Meet Tennessee’s Rodeo Queen Kelsey Hawkins

On December 30th, 2015, Kelsey Hawkins walked across the arena at the Liberty Bowl Rodeo in Memphis, Tennessee. As the sun set behind the mountains, the lights around the arena flickered on one by one. The crowd in the stands sat silently, waiting for the announcement.

Over the loudspeaker, Kelsey heard the announcer call in his booming voice: “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, your new Miss Rodeo Tennessee of 2016!” With a cheer, the crowd leapt to their feet, clapping wildly.

Kelsey was handed a bouquet of flowers and stood for the pinning of her sash. Previous Rodeo Queen Tennessee, Alina Bonacquista, was present to pass the title along. Kelsey and Alina left the arena together as the crowd cheered again. Kelsey signed autographs and posed for pictures in the whirlwind of activity. “I was so excited, I was shaking!” Kelsey remembers.

A Knoxville Tennessee native, Kelsey and her family moved to Madisonville when she was 11. “I always wanted horses,” Kelsey said. “I just kept pestering my parents about it.” After discovering Philadelphia Stables, Kelsey went to three different horse camps, beginning with English Jumping and ending with Barrel Racing, which she finds “much more exciting.”

In 2009, Kelsey’s interest for Rodeo’s grew. Her dear friends Nancy and Joel Sherlin fostered that interest, taking her to Rodeo’s and teaching her about performing. “I began watching Rodeo’s on TV, I loved it.” Kelsey said. “It’s just how it was supposed to be!”

Kelsey began riding with the Hedrick Rodeo Company over the next two years, traveling with them and opening Rodeo’s by carrying the American Flag. Kelsey continued running barrels and learned how to trick ride between Rodeo events.

While riding with the Hedrick Rodeo Company, Kelsey met 2013 Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry, who sparked Kelsey’s interest in becoming a Rodeo Queen. “Since then, we have been very good friends.” Kelsey says. “She helps me out a lot.” Kelsey continued to ride with the Hedrick Rodeo Company, traveling to South Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia and all across Tennessee.

She was part of the Specialty Act for the Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association in 2014, along with the Hedrick kids, which was a very exciting year.

Looking ahead, Kelsey is ready to embrace her duties as Miss Rodeo Queen of Tennessee. Her year will be filled with travel, including attending Tennessee Rodeo’s, and the Rodeo’s of the other State Queen Winners. Kelsey is looking forward to the Cheyenne Frontier Days in July, which takes place in Wyoming.

At the end of November, Kelsey will travel to Las Vegas to compete at Miss Rodeo of America. Kelsey is currently looking for travel sponsors to partner with her and help fund her trips across the State.

“I am very persistent in my goals,” Kelsey says. “I kind of live by my motto, to ‘never give up.’” Kelsey currently attends Hiwassee College, and will graduate in May with an Associates of Science Degree.

To learn more about Kelsey, or to receive sponsor information, email her at

missrodeotn2016@gmail.com

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