Miss American Angus

Katie Gazda - 2009 Miss American Angus

Hey again! It's been a while since an update, and now I find myself less than a month away from the North American International Livestock Exposition - and the crowning of the 2010 Miss American Angus! I can't believe that the year is drawing to a close.

My last update took place at Reno - following Reno and the end of my freshman year, my mother and I flew up to Timonium, Maryland, for the Atlantic National Angus Show. This was my first time attending this show as well, and I was so excited to experience it as I had heard nothing but great things. I wasn't let down; the show was very well put together and fostered a warm, family environment. I also had the opportunity to attend the Queen's Luncheon and was able to meet with Auxiliary members from across the Eastern Coast and learn about the functions going on in their own states. I loved meeting with the Auxiliary members in attendance and am so thankful to the women in charge of the luncheon for all that they did!

In June I attended the Southern National Junior and Open Angus Shows in Perry, Georgia; the Central Regional Preview Show in Springfield, Missouri; and the Eastern Regional Junior Angus Show in Columbus, Ohio. Each of these shows provided a great time visiting with Angus producers from across the state and country. At Eastern Regionals I spoke at the Queen's Breakfast, and once again enjoyed the time spent with the caring women of the Ohio and American Angus Auxiliaries.

July marked the most exciting week of my reign as I served as Miss American Angus alongside my sister, Miss Georgia Angus, while hosting the 2009 National Junior Angus Show at my home-fairgrounds of Perry, Georgia. Hosting this show had been a dream of mine for years and finally having the opportunity to do so was even more rewarding than I thought it would be. Even more exciting than hosting the show though, was wearing the crown and having the interactions with each and every exhibitor who went through the ring that week. Serving as Miss American Angus, I have had the amazing opportunity to meet so many different individuals from California to Maine, and the connections that I have made have been irreplaceable. The Queen's Brunch at the National Junior Angus Show was also a beautiful event, and without a doubt, the largest of any queen's function I had attended thus far. I was excited to have so many members of the American Angus Auxiliary present, and hope that they enjoyed our Southern Hospitality in Perry!

I attended the All-American Angus Breeders' Futurity in Louisville at the beginning of August. This was a quick trip for me, but a good one nonetheless. As always, I enjoy visiting with the different people in charge of the shows and events I attend, and getting to know their families and staffs. The efforts that such people put into these events is incredible and they should be commended!

In the middle of September I wore the crown at a local fair - the Gwinnett County Fair. My grandfather passed away on September 1st, and he had served on the fair board. I was honored to serve as Miss American Angus as a tribute to him. He was in Louisville the day I was crowned 2009 Miss American Angus, and no one in the world was more proud that day than he was of me.

My most recent event was the Georgia National Fair. In the middle of characteristically fall weather, the fair, of course, was one of the hottest weekends since the summer. However, getting to wear my crown at a show in Georgia for the last time was a sentimental and bittersweet event. It's really been a great year, and I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to experience everything that has happened to me since November 17, 2008.

As I find myself nearing the end of my year as Miss American Angus, I also find myself nearing one of the most exciting parts of the journey. As I learned of the contestants for the title of 2010 Miss American Angus, I couldn't have been more excited. The girls in contention are all remarkable young women and I am confident that whoever I am able to pin as the 2010 Miss American Angus come November will do an extraordinary job fulfilling her duties! I am so excited to get to know these girls during our time in Louisville, and hope that I can offer even the smallest bit of advice to guide them through their experience. Thanks so much to everyone who has played a part in this remarkable journey, especially the American Angus Auxiliary and the Queens Committee, including Mrs. Mary McCurry, Mrs. Ginger Olson and Mrs. Jill Harker! None of this would be possible without them! I hope that you all had a great summer and that you have an even better fall! I look forward to seeing you all at the North American!

Greetings from Georgia where the sun is shining and the temperature is rising as we prepare for another Angus-filled summer in the south! Six months ago, on November 17th, 2008, one of my oldest dreams came true as I was crowned the 2009 Miss American Angus. Every little girl dreams of being a princess - I, however, dreamed of being a cow queen! Ever since I was five years old, I would admire the young women who wore the red jackets and shiny crowns from afar, dreaming that one day I would have the opportunity to do the same. Hearing my name called out at the North American International Livestock Exposition is a moment I will never forget. The four girls I competed with were absolutely fantastic and I look forward to continuing to grow friendships with them as we continue through our junior Angus careers. The time since I was crowned has been a whirlwind; it's hard to believe that I am halfway through my year!

After North American, my first official function as Miss American Angus took place in Wooster, Ohio at the Certified Angus Beef Building Blocks Seminar. A special thanks goes out to Miss Shelia Stannard for being my chaperone while there! Being from Georgia, I was really psyched about the chance of snow in Ohio since we rarely see it down south. When I landed in Cleveland the ground was clear and I was a little perturbed. However, by the end of the first day of workshops, the ground was covered in white and I was thrilled! While at CAB, I enjoyed our multiple snack breaks (snacking on nothing other than wonderful Certified Angus Beef Products, of course - whoever knew there were so many?!), mingling with the talented staff, and bonding with the new six junior board members and the American Angus Auxiliary Secretary, Mrs. Barbara Ettredge. I never cease to be amazed at the versatility and thoroughness of the Certified Angus Beef program. There is not one table left unturned in the program, and I firmly believe that explains their substantial success in the branded beef industry.

A mere five days upon returning from Wooster, I boarded an airplane headed west for the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. Denver was without a doubt the trip that I most looked forward to after being crowned Miss American Angus because I had never been to the stock show before and had heard nothing but great things about it. And, of course, Colorado was infamously known for its snowcapped mountains and brisk temperatures. Unfortunately, I arrived in Denver Monday night to the coldest and snowiest time of the entire trip. The remainder of the week it was colder at home than it was in Colorado! However, with the exception of the severe lack of snow, I still enjoyed my time in Denver both in the show ring and in the yards. The atmosphere and feel of the Stock Show is so different than any show I had ever been to on the East Coast. My first trip definitely won't be my last! I also fell in love with the concept of the Bases Loaded Sale at Coors Field - whoever thought of combining baseball and Angus cattle is a genius! A huge thank you goes out to Shelia, Robin Ruff and the junior board, all of the Regional Managers, and to Bethany Cobb, Michelle Faulkner, and Hannah McCabe for their help assisting me in the ring! Without their help I definitely wouldn't have survived my first show as Miss American Angus.

Two weeks later, I made my first trip to the state of Texas for the Texas Angus Association Annual Meeting, Sale, and Banquet at the Fort Worth Stock Show. In Fort Worth I enjoyed spending time with one of my Miss American Angus advisors, Mrs. Ginger Olson, and her husband, American Angus Association Board Member, Mr. Steve Olson. I also got to visit again with Mrs. Ettredge, and the ladies of the Texas Angus Auxiliary. I received a warm welcome from each and every Angus producer I met and appreciated the hospitality of the entire Texas Angus Association, and I am grateful for their invitation. And a little side note - Texas was the THIRD state I saw snow in during my January travels as Miss American Angus. Yes, SNOW!

I jumped on my plane from Fort Worth and headed back to Georgia where I landed in Atlanta and headed straight to Athens for the Georgia Angus Association Annual Meeting and Banquet. Here I made my first appearance in the state as Miss American Angus. This was really exciting for me, as we found ourselves less than two-hundred days away from the kickoff of the 2009 National Junior Angus Show. Georgia also crowned our 2009 Miss Georgia Angus and Georgia Angus Princess. Congratulations goes to Taylor Gazda, my little sister, for being crowned Miss Georgia Angus, and to Lakyn Davis for being crowned Georgia Angus Princess. Serving as Miss American Angus the same year that Nationals is being held in my home state is remarkable, and with my sister serving along my side as Miss Georgia Angus, I couldn't picture anything more perfect! At the banquet I was able to interact with some of our younger members, some of whom referred to my crown and I as the "Fairy Godmother." The youngest members are truly the future of the Angus industry, and are the core focus of my time as Miss American Angus. I feel the more we involve them, the better off the breed that we all love will be!

