NORTH PLATTE — Gina Jespersen, Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2014, is about to jump into the fire with both feet, and she can’t wait.
The Hemingford, Neb., native takes the reins Saturday. Her reign may have started off slow, but it won’t be that way for long.
“It’s so exciting,” said Jespersen, 23. “I’m really looking forward to traveling across the country promoting Nebraska and rodeo. I’m proud to be from this state, and I believe in everything the western lifestyle stands for.”
Jespersen was crowned June 12 in North Platte. Since then, she has served as a lady-in-waiting, filling in at events that Samantha Chytka, the 2013 Miss Rodeo, was unable to attend. Jespersen went to a rodeo in Mitchell, Neb., as well as a western apparel market in Denver.
The fact that her schedule wasn’t too busy was a good thing. It gave her time to student-teach fourth-graders in Spearfish, S.D., and wrap up her own schooling.
Jespersen graduated recently from Black Hills State University in Spearfish with a degree in elementary education.
When she wasn’t studying, she was pursuing sponsorships and preparing for her coronation Saturday in Scottsbluff. That’s when she will officially take over all responsibilities of the Miss Rodeo title, including driving more than 30,000 miles across the U.S. for parades, rodeos and other events.
Jespersen’s experience student-teaching made her want to work as many school visits into her schedule as possible. As a fifth-generation farmer and rancher from Hemingford, her roots in agriculture run deep. However, she’s learned that not everyone is as familiar with the industry.
“I’ve found that kids have a lot of questions about my way of life, and I’m excited to be able to share details with as many as I can,” Jespersen said.
Every state queen selects a slogan to define her reign. Jespersen’s is, “Ride with no regrets,” a quote that has a special meaning for her.
“A classmate of mine died in a four-wheeling accident our sophomore year of college,” Jespersen said. “Shortly before that, he had gotten a tattoo that said, ‘No regrets.’ It shook me to the bone. It made me realize I only have one chance at life and at this exciting ride I’m on. I better step up and enjoy it.”
Her coronation is sold out, with nearly 400 people planning to attend. Jespersen will hit the ground running, traveling first to the National Western Stock Show in Denver and then to Lincoln.
“I’ve been told this year will go fast,” Jespersen said. “So, I really am just going to take it all in. I’m so blessed to be from such an extremely generous state. I will have a good group to brag about at the national level.”