Miss Rodeo Montana 2017 proves anything is possible
You might recognize her wide red-lipped smile from the fountain drink- and popcorn-laden bleachers of a Saturday night rodeo. She’s the one waving at you while she sits the rhythmic pattern of a galloping horse, carrying the flag of our nation high overhead with its colors like a jet stream steady above. It’s a moment that Sarai McCollaum, Miss Rodeo Montana 2017, is used to but never tires of.
Behind a glittering appearance, Sarai is our American sweetheart—small-town (raised in Darby and Lolo), blue-eyed girl, arm always strung over the neck of a horse, the definition of a cowgirl in her spirit and talents. Her sights have always been set on being her best self, through her faith, family, friends, and through her time in the limelight as an idol to generations to come. From the humble surroundings of a rodeo ground parking lot, Sarai shares with us the inner workings of her lifestyle—the heartbeat of who she is.
Growing up, who were or still are your inspirations?
Her name is Samantha Manley (Miss Teen Rodeo Montana in 2009). We were in the same 4-H group together, so she helped all of us and she was a big role model for us. Then, she got into rodeo queening and I just watched her at the fair every now and then, and I thought: I want to do that.
How has your becoming a role model changed the way you see yourself?
It’s different. It’s kind of challenging at times because you’ll go to say something and think, “Oh, I can’t say that.” So, you really have to watch your actions, and everything [fans] see, they want to do, so you really have to be careful.
Throughout this journey, what have you been most thankful for?
My family. When I start to get tired out on the road, I’ll call mom and we’ll just talk for hours while I drive somewhere. She definitely keeps me awake on the road, and she’s my vent, my outlet.
Is there anyone you’ve met along this ride who has had a profound impact on you?
Mostly through working with the Exceptional Rodeo. It’s like Special Olympics for rodeo. There was one little girl down in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who wouldn’t talk to anyone, and she just kind of latched onto me. I taught her how to rope and then I gave her my necklace because I was one of the only people she’d ever talked to.
What message do you hope to give to your fans?
One of my biggest messages, something I always write on my autograph sheets, is “Always honor yourself.” Teresa Roberts (a family friend and member of Rockin RC Rodeo committee), she has mentored me and coached me since I was little. She got me a belt and on the inside, it said, “Always honor yourself.” I think that’s so true—no matter what you do or what you say. If you text something or you do something behind closed doors, you should have this question in your mind, “Would you be doing this or saying this in everyone’s eyes?”
What’s the big dream for you, long-term?
I want to be an occupational therapist and specialize in special needs children with the use of dogs and horses to combine my love of children with my love for working with animals.
What advice would you have for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Just do it! Do you know where Woodman School is? It’s a tiny little school, and there were 36 kids in kindergarten through eighth grade, total, when I was there. And, my graduating class from Darby was eight kids. Coming from the little town of Darby, which is bigger than where I came from in Lolo, it just goes to show you that it really doesn’t matter where you come from. You can do it. You really can.