On February 5, I walked through the student center at the University of Georgia on my way to class to find hundreds of students reading our student-run newspaper, The Red & Black, with my face (and cows!) on the cover. It was at this moment that my title became the most surreal. The article, entitled "Where's the Beef?," explained my duties, and cleared the misconceptions that "Miss American Angus" came from a beauty pageant. Within a matter of days, I was hearing from classmates from fall semester, teachers in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and even my sorority sisters. Each and every person had a different question, but none with negative connotations; they all found what I was doing to be unique but pretty cool, even though they didn't necessarily understand it. The article ended up inspiring another article to be published in The Red & Black naming each and every reigning "queen" at UGA, ranging from Miss UGA to Miss Houston County Watermelon Queen. From that moment on I became known through many circles as "Miss Angus," and most of my friends don't hesitate to introduce me to anyone we meet as nothing other. When I went to get advised for this coming fall semester, "Where's the Beef?" greeted me on my advisor's door. It was definitely a memorable experience!

At the end of February, I attended the Georgia National Livestock Show, which serves as our state heifer show. This was the first year that I was no longer eligible to show, and I found it bittersweet to enter the ring not with a calf, but instead with a crown. This was a neat show for me, because my sister won the Champion Bred and Owned Angus Heifer, and I was able to stand in her picture not only as her proud big sister, but also as Miss American Angus. Of course, it was also the first show I attended in Georgia under the role of Miss American Angus, so it was fun to get to experience what all came with that - including the weird looks from the non-Angus exhibitors who had no idea why I was wearing a crown and heels in the show ring! It served as a practice run for this coming July when I will be in the very same arena passing out ribbons and taking pictures at the National Junior Angus Show. Special thanks goes to the lovely Georgia Angus Princess, Miss Lakyn Davis, for helping with ribbons!

I spent two days of my spring break in chilly, seventeen-degree weather at the Stucky Ranch sale in Kingman, Kansas. This was my first appearance at a production sale, and I was greeted with nothing but warm hospitality and graciousness from the entire Stucky family and friends. This was also the first trip where my dad took off his Regional Manager hat and replaced it with his Queen Dad hat and accompanied me as my chaperone for a little father/daughter bonding time. I enjoyed visiting with the newly crowned Miss Kansas Angus, Hannah McCabe, and again with Mr. and Mrs. Olson of Texas. A warm thank you goes to Mr. Gordon Stucky, Mrs. Christine Stucky, and Mr. Fred Gretsch for all they did in getting me out there!

In the beginning of April I attended the Georgia Beef Expo and the Georgia Angus Association's Annual Consignment Sale. Here I was fortunate to be able to spend time with producers from the state and raise anticipation for the National Junior Angus Show. I also ran tickets in my "queenie clothes" and was introduced to the crowd as "Miss America" by Tom Burke.

The second week of April I wore the crown and sash in a different capacity than I was used to - in the student center at the University of Georgia! I spent time in between classes supporting the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at "Ag Day at Tate," part of South Campus Week at UGA, meant to raise awareness and knowledge about the College of Ag, one of the lesser known, more secluded colleges at the university. There were signs advertising "Ag Day at Tate" with none other but my face on it, advertising the "guest appearance by Miss American Angus!" It was probably at Ag Day at Tate that I received the largest number of weird looks. One of my sorority sisters saw me, stopped dead in her tracks, and immediately burst out into laughter. However, it was still a great experience and was a different way for me to use my title to educate those who don't know much about agriculture in general.

My final trip thus far in my journey as 2009 Miss American Angus was my trip to Reno, Nevada for the Western National Angus Futurity. My trip to Reno signified my furthest trip out west! Once again, I was blessed with great hospitality by all of those involved in the show. A special thanks goes to Mrs. Laurