This year’s Deschutes County Fair and Rodeo Queen Avalon Irwin is galloping into the title and all it entails.

The 26-year-old Central Oregonian grew up in Sunriver and first jumped on the saddle when she was 10 or 11 at the Fly Spur Ranch in Tumalo where she began solidifying her foundations as a horsewoman. At the time, she was the only one in her family interested in livestock and the agricultural community.

“I was kind of the leader in (my family),” Irwin said. “Since I kind of started to show an interest in it, they’ve been really supportive and kind of hopping on board with their own little stuff.”

While attending Bend High School, Irwin even began wrangling at the Sunriver Stables, learning about herd dynamics, horse language, body language and taking visitors out on trail rides.

College took her to Southern California’s Biola University with a focus on intercultural studies. After graduating, Irwin returned home to Central Oregon where she worked as a preschool teacher for Eastmont School and now is busy teaching horseback riding while preparing for not only the Deschutes County Fair & Rodeo but to compete in the Miss Rodeo Oregon pageant at the Canby Rodeo Aug. 18 through 21.

“I haven’t made any life decisions beyond that rodeo date in August,” she said laughing, though she has the idea of one day starting her own organization dedicated to teaching students from all backgrounds about the agricultural community.

“I want to (create) a space for people that didn’t grow up in the agricultural or livestock community, and I think it’s really good that I also didn’t because I can relate to them.”

When asked about what her riding students thought of her royal status she laughed, “I go from regular Avalon to like celebrity…’No, I’m still the same person I was like 5 minutes ago!’”

Irwin knew little about the process of being the queen of the rodeo until a few years ago when her friends began to encourage her to go for it as she was about to age out (26 is the last year to apply to be rodeo queen). While there are similarities to regular pageants including various interviews and giving speeches while riding your horse in a pattern, showing your wave and doing a flag run for the rodeo aspect, Irwin says that the interesting thing about rodeo queen pageant is your overall knowledge of the world of rodeos has to run deep.

“You have to know your stuff,” she said, “You have to know about equine and veterinary sciences...girls have to be really well rounded in their knowledge.”

While speaking with The Bulletin, one of Irwin’s horses was colicky, and she pairs the knowledge required for rodeo with how she was able to handle that situation.

“It’s been really cool to see myself grow as a horsewoman through what (I) have to study and know to be fit for (the) job as a rodeo queen.”

The red-headed cowgirl will saddle up her faithful steeds Mr. T and Twiggy for the upcoming rodeo performances. She can be seen throughout the fair at special events, before and after performances and at a question booth, where you can find out more about Irwin and the rodeo.

“We want to...see you guys back out there...we’ve got some really cool stuff going on this year!”

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Reporter: 541-383-0304, mwhittle@bendbulletin.com

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