Mattie Jo Duzik, 10, was the named first runner-up in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Royalty Pageant last month in Pueblo, which she achieved with her horse, Chunky. Mattie Jo spent six months preparing for the 10-day event, which took her out of her normal comfort zone as a rodeo girl.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Mattie Jo Duzik, 10, was the named first runner-up in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Royalty Pageant last month in Pueblo, which she achieved with her horse, Chunky. Mattie Jo spent six months preparing for the 10-day event, which took her out of her normal comfort zone as a rodeo girl.

Mattie Jo Duzik trades in boots for makeup in pageant

— If Mattie Jo Duzik had her way, she would wear blue jeans and T-shirts every day.

She would be hunting or fishing instead of applying makeup and practicing speeches.

She prefers a cowboy hat and ponytail more than lavish curls that take hours to perfect.

But from July 24 to 26 in Pueblo, the 10-year-old retired her barn clothes for something a little more glitzy when she was named first runner-up in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Royalty Pageant.

"I thought it would be fun," she said. "A lot of my friends have done it, and they all said it was fun, so I thought I would try.

"It was a good way to spend my summer and a good experience."

Mattie Jo had to compete in categories including horsemanship, appearance, personality and speech and take a written test, for which she had been studying since February.

Her mother, Paula, made flash cards to help her through, but the test had several questions not included in the inches-thick stack of cards.

"Half the stuff on the test I didn't study for," Mattie Jo said. "I was kind of mad about that."

The hardest part of competing was the two- to three-minute speech she performed in front of a panel about why everyone should do rodeos, she said.

To practice, she delivered her speech to her mother's speech class at Colorado Northwestern Community College and to her friends in the 4-H goat division.

"I didn't know I was going to have to talk in front of so many people," she said. "I thought it was only going to be a couple."

Including Mattie Jo, there were six young cowgirls up for the title of National Little Britches Rodeo Association junior girls princess.

The goal of being named princess is to inform, Mattie Jo said.

"You get to go places and tell everyone about Little Britches," she said. "You go to places like the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or stock shows."

Being named first runner-up was not because of a lack of effort, she said.

"I was just kind of mad because we worked so hard," she said. "We studied for so long."

But, Mattie Jo did not go home empty-handed.

"I guess everyone thought I had a good personality, because I was named Miss Congeniality for the junior girls," she said. "The junior girls voted for junior girls."

For being named Miss Congeniality, Mattie Jo was given a bracelet.

Next year, her chances to win will increase because she will know what to expect.

"I heard it takes two times to win," she said. "Next year, I'll know more of the rules, and I'll have a few tricks."

Some of those tricks would have helped her this year, she said.

Especially using a bobby pin to secure her hat instead of having it fly off, which happened during the pageant.

Usually, Mattie Jo just wears a plain black hat during the rodeos, but for the competition she had a new, pristine and crisp white one.

The new hat didn't fit quite right, but wearing a hat normally fits Mattie Jo just fine.

"I put my hair up in a pony and I'm good to go," Mattie Jo said. "It's better than waiting an hour to do my hair."

Paula said Mattie Jo and her sister Taylor are more likely to be found tending to their horses than their appearances.

"She's a hair-down kind of girl," Paula said. "She's probably not as much of a cowboy as her sister, though."

During the rodeos, Mattie Jo can be seen barreling down through the poles on her horse, Chunky, or jumping off Dolly, a quarter horse, at considerable speed to rope a goat.

"I like all that stuff," she said. "But pageants are harder."

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