For forty years a young lady has been selected to represent Iowa's Rich Western Heritage and to serve as Iowa's First Lady of Professional Rodeo as Miss Rodeo Iowa. The young women vying for the title must be between the ages of 18 and 25, single, never married and a resident of Iowa. They must be comfortable meeting new people, relaxed speaking to individuals as well as large crowds and be skilled and knowledgeable horsewomen.
An affiliate of Miss Rodeo America, Inc., the state Miss Rodeo Iowa Pageant is held annually the week following Labor Day during the Tri-State Rodeo in Fort Madison. Contestants are judged in three main areas - Appearance, Horsemanship and Personality. Judges observe the contestants as they demonstrate their horsemanship skills by riding two patterns (one on a horse she is unfamiliar with) presenting a flag and making a queen's run; their speaking skills with the presentation of a prepared speech and the answering of impromptu questions; the knowledge with personality and horsemanship interviews; and their inner and outer beauty at all times. Upon selection as Miss Rodeo Iowa the titleholder spends the months leading up to the beginning of her reign as a "Lady in Waiting" during which time she sets her upcoming schedule, secures sponsors and attends the Miss Rodeo America Pageant to support the reigning titeholder and to prepare for her own competition. Once her reign begins, Miss Rodeo Iowa travels the state and the nation to promote Iowa's rich western heritage and proud agricultural roots.
In 1999 the Miss Teen Rodeo Iowa Pageant was developed to provide an opportunity for younger women of high school age to garner similar experiences and to develop the skills necessary to potentially become Miss Rodeo Iowa. The Miss Teen Rodeo Iowa Pageant is judged in a similar fashion and format as Miss Rodeo Iowa with the main difference being that her travel is limited to in-state appearances and there is no national pageant. In 2011 the first Jr. Miss Rodeo Iowa pageant was held for pre-teen contestants and while similar to the older categories, the pageant is a one-day event with lesser travel requirements for the titleholder.
The titleholders in the Miss Rodeo Iowa program are representatives of the "ideal Western American young woman". They wish to further promote the sport of Rodeo and Iowa's rich western heritage and agricultural pride. They are good will ambassadors who travel throughout the state and nation promoting rodeo, the humane treatment of animals and the Western way of life. During their reigns they will make appearances in parades and rodeos, and they will be asked to speak to a variety of audiences including school children, nursing home residents, dignitaries, radio and television audiences and to civic and business groups.