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Agriculture is close to this queen's heart

Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska-Lincoln Shelby Riggs talks to a group of first graders from Lincoln Public Schools about the difference between a cow, bull and steer during a visit to the UNL Animal Science Complex. Riggs and other members of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Rodeo Association showed them horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats. Photo courtesy Shelby Riggs)1 / 6
Shelby Riggs MC's the event. In Our Grit, Our Glory brand reveal party on east campus at the Nebraska Union. August 31, 2018. (Photo courtesy Craig Chandler / University Communication)2 / 6
The new Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Jennifer Stroh has her sash pinned on by the outgoing Miss Rodeo Shelby Riggs. 60th Anniversary of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Rodeo Club. April 20, 2018. (Photo courtesy Craig Chandler / University Communication)3 / 6
Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska-Lincoln Shelby Riggs brings in the American flag to begin the rodeo. 60th anniversary of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Rodeo Club. April 20, 2018. (Photo courtesy Craig Chandler / University Communication)4 / 6
Miss Rodeo Univeristy of Nebraska-Lincoln Shelby Riggs reads "A Tiny Turkey's Tale" to the kids to open up a discussion about being kind to animals and how rodeo athletes take care of our animals and livestock during an event at the Lincoln Children's Museum. The University of Nebraska Rodeo Association and Riggs organized Rodeo Weekend at the LCM. that included rodeo dress-up clothes, making and color paper stick horses with the kids along with stories read by Riggs. (Photo courtesy Shelby Riggs)5 / 6
Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska-Lincoln Shelby Riggs talks to students at Calvert Elementary School about her horses before reading them a story called "Before We Eat" to recognize all the people involved in agriculture, from farm to plate during a visit on Dr. Seuss's birthday. This classroom visit was organized and sponsored by Lancaster County Farm Bureau as part of their Ag Reading Hour program. (Photo courtesy Shelby Riggs)6 / 6

What do rodeos and agriculture have in common?

That's the question Mitchell native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Shelby Riggs spent the majority of her time answering while she was Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Riggs, a 2016 graduate of Mitchell High School, served as Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska-Lincoln from October 2017 through September.

Riggs, who holds six rodeo queen titles including a former Wessington Springs Foothills Rodeo Queen and as a 4-H Rodeo ambassador, said she's talked to more than 1,200 kids during her time as Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska.

Riggs said getting out to educate people about rodeos and agriculture in general was a big shift from her previous stints as a rodeo queen.

"It was basically you were handed a title and said get to as many rodeos or agriculture events that fit into your schedule as you can," she said.

With the title also came a position within the University of Nebraska Rodeo Association that has more of an organizational structure and it allowed her to work within UNL's College of Ag Sciences and Natural Sciences dean's office.

"Instead of focusing on rodeo appearances like was the focus when I had queen titles in the past. We did more educational events then rodeos," she said.

Riggs, who mostly spoke to fourth-grade classrooms, said she started the lesson giving a background about herself, rodeo and the family farm. Then she would read a book about agriculture and how it's not just the production of food.

"The most interesting thing to me, speaking with the students in Lincoln, was the questions that they asked. One student asked me why flies like cows, and so the types of questions I received really kept me on my feet," she said. "I told him (flies) liked the way cows smell."

Riggs attributes her ability to speak with people easily to her time in debate, 4-H and FFA.

"Those really helped me develop my public speaking skills. When I'm talking with kids about agriculture it's really not nerve-wracking for me because I'm speaking about a topic that is close to my heart and is my background," she said. "The conversation just flows."

Riggs attributed the previous queen, Jill Oatman, for helping her get acquainted with Nebraska rodeos. That knowledge is something she's passing on to the current queen, Jennifer Stroh, of Austin, Texas.

"She's new to rodeo. The questions I've answered for her is how to speak with stock contractors, how to line up events and classroom events as well as how to put together a bio for rodeos," Riggs said. "Just a lot of small details in rodeo queening in general."

Riggs participated in 11 rodeos as Miss Rodeo University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A lot of times that included two or three performances.

Riggs will graduate in December with a degree in agricultural economics, with minors in animal science and agribusiness entrepreneurship. Riggs, who already works part-time at the Lancaster Event Center as a business development assistant and is looking to become full-time after graduation, is helping to get sponsorships and develop the facilities to bring the national high school rodeo to Lincoln in 2020 and 2021, she said.

While she gears up for life after college and her career, Riggs plans on competing for the title of Miss Rodeo South Dakota in the next few years.

"Currently, I'm focusing on starting my career," she said. "Once we get a little bit of experience in the workforce I will compete in (Miss Rodeo South Dakota) and utilize the skills I've learned in my career to help me be a more successful rodeo queen and help grow that organization as well."

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