Melissa Austin of Creston, daughter of Susan Bailey and Shane Austin, was chosen as Miss Leon Rodeo during Leon’s annual rodeo July 3 through 6.
Miss Leon Rodeo is Austin’s second queen title in the rodeo pageant world. In 2017, she was Miss United Rodeo Association. She has also represented Union County as the Union County Saddle Club Senior Cowgirl queen at the Iowa State Fair Cowgirl Queen Contest, as well as winning several other saddle club queen contests.
This is Austin’s final year of eligibility for Miss Rodeo contests. She has not yet decided if she will use her title to compete at Miss Rodeo USA 2020.
As Miss Leon Rodeo, Austin was responsible for the queen’s run and flag run each night of the rodeo to welcome rodeo goers and carry the American flag around the arena. She and princess, Stevie Wood, also helped with the rodeo during calf roping — running the calves back to the end of the ring after each competitor.
Austin was in Leon making and serving pancakes for the Fourth of July pancake breakfast. After the breakfast she returned to Creston to be in the parade, then headed back to Leon for its parade and the rodeo that evening.
Austin said she wasn’t raised around horses but became interested in her teens when she started riding with her 4-H leader Dannie Stephens, who she leased horses from for a couple of years. Austin’s love for horses grew from there, and for her 16th birthday, her parents bought her a horse of her own — JF Lady Christy — which she still owns.
Austin has competed several times in rodeo pageants, winning the horsemanship portion several times and coming in second in some of the competitions. She said her public speaking held her back before because she was too nervous.
This year, Austin said she was able to conquer her nerves and speak confidently during the speech and interview portions of the contest, allowing her to win the title. She credits several of the clinics she attended for helping her grow and mature in her ability to speak publicly.
At the Queens and Jeans clinic, Austin said Debra Fox was instrumental in helping her.
“I’m hard on myself,” Austin said. “She [Fox] said to be confident and believe in myself.”
Austin said one of the questions this year during the interview portion of the contest was personal for her. The judges asked her about flag etiquette, which is important to Austin due to the many veterans in her family.
Austin graduated from Creston Community High School in 2011 and completed an Ag Production degree at Southwestern Community College in 2013. She currently works for Colorpoint Greenhouse merchandising flowers. She hopes to someday compete in rodeo at the professional level.