By Scott Prater
April Biernat remembers how enamored she was as a young teenager. As a Pikes Peak Rangerette, she worked closely with the Girls of the West, and couldn’t help but notice their beauty, elegance and confidence.
So last year, when she came of age, Ms. Biernat applied, competed and earned the honor of Aide to Girl of the West. By procedure, she became the 2009 Girl of the West earlier this year.
With this new title, Ms. Biernat is much more than a beauty queen. She is a primary promoter of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, and as such, tours the local area, speaking to people about the rodeo, its events and its benefits to the military community.
Ms. Biernat and 2009 Aide to the Girl of the West, Jessica Greene, toured Schriever AFB June 23. The pair learned about the 50th Space Wing’s mission and delivered three presentations during their visit, informing Schriever personnel about the rodeo.
“A large part of the reason we’re here is all of the rodeo proceeds benefit our local military charities,” Ms. Biernat said. “So we want to make sure we get out and tell all the people in military what the rodeo is all about.”
The tour also provided a bit of an education for Ms. Biernat and Ms. Greene, who knew of the base, but little about its mission.
“It’s amazing,” Ms. Greene said. “So much goes on here and some of it isn’t even comprehendable, but what we saw and heard, what the folks here can do with satellites is really astounding. And that’s one of the benefits of participating in the Girl of the West program. We gain some amazing experiences, so it’s really an honor to be allowed to do this.”
Schriever is a major partner in the rodeo. Base personnel volunteer time and service to ensure the smooth operation of the event, its members provide a multitude of spectators and the base benefits from rodeo proceeds. Schriever’s portion of proceeds this year will go toward the base’s financial management fund.
Between late May until the end of the rodeo, the Girls of the West have little time to relax. After touring local military installations and promoting the rodeo throughout the Pikes Peak Region, the pair begin their actual rodeo duties. During the rodeo, they’ll ride through the arena, carrying sponsor flags between events, and they’ll herd calves during the competition. The duo also play a major role in the opening ceremony and in the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Parade.
Ms. Biernat likes the way the program is set up for incoming Girls of the West, which allows a future honoree to perform as an aide the year prior to becoming the Girl of the West.
“It’s important to get the experience as an aide because we go to a lot of military places and if you’re not a military person, you don’t know how the military works,” said Ms. Biernat. “It was really nice for me to have somebody holding my hand, going through the process with me. The public speaking becomes an intimidating experience, and just from last year to this year, I’ve gained so much confidence.”
It’s not easy becoming a Girl of the West. Girls who are interested must show a high level of horsemanship and ace an interview with a panel of former Girls of the West.
“They’re looking for someone who looks composed and professional in the arena and can represent the rodeo and the western way of life in a respectful manner,” Ms. Greene said.
The 69th annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo begins July 8 and runs through July 11 at the Norris-Penrose Events Center in Southwest Colorado Springs. The rodeo is offering a special night for Air Force Space Command on July 10. Other festivities include a downtown parade July 7 and a children’s competition on July 11.
Visit www.coloradospringsrodeo.com for more information. Tickets are available now and range between $7.50 and $30, with VIP tickets going for $100. Call 719-576-2626 or 866-464-2626 for ticket information or visit www.ticketswest.com.
To volunteer for this year’s rodeo, contact Senior Master Sgt. Donaldo Puller at 567-3726.