Ariel Weinman                                                      

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Pageant for Miss Rodeo Illinois & Teen 2016  
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Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington D.C. - April 10-13

Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington D.C. April 10-13 Yet another adventure and bucket list item checked off! This past weekend I was in Washington D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival. My self along with Miss Rodeo Virginia, Miss Rodeo Nebraska, and Miss Rodeo New York were able to ride and represent our states in the Cherry Blossom Parade that went down Constitution Avenue. It was so such an honor to represent my home state in our Nation's capital.

Of course a trip to Washington D.C. is not complete unless you see all the sights the city has to offer. Our first stop was in Georgetown to visit the famous George Town Cupcakes shop made famous by its sister shop on the show "D.C. Cupcakes." After munching on some cupcakes we headed to the Potomac River for a cruise. From the river we got a taste of what was to come on next day of sight seeing.  Sunday took us downtown to see the D.C. classic stops. There was so much to see and not enough hours in the day! We went to the Smithsonian Natural History, the American History Museum and the Holocaust Museum. We finished up the trip with more D.C. classics, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial, the World War II Memorial and paid our respects at the Arlington National Cemetery. This was a once in a lifetime trip. How many people can say that they rode a horse down Constitution Avenue? To round off the trip I got to add an experience to the list of things I never thought I would see. We were able to witness a wreath presentation ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. It was such an honor to be a part of such a special occurrence.

This trip turned into so much more than I could ever dream of. I am excited to go on my next adventure and share this awesome experience with others.

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Illinois Horse Fair - March 6-8
There are a couple things that come along with the start of spring like green grass, blooming flowers, drastic temperature changes and the Illinois Horse Fair. The Illinois Horse Fair is the kick off to horse activities for many in Illinois. It is a place to do some shopping, brush up on skills in a clinic and spend time with friends from all over the state.

Over the weekend I was busy helping with the Circle H Western Store fashion show, signing autographs at my sponsors’ booths, cheering on the contestants in the Miss Illinois Horse Fair pageant, visiting with everyone who stopped by the Miss Rodeo Illinois 2015 booth and presenting the American flag at the rodeo performances. Caring the American Flag is such an honor for me since I am a little sister to an active duty sailor, a great niece to a Korean War veteran, a granddaughter to a Korean War veteran, a daughter to a Vietnam veteran and a friend to many veterans and active duty military.

It was great to have an adventure as Miss Rodeo Illinois close to home. I encourage everyone to come out to the Illinois Horse Fair next year and see us at the Miss Rodeo Illinois booth!

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Silver Spurs Rodeo - February 18-22
I was able to leave the cold temperatures of The Land of Lincoln for some time in the Florida sunshine. While down in the sunny state of Florida I was able to help the area get ready for the Silver Spurs Rodeo held in Kissimmee Fl. The other queens and I went to schools to get area kids excited for the rodeo. This was my first experience with school visits. It was so much fun teaching the kids all about rodeo.

Not only did we help promote the Silver Spurs Rodeo but our wonderful hosts had activities planned for us while we were down there to not only have fun but also to help us learn about the state of Florida. First we went to what used to be Mercury's testing ground or "Lake X" to do a challenge course that included a zip-line. We also got to learn about the wildlife and landscape of Florida. We then went for an airboat ride at Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and we were able to see alligators in the wild and hold a young alligator. We were also able to visit Gatorland and learn more about alligators and other animals. We were able to "wrestle" an alligator, hold a tarantula and a giant snake!

While at the Silver Spurs Rodeo I was able to represent Illinois while signing autographs and making appearances in all the rodeo performances. Riding in the rodeo was amazing, airboat riding was fantastic, and meeting all the creatures at Gatorland was once in a lifetime but my favorite part was helping with the exceptional kids’ rodeo. I was able to teach kids about the sport of rodeo while having so much fun. It was an amazing experience.

Florida was a once in a lifetime adventure and I can't wait for my next trip! Thank you to everyone who was involved with hosting the Queens during our stay!

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The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo January 16-20
My first trip is in the books. The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo was an amazing experience. During my trip I was able to represent the state of Illinois by caring sponsor flags during rodeo performances, reading to children at the Denver Children's Museum, and by helping with the mutton busting.

Not only did I participate in the rodeo festivities, I also was able to go to the Denver Market. The support I received from different companies was truly a blessing. It was amazing getting to talk to and meet new people from around the country. If you have never been to "The Market" there is only one way to describe it.... massive! Thankfully two of the best tour guides that I could dream of. Don and Shirley Stavers, owners of Stavers Western Store in Afton, IA were a life saver for me while I was trying to navigate the Denver Market. There was so much to see and different buildings to navigate. Without them I would have been lost and overwhelmed, so a big thank you to them!

My first trip as Miss Rodeo Illinois was quite the adventure and I learned a lot. Getting to know my fellow state queens was an amazing experience and I am excited to get to know those awesome ladies even better as the year continues.

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Coronation January 31
I cannot believe that January 31st is already behind us. It seems like yesterday we were putting the final touches on my coronation event. For those of you who were able to make it out I am sure you will agree with me that it was a fun night for everyone. I can't thank everyone enough for their support of my year as Miss Rodeo Illinois. A thank you card isn't enough. Without the support of everyone who came out, my family and my sponsors this year could not happen. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, to my wonderful committee members who helped my mom and I plan this event. Thank you to my volunteers as well who helped run the event. Without the support of everyone it would not have been as great as it was. Shout-out to the Glendale Riders for putting on an awesome show for us.

Over the next year I will be traveling the country being an ambassador for the sport of professional rodeo, the western way of life, the state of Illinois, and to promote childhood cancer awareness. Children coping with varies stages of cancer are an inspiration and an example of strength and hope.

Deborah Lee was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer she was four months old. After an MRI discovered a number of tumors in her brain, Deborah Lee underwent two brain surgeries to remove the tumors. Even after two surgeries, one tumor could not be removed. It was wrapped around the blood supply to her brain. Since removing the tumor was not an option, the doctors looked into a trial chemotherapy treatment. A treatment that would give her a seven percent chance to live but little hope for a normal life if she survived. After finding what was thought to be cancerous cells in her spinal fluid, Deborah Lee’s chances of survival diminished even further. Her family decided to take Deborah Lee home so she could live out her life with her family.

After 5 months, Deborah Lee’s family decided to take her in for an MRI despite push back from doctors. They discovered her cancer was not acting like it normally would. Her cancer had not spread into her spinal fluid. Deborah Lee underwent her third brain surgery and the doctors discovered that the tumor had pulled away from the main blood supply and could be removed. In June 2008, she began her 18-month chemotherapy regime. In November 2009, Deborah Lee finished her chemo treatments.

Today Deborah Lee, now seven years old, is a cancer survivor. She is a strong, brave and determined little girl. The chemo that saved her also harmed her body. Despite these challenges she looks at life as half full knowing “God’s got her back.” Over the next year I will be given the opportunity to tell her story and stories of other kids battling cancer in hope of bringing awareness to their fight. My chaps have two special ribbons on the top. One for Deborah Lee and the other for Kaitlin Brianna who lost her fight with cancer. These ribbons represent all children who are fighting and have fought cancer.  I will wear them proudly and tell their stories.

Where you at the coronation? Did you snap some photos that you would like to share with me? You can email them to me tt


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