When Lauren Schwedhelm steps out of her comfort zone, she does so with a horse.
And in royal fashion.
Schwedhelm is the 2019 Miss Washington County Fair Rodeo Queen — whose reign has been extended into this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, the Schwedhelm house has two royals.
Lauren’s sister, Kayla, has been crowned as 2021 Nebraska Teen Miss Agriculture USA.
The Schwedhelm sisters live near Kennard, where their family has nine horses and three dogs. Their parents are the late Pam Schwedhelm and Alan and Shari Schwedhelm.
Alan said he’s proud of his daughters and Shari appreciates their advocacy.
“The thing I love to see is I don’t think either of the girls ever really thought, ‘I’m going to go out and try to be queen,’ but they both found something they wanted to advocate for and the queen titles came with getting to do what they were really passionate about,” Shari Schwedhelm said.
Lauren Schwedhelm inherited her love of rodeo from her family.
Her grandfather, Kay Schwedhelm, was a bareback rider, bull rider and a rodeo clown. Her cousin, Nick, has been a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bareback rider.
Lauren gained her passion for barrel racing from her late mother, Pam, who always dreamed of becoming a professional barrel racer.
“I lost my mom 10 years ago,” Lauren said. “She was an avid horse woman and working on training her own horse. When I ride and rodeo, it is in her memory.”
Citing tough competition, Lauren said she was surprised when being named rodeo queen last year.
She’s enjoyed the experience during which she’s been able to represent Washington County at various events.
One highlight occurred during the Rough ‘N’ Ready Rodeo event at Omaha’s River City Rodeo. The Rough ‘N’ Ready event provides an opportunity for children with special needs to work with cowboys and experience their lifestyle. They can ride horses and meet rodeo clowns.
“I had previously worked with special needs kids as a teaching assistant and it was cool to see the kids in a different situation,” Lauren said. “The event usually puts a smile on every child’s face.”
Now 20, Lauren is a junior at South Dakota State University in Brookings. She’d like to go into 4-H work and be employed in an extension office.
Her queenly duties haven’t concluded.
“I was supposed to hand off the title this year, but with the coronavirus they didn’t have a competition,” she said.
So, she’s the queen this year, too. Due to her school schedule, Lauren said she won’t be able to attend the Nebraska State Fair, but plans to represent Washington County at other rodeos.
The queen is a rodeo proponent and speaks highly of this sport.
“There are many things to like about rodeo — especially like the atmosphere of rodeo—it is always positive,” she said. “Rodeo is a family to us. Everybody helps everybody there.”
Lauren enjoys the opportunity to help encourage kids at the rodeo to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.
“Last year, I had a young girl come up to me and ask how I got the title,” she said. “I tried a couple years for this title and it didn’t work the first couple times, but I kept trying and so I told the girl, ‘Just keep trying if you want it.’”
One of her favorite parts of the rodeos is getting to carry the American flag.
“It’s a great way to honor our country and our freedom,” she said.
Following in her sister’s royal footsteps, Kayla Schwedhelm has achieved honors of her own.
A week ago, she earned the title of 2021 Nebraska Teen Miss Agriculture.
Kayla, who is 15, will be a sophomore at Arlington High School. She completed an application for the title, telling about her involvement in agriculture. She talked about her family’s involvement in 4-H and rodeo. They grow hops on the farm and have a garden.
She’s involved in FFA and is a reporter and on the officer team. Her dad is vice president of the local Pheasants Forever chapter.
“We help out at the banquet a lot,” she said.
Like her sister, Kayla also was surprised when she earned a crown.
“This is new for me,” Kayla said. “I’ve never done it before.”
In her royal role, Kayla said she’ll represent agriculture at fairs and ag-related events. She plans to work in an ag-related job.
In the meantime, she enjoys showing horses. She recently participated in the horse show at the Washington County Fair.
“It’s a great experience and it’s fun,” Kayla said.
Last year, she lost a horse named Klondike, but Kayla said she, Lauren, and their sister, Alaina Schwedhelm, combined their money and trained a Quarterhorse named Penny for her to show and ride.
“She’s small and sweet,” Kayla said. “She’ll do anything you ask. We do trail-riding and showing.”
Many trails lie ahead for the sisters. But if their pasts are any indication, they’ll probably ride ahead in a royal manner.