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Rice, Montoya in the running for 60th Miss Northwest Pro Rodeo Association crown

Santiam Canyon Stampede Queen and Miss Rodeo Aspirations Queen out to win Sept. 22-24 pageant in Prineville

PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PROFESSIONAL RODEO ASSOCIATION - Nicole Rice of Scappoose, the Santiam Canyon Stampede Queen and a returning Miss Northwest Professional Rodeo Association second runner-up, will compete for the 2017 Miss NPRA crown on Sept. 22-24 in Prineville.Nicole Rice and Gloria Montoya are in for the 60th Miss Northwest Pro Rodeo Association crown.

Rice, 21, of Scappoose, is the returning Miss NPRA second-runner-up. Montoya, 18, is the Miss Rodeo Aspirations Queen and a St. Helens High School senior.

They're two of 10 contestants in Sept. 22-24's pageant in Prineville, "The Cowboy Capital of Oregon," which will feature a special appearance by Miss Rodeo America, Katherine Merck of Spokane, Wash.

"When I was second runner-up [last year], it was the most fun I've ever had," said Rice, the daughter of Lawrence and Alicia Rice. "We were packed in, and we did a dance in front of a crowd. It's like camp with your friends: You see girls holding hands [as the winner is announced], each is happy for the other girls, and you see only girls you're against for three days."

PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PRO RODEO ASSOCIATION - Gloria Montoya, the Miss Rodeo Aspirations Queen and a St. Helens High School senior, is a new contender for Miss Northwest Professional Rodeo Association.Rice, a 2013 Scappoose High School graduate and full-time cashier at Skinny's Texaco in St. Helens, is soon to study massage therapy at Everest College in Tigard.

As Santiam Canyon Stampede Queen, she's graced rodeos as far north as Elma, Wash., as far east as Spray and as far south as Philomath. She was also the 2015 Columbia County Fair and Rodeo Princess and the 2013 and 2014 Miss Rodeo Aspirations Queen.

Rice and Montoya will review and practice from now until they are judged on horsemanship, speech, appearance, personality, knowledge and photogenics at the pageant, fielding questions all the while on rodeo, horse and current events knowledge.

Rice will make her quarter horse, Parnelli Badger Boots, a 12-year-old quarter horse mare, a star.

"I'll give Boots a wash and shine, but she goes right for any dirt she can find," Rice said.

A judge from Canby, another from Salem and a third from Kennewick, Wash., will take score.

The winner gets a buckle, a saddle and a scholarship, amongst many other awards. There are also awards presented in the categories of Horsemanship, Speech, Personality, Horsemanship, and Appearance.

"It's going to be the girl who is the most consistent," Rice said. "You can nail the speech, but not win horsemanship."

This year's speeches are two-minute school presentations to four- to 10-year-old Little Miss NPRA contestants, for which Rice created a story book.

"I'm excited because it's my first actual pageant," said Montoya, the daughter of Theresa Montoya and Brian Harding who wants to study forestry in college. "Being a rodeo queen is a huge boost of confidence, and you inspire teenagers and little kids to do what they want to do."

Montoya's 20-year-old off-the-track-thoroughbred mare, Vienna, is "six feet tall, extremely hyper and an amazing barrel racer and jumper."

The application deadline was Aug. 22. The pageant begins from there, and fans can cast the People's Choice Award by “liking” their favorite contestant on the Miss NPRA Facebook page's photo album '2017 Miss NPRA Contestants.'

There's no rule against being Miss NPRA twice, but no one ever has.

Mackenzie Carr of Vernonia, a past Miss NPRA, became the first Oregonian Miss Rodeo America in 2012.

Rice, if she becomes Miss NPRA, will take a year off, rest Boots and let her hair heal from heat damage.

"They're kind of put through the ringer, but it's fun," said NPRA director Jean McPherson, who was the Columbia County Rodeo coordinator for 18 years until she moved to central Oregon about five years ago. "Obviously, because Nicole and Gloria are coming back for more."

Beth Snider of Shelton, Wash., a biochemistry major at Central Washington University the 2016 Miss NPRA who won every category, is a dignitary at NRPA rodeos, parades and civic functions.

"It feels like we have plenty of time, but it's coming quick," Rice said.