Kennadee Riggs talks faith, family, and “Kicking up Kindness” as Miss Rodeo America 2023.
If you’re attending the National Finals Rodeo this year, you may just have the pleasure of catching a glimpse of Kennadee Riggs as she carries the American flag across the arena. Vegas is just one of the hundreds of stops Riggs has made on her journey to spread her love for the Western spirit across the country through rodeo performances, charity events, horsemanship lessons, and her podcast, The Kindness Journal.
Riggs took time between her many NFR responsibilities to chat with C&I about her experience as Miss Rodeo America 2023, her family’s extensive rodeo queening legacy, and what she’d like her own legacy to be.
C&I: Can you tell us about your road to rodeo queening?
Kennadee Riggs: I feel so blessed because, not only do ranching and rodeo run in my family, so does rodeo queening specifically. My great grandmother was the Reno Rodeo Queen in 1950, and on that side of the family, all of the girls have followed in her footsteps. It’s been something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl because the women in my family are my biggest role models. My grandma started this group called the Cowgirls Historical Foundation, and they serve a lot of the same purposes as rodeo queens. Growing up with both of those things all around me, I just had perfect examples. This is definitely a dream come true.
C&I: Since being crowned Miss Rodeo America 2023, you’ve traveled across the country. Are there any standout moments from your travels?
Riggs: My very favorite moments have been those stories of kindness that others have provided for me, and getting to know new four-legged friends everywhere I go. That’s one really unique thing about being Miss Rodeo America. You can’t logistically take your own horse with you on the road, so you get the chance to borrow horses everywhere. That’s been not only a learning experience, but something that has really spoken to my soul, because I’m such a horse girl at heart. Making human and horse friends has been one of my favorite parts of the year.
C&I: As Miss Rodeo America, you are a major representative of the Western lifestyle. What are the aspects of the Western lifestyle that you love the most?
Riggs: In today’s day and age, the Western industry carries morals, principles, and values that the world is so hungry for. Society wants those things, and they might not know where to find them. Those things are faith, family, freedom, and unity of people of different backgrounds. I’m so thankful to represent and witness this unique atmosphere that we get to share with other people. And that’s my favorite part about it. Your job as Miss Rodeo America is to invite people, not just to rodeos, but to be a part of this industry. That’s definitely my favorite part of the Western way of life — the old-fashioned values that the world needs so bad. We are rich in that.
C&I: You’re currently studying journalism at Arizona State University. What sparked your interest in journalism?
Riggs: I love the art of telling stories truthfully and finding the good. When you’re looking through the lens of the media, the world can look like a dark place. But what I’ve learned throughout my travels this year is that there’s so much good to be found. People just need to tell those good stories. Even in hardships and trials, you can always find something good out of it. That’s why I want to go into journalism. I want to be someone who finds the good in stories and share those instead of the negative.
C&I: What impact do you hope to make as Miss Rodeo America? What do you want your stamp on the West to be?
Riggs: I am a very big family-history girl. I love my heritage, and part of my heritage has always been God-loving people that love horses too. I think that if I were to be remembered for one thing, I would hope that it would be promoting kindness and faith, because those are two things that are so prevalent in this industry. My platform is “Kicking Up Kindness,” and that’s also my family legacy. My grandmother created that platform. She would write about kind deeds in her newspaper, and now I get to do the same thing on social media and on my podcast. Kindness and faith are definitely the two things I hope to leave behind.
C&I: You’re currently in Vegas at the National Finals Rodeo. What are you most looking forward to?
Riggs: What will be very special is getting a chance to carry the American flag one of the nights at the National Finals Rodeo. Because I have such a long line of rodeo queens in my family history, we’ve kept our clothes throughout the years. I have some clothes from the 1940s from my family that I get to wear. One of the things that I will be wearing during the NFR is one of Judy Lynn’s gold crystal outfits, and I will be riding in her gold crystal saddle on the famous Hollywood the Horse. That will be very sentimental for me — a fun way to go out.
Check out more of C&I’s NFR 2023 content, including our full NFR 2023 travel guide and conversations with legendary duo Sage and Alexis Kimzey.
Photography: Courtesy of missrodeoamerica.com.