Sarah Tolton admires the grand history of the Crooked River Roundup that exhibits true grit and hard work, and she is proud to represent the local tradition as the 2017 Crooked River Roundup Queen.
"I've had so much fun so far," 20-year-old Tolton says. "Roundup week in particular is going to be a ton of fun with the cattle drive and the street party and going around to the businesses."
Growing up only an hour from the home of the Crooked River Roundup on the White Butte Ranch, just outside of Mitchell, she is the youngest daughter of Gordon and Bonnie Tolton. She has an older brother, Jake, who works in Nevada, training horses for Nick Dowers. Her older sister, Chiyanna, is the membership outreach coordinator for the Oregon Cattlemen's Association.
Tolton has lived on a cattle ranch her whole life and has been riding horses since she was a baby. Her cowboying journey began with adventures on a small, ornery white pony named Dustin, to learning the trades of training her filly, Winks. She loves everything about the Western lifestyle and feels privileged to have grown up on a cattle ranch at the base of the Ochoco National Forest.
Meeting new people and contributing to the expansion of their knowledge about agriculture and the Western lifestyle is something she implements into her everyday life.
Tolton has many hobbies, but riding horses, spending time with family, and making people smile are her favorites. Some of her most fond memories are from her involvement in 4-H and FFA, in which she showed steers, pigs and horses at the Wheeler County Fair.
In 2014, she was the Wheeler County Fair and Rodeo Princess, and the following year, she was the Wheeler County Fair and Rodeo Queen. She represented her county during the Crooked River Roundup Parade as well as the run in and the business tour.
She graduated from Mitchell High School in 2015 and currently lives in Corvallis, where she is a sophomore at Oregon State University, pursuing a degree in kinesiology.
"I'm really looking forward most definitely to Roundup week and working with all the board members, giving back to the community, being able to say thank you to everyone at the street party and the business tour," Tolton says, adding that she's also excited to be an ambassador for Crook County and the Roundup, which happens June 23-25, followed by the horse races, July 12-15.
She's not the only one looking forward to her rounds.
Her mare, Blue, loves the attention she gets during rodeo festivities.
"She thrives off of the praise and visiting all the little kids. I know she loves the rodeos and the run ins," Tolton says. "You can just see it in her behavior, and her ears light up."
She says Blue gets excited when she goes down to catch her at the ranch.
"She likes going and working cows, but you can tell she knows when she's getting to go to a rodeo," Tolton says.
With a little help from her sister, Tolton is working on a special project she calls HERO, which stands for Honor Educate Remember Old Glory.
"It's something that I wanted to do to make it a little bit more memorable as the year of the Crooked River Roundup Queen," she said. "I wanted to honor a veteran at each rodeo."
At the Memorial Day weekend Spray Rodeo, she interviewed a veteran, who was also one of her former assistant basketball coaches.
"I do a short interview with them and talk to them about their service and what the flag means to them," she explained.
Tolton plans to post the veterans' stories on social media, including the Crooked River Roundup Queen Facebook page. At the end of the season, she'd like to put all of the interviews together into a video or slideshow.
Aside from promoting the Roundup around the Northwest, Tolton hopes to visit local organizations and schools as well.
Rodeo to rodeo, sunup to sundown, she is more than ready to represent what she says is the best rodeo in town.
And Tolton appreciates those who have helped her get there.
"Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far and all the businesses and how much they helped with the coronation," she says.