Instead of wearing a tiara and twirling a baton, 22-year-old Natalie Uptain sports a cowboy hat and trots on her horse.
The personable rodeo queen for Scottsdale’s Parada del Sol also won’t be trotting out a bikini anytime soon — at least not on stage. That’s because there’s no swimsuit competition at the Miss Rodeo Arizona Pageant, where Uptain will compete in May, thanks to her sponsorship from the Scottsdale Jaycees.
In return, Uptain reigns as the Jaycees’ Parada del Sol Queen, a position that hasn’t been filled since 1998. As queen, Uptain said, she will serve as a spokeswoman for the rodeo and an entertainer during the event.
“I love meeting new people. I have made so many friends across the U.S. (through rodeo events),” Uptain said.
The Jaycees had fallen out of the habit of choosing a Parada del Sol queen, said rodeo chairwoman Morgan Gardella. In the past, rodeos queens had been selected through a local pageant.
But when Uptain approached them with the suggestion that the title be renewed, Gardella said it became clear she was a natural choice.
“She doesn’t stand back. She’ll walk out in the front of a crowd and introduce herself to everyone in the room,” Gardella said. “She lives the Western lifestyle and has a great enthusiasm for what she’s doing.”
The Western lifestyle, for Uptain, means living on a ranch in Queen Creek with her parents, eight horses, chicken, cattle and three dogs. Uptain started riding horses when she was young, and has won awards for barrel racing, pole bending and team penning.
Now Uptain balances pageant preparation and rodeo queen responsibilities with studying history and education at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and working fulltime at a Mesa life insurance company.
While she would someday like to teach history, she will always stay involved with the rodeo community, Uptain said.
WHAT: Parada del Sol Friday Night Dance WHEN: 6:30 p.m. March 2 WHERE: Cowboys and cowgirls ages 21 and up can dance the night away at Handle Bar J, 7116 Becker Lane (Northwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard) COST: $10 cover charge
WHAT: Parada del Sol Saturday Night Dance WHEN: March 3 after the rodeo ends, about 9:30 p.m. WHERE: Dance to country music at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road COST: $10. Tickets available at rodeo ticket window