Sitting under the shade of Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede’s Carriage House, Bailee McNaughton cannot believe a year has passed since she became a member of rodeo royalty.
“This year has been nothing short of fast-paced, unpredictable and exciting,” McNaughton told the News.
Crowned rodeo princess last July, McNaughton’s title officially changed to ‘rodeo royalty’ earlier this year, when 2021 queen Makayla Gross resigned.
In the months following, McNaughton has carried out all royal duties and attended all public appearances alone – responsibilities usually shared by the queen and princess.
Despite her hectic schedule, McNaughton says she’s enjoyed her time as royalty and is grateful for the many opportunities it provided her.
“It’s really hard to sum up everything I’ve done,” McNaughton said. “Every experience has been different, but amazing at the same time. So, I think the best way to sum it up would probably be to say it’s been an experience of self growth.”
McNaughton feels the experience enhanced her leadership skills, in particular, due to the multi-dynamic role rodeo royalty play in the community, as representatives of the city and MHE&S, as youth role models and as ambassadors for Western culture and values.
“I really believe in rodeo and what we do in the Western way of life,” said McNaughton. “And I think it’s really important. So, getting to be an ambassador for Western lifestyle was so special (for me).”
McNaughton says she will be sad when passing her crown to new royalty members Friday, but is glad others will have a chance to experience what she has this past year.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” she said. “Because I remember being a shy person who didn’t want, or know how to, come out of her shell this time last year. And so, it’s crazy to think I’ve come this far.
“I’m so excited for these future girls to take over the royalty role and have that same growth, because I think it’ll be an amazing experience (for them).”
McNaughton’s advice for the incoming queen and princess?
“I can’t promise these new girls they’re going to have an amazing day every day,” McNaughton said. “But I can promise that when they don’t, they’re going to have an entire rodeo and rodeo committee to back them up and be there with them, as the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede has done a fabulous and amazing job supporting me with whatever I need.”
Though she will no longer represent the Stampede, McNaughton plans to still be involved as a volunteer and equine enthusiast.
She also plans on returning to school, with hopes of one day working in the addictions and community mental health field.
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News