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Tech Sophomore Crowned N.M. State Fair Queen

SOCORRO, N.M. October 1, 2010 – For the first time in 58 years, the New Mexico State Fair Rodeo Queen hails from Socorro County. The reigning queen is not only a Socorro native, but also a New Mexico Tech student.
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Catherine Blythe and her mother, Nadine, during the State Fair in Albuquerque.

Catherine Blythe was crowned Miss Socorro County in 2009, which automatically entered her into the state fair pageant. On Saturday, she topped 13 other county winners to become the 2011 New Mexico State Fair Queen. Blythe also received the Horsemanship Award and a sterling silver bracelet. In all, Blythe won a handmade saddle, a two-horse trailer, a sterling silver crown and sterling silver buckle.

In the moments leading up to the announcement, Blythe was simply happy to be in the arena representing Socorro County and living her dream.

“I was just standing there thinking that I was hallucinating,” she said. “They announced that I won the horsemanship competition and I knew I was in the top five and that was unreal. When I realized that I won, I was in shock. It’s one of those dreams you have since you were four years old and it’s coming true.”

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Catherine Blythe in the arena during the early portion of the State Fair competition.

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Catherine Blythe reacts to the announcement that she is the 2011 State Fair Rodeo Queen.

Blythe is currently a sophomore at Tech, studying petroleum engineering. She said she decided to stay at home and attend Tech because she could stay closer to her horses and because Tech offers an excellent education at an affordable rate.

She has been competing in rodeo events for more than 10 years, with a top goal of earning the Miss Socorro County crown and representing the county at the state fair. Over the years, she was named Socorro County Fair Sweetheart once, Princess twice and then last year’s crowning achievement, Socorro County Fair Queen.

Her childhood dreams came true in Albuquerque on Saturday, Sept. 25, when she was given the crown and title of Miss New Mexico.

“My parents took me to the state fair when I was 3 or 4,” Blythe said. “I saw all the cowboys and cowgirls and I wanted to be like them. So I started taking riding lessons.”

Blythe has been taking riding lessons ever since with Sonja Gerard of Socorro. Her biggest champion, critic and supporter has always been her mother, Nadine. When she was 9 years old, Catherine got her current horse, Victorio Scout. She  broke her horse and has spent the last 10 years training Victorio to be a state champion steed.

“My mother grew up on a ranch and she has helped me out a lot with looking the part,” Catherine said. “There’s a lot of stuff you don’t know you’re doing unless someone is watching with a critical eye – sitting in a lawn chair and yelling at you. It can be annoying, but it helps a lot.”

The state fair competition includes a written test, horsemanship, personal interviews and speeches. Contestants make appearances around the fairgrounds and participate in the Grand Entry preceding the evening rodeos. Half of the scoring is based on two three-minute rides; the other half is based on the interview, speech, written test and modeling.

“Anything I have to do, I teach him to do it and we go do it,” she said. “I feel like horses should be able to do everything.”

For the state fair horsemanship competition, each competitor rides a set routine, then has three minutes to work the arena and demonstrate her skills and showcase the horse’s abilities.

The written test covers rodeo rules, the history of the State Fair and New Mexico history. Blythe said she studied for months to prepare for the exam.

For the next 12 months, Blythe will reign as the New Mexico State Fair Queen. Her official duties begin this weekend with appearances at the Miss Turquoise Circuit pageant in Las Cruces and the Eastern New Mexico State Fair in Roswell. The last Socorro County winner to earn the state fair crown was Francis Woofter Cowan in 1952.

Next summer, she hopes to attend as many county fairs as possible. Ultimately, the State Fair officials do not mandate any appearances for the Queen; however, Blythe hopes to fulfill her role as best as she can.

“It’s a big responsibility and a lot of fun,” she said.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech