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'First-generation cowgirl' and Biola University grad Avalon Irwin becomes 2022 queen.

COURTESY PHOTO: JEFF WONG - Miss Rodeo Oregon 2022, Avalon Irwin, poses for photos at Canby's famous Swan Island Dahlias.

After a full week of challenges during the Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo, Bend's Avalon Irwin walked away with the Miss Rodeo Oregon crown.

"It is so exciting to win the crown," Irwin said. "Miss Rodeo Oregon Inc. has such a rich history of women in leadership, and I am so excited to have been chosen to be a part of that history. It is a huge honor to be chosen to represent Oregon rodeo, and it hasn't fully hit me yet that that is what I will be spending the next year doing."

COURTESY PHOTO: SAMANTHA HENRICKS/LAS VEGAS IMAGE STUDIO - Reigning Miss Rodeo Oregon Samantha Henricks will compete for the Miss Rodeo America crown in Las Vegas at the end of November.Irwin is now the lady in-waiting as current queen Samantha Henricks continues her reign through the end of the year. By then, Henricks will have held the crown for a full two years, compared to the usual one year, since the organization was unable to hold a pageant in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Irwin said she is excited to attend the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas Nov. 28 to Dec. 5 to watch Henricks compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America and then to take that same stage next year.

But for now, she's focusing on the year ahead and looks forward to meeting new people and working with diverse rodeo committees.

COURTESY PHOTO: JEFF WONG - Avalon Irwin rides her way to the crown during the Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo in August.

Irwin grew up in Central Oregon, where she fell in love with the livestock and agricultural community. During high school, she worked summers as a wrangler at a local barn. That's what sparked her passion for teaching others about horses and western heritage.

Irwin graduated from Biola University in Southern California with a bachelor's degree, and she currently works as a riding instructor.

She hopes to earn her master's degree and go on to start a youth program through which students from all over the country can learn about agriculture and livestock.

COURTESY PHOTO: JEFF WONG - From left, Katie Ralston, Britney Norby, and Avalon Irwin compete during the Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo.

Irwin competed against two other women in the MRO pageant: Britney Norby of Molalla and Katie Ralston of Cottage Grove. Irwin's favorite part was the horsemanship contest.

"To have the opportunity to get to ride so many amazing horses was a dream come true," Irwin said.

Of course, winning the crown wasn't bad, either.

She offered a message to young girls who might be dreaming of becoming a rodeo queen.

"Please chase that dream," Irwin said. "Anyone that has held a title will tell you it is one of the best experiences of their life, and most of us would love to help you achieve that dream. Most people think that you have to be a multi-generation cowgirl in order to make a good rodeo queen, but I can tell you from experience that is not true. You just have to be passionate about the sport and willing to learn. I am a first-generation cowgirl with only two years of rodeo queening under my belt. I can tell you from experience that anything is possible with hard work and determination."

Kristen Wohlers
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