royalty contest the event returned to the Sonoita fairgrounds.
“The contestants showcased their stage presence not only in an evening competition, which included modeling, delivering speeches and answering questions on stage, but also in five other portions of the contest, which included a written test and a private interview with the judges,” contest director Rachella Westbrook said in the article. “All of our contestants were amazing young ladies and did an incredible job.”
The article states that Westbrook took over as coordinator of the event in 2019, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some aspects of the competition were scaled back in 2020, and postponed in 2021.
“We are excited to be able to bring back the full event,” Westbrook said.
The Sonoita Rodeo Queen won a saddle bearing her title, as well as a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, each winner received a buckle, crown, jackets, three sashes to wear at events throughout their year, a bouquet of flowers and a $160 gift certificate for Western wear in Sierra Vista. Winners also received a pair of chaps, which are passed down each year for the new titleholders to wear.
“It was a long day but very fun,” Stinson said of the queen competition. “For me, the speech was the most challenging part. I like talking to people but memorizing a script is not the easiest thing for me.”
As Sonoita’s Rodeo Queen Stinson will be making a lot of public appearances, especially those at the Sonoita Fairgrounds, which include horse races, fair and rodeos.
Rodeo takes a lot of time because of travel, practice and the various competitions. Now that Stinson is Sonoita’s Rodeo Queen she’s aware it’s going to take up even more of her time.
“With queening and rodeo there is not a lot of time to be in school,” she said. “In order for me to stay on track and graduate (on time) I’ve been taking online courses (through Buena High School) the past three years. That way my class schedule is a little more flexible and I can still spend time with my horses and helping out with things at the house.”
Stinson says she’s a full-time online student at Buena and can attend the football games, dances, etc.
Stinson, an only child, lives with her parents, five horses, a miniature donkey, three goats, chickens, two barn cats and seven dogs on a farm her dad says is just shy of 10 acres.
“I’m still hoping to get a miniature cow,” Stinson said. “I think they’re cute.”
She has two quarter horses, Mag-E, a 15-year-old quarter horse she uses when she runs barrels or does her queen events; and Hotshot, a 21-year-old quarter horse she uses when she competes in breakaway roping. She’s in the process of working with a third horse she will take with her when she leaves for college.
When asked what it was like living on a farm Stinson said she’s glad she’s experiencing it now when she is older because she finds that she appreciates it more. She said growing up on Fort Huachuca when her father was in the military, with kids her own age and where the houses were at times so close together you could almost reach out and touch each other, was different. Living in Hereford with her parents and animals is much more rewarding and fulfilling.
“It has shown me a maturity that I needed to accept,” she said. Growing up, Stinson played softball and soccer but after getting introduced to gymkhanas and horses she quickly traded in her cleats for boots, chaps and horses.
Upon graduation she hopes to rodeo collegiately and study small animal veterinary science.
“That’s my primary goal,” she said.
Steven Stinson admits he holds his daughter to high standards because as a parent, that’s what parents do.
“She has exceeded those,” he said. “She’s done generally everything we’ve asked her to do. When she got into rodeo and this took off I was warned by an old rancher, the cheapest I was going to get off getting into this sport is the price of the horse. I would agree with him on that.”
Steven and Kennedi say the families they meet throughout the rodeo circuit are some of the nicest people you’d ever meet.
“People at those rodeos tell me how polite and friendly she is and we must have done something right,” her dad said. “The wife and I are very proud of her.”
Joining Stinson are Sonoita Rodeo Princess (age 12-16) Dakota Hardy, a resident of Vail who attends Cienega High School; and Sonoita Rodeo Little Miss (age 7-11) Bentlye-Ann Brunelle from Marana.