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Armstrong rodeo queen works hard to achieve her goals

MANOR — Jessica Rodericks knows it takes grit and hard work to become queen. After competing for the last five years for the crown, Rodericks, 17, of Greensburg Salem High School, has proved her mettle and earned her title as the 2011 Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo Queen.

Rodericks was among four contestants who competed for this year's crown on June 25, at Crooked Creek Horse Park, Ford City. All contestants had to be between the ages of 13 and 18 to compete.

"I finally reached my goal one year before quitting time," Rodericks said. Her grandmother introduced her to horses when she was 5 years old, she said. She has her own horse now, Chance, a black Missouri Fox Trotter.

Rodericks, wearing a purple embroidered shirt tucked into blue jeans, headed across the dusty horse arena, her tiara perched on the brim of a black cowboy hat. Two men from Rawhide Rodeo Company in Leicester, N.Y., unloaded metal bucking chutes from a truck in preparation for the upcoming rodeo.

"You don't have to be perfect to win," Rodericks said. "You just have to work hard and you can achieve your goals."

In addition to the age requirements, Rodericks said, each contestant was judged on horse grooming and handling, on riding ability and on various service projects. Diana Lorant is director of the Crooked Creek Horse Park and was one of the competition judges. She said the contestants had to prove how well they could manage a horse, but they also needed to complete service projects outside the arena. They wrote essays, made posters and visited local nursing homes, organizing a tea party for the residents where they made baskets filled with homemade candy.

Rodericks and the other contestants also had a hand in making the park beautiful just in time for this year's rodeo. They tended existing flower beds and planted new plots around the horse park, hauling rocks, laying plastic down, mulching and weeding.

As horse trailers begin to stream into Crooked Creek from Route 66 this week for the rodeo, Rodericks will be busy with her new responsibilities as queen - greeting children, meeting with local rodeo sponsors and signing autographs.

Fort Armstrong Horseman's Association President Sandy Cullen said the 2011 Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on July 8 and 9 will benefit the American Red Cross. We're looking forward to a couple of really good nights, Cullen said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

Additional Information:

At a glance

2011 Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo

When: July 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. • gates open at 4:30 p.m.

(Kids Calf Scramble • 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.)

Where: Crooked Creek Horse Park, 467 Crooked Creek Dam Road, Manor

Tickets: $12 for adults, $5 for children ages 4-12, free for children under 4.

Advance tickets priced $10 for adults and $4 for kids are available at Altmeyer Trailer Sales, Kittanning; Guthrie Insurance Agency, Apollo; Jackson Hardware, Penn Hills; JP Stark & Son Feed Inc., Tarentum.

For more information: 724-545-1980 or visit www.crookedcreekhorsepark-faha.com .

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