By Guy Clifton
The Reno Rodeo has been around for 97 years and at every rodeo, it has crowned a queen.
Many of those who held the title of Miss Reno Rodeo went on to wear the crown of Miss Rodeo Nevada, but only one – Selena Ulch Pope – has gone on to become Miss Rodeo America.
Pope, who lived in Sparks, was Miss Reno Rodeo in 2003, Miss Rodeo Nevada in 2004 and Miss Rodeo America in 2005. Miss Rodeo America is the ultimate good-will ambassador for professional rodeo and she spent much of 2005 on the road attending rodeos, supporting sponsors and promoting the sport in myriad ways.
As rodeo royalty, she appeared in front of crowds of tens of thousands and traveled from coast to coast. So to say life has changed a bit in the past 11 years is an understatement.
“I got married, we have three little boys and I’m a stay-at-home mom on the family ranch in a tiny town in Wyoming,” Pope said with a smile. “It’s a crazy life, but it’s good.”
Her husband, Jade, comes from a longtime ranching family . In fact, the Pope Ranch brand is the oldest registered brand in the Cowboy State. Jade is a card holder in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and competes in steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping.
In addition to taking care of the ranch’s cattle operation and their three boys – Steehl, 8; Cinch, 6; and Slack, 2 – they also run a Western crafts, accessories and clothing business called Wyoming Rustiques. That business led Selena home to the Reno Rodeo – and the Truckee Meadows – this past week. They bought a vendor booth inside the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.
“I don’t have anything to compare it to because this is our first time doing this, but It’s been busy and it’s been a lot of fun,” Pope said.
She tries to make it to Sparks at least twice a year to visit her family and the boys spent much of the week with their grandparents, Scott and Patsy Ulch.
“I think my mom might be happy when we leave,” Selena said with a laugh.
After concluding her run as rodeo royalty, Pope used the scholarship money she earned to complete a teaching degree. She taught school in her adopted hometown of Cokeville, Wyo., for six years before deciding to stay at home after the birth of her third son.
She still stays involved in rodeo, helping to judge queen competitions. She also coaches and has developed study cards to help prospective rodeo queens and she travels to Las Vegas each December to help out at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant.
Having benefited from the experience herself, she encourages young girls to participate in the competitions because it teaching them public speaking and leadership skills, horsemanship and more. Plus, there is the opportunity to earn scholarship funds for college.
“The experiences can only benefit them,” she said.
Pope and her husband are also authors, having written two western-themed books designed for young children.
“When I was Miss Reno Rodeo, I loved being involved in the Black Stallion Literacy Project (now the Reno Rodeo Reading Roundup),” she said. “That really inspired me to want to do something like this. It’s authentic.”
Ulch also spent much of the week seeing friends both from Reno and from the world of rodeo.
“It’s been a great week,” she said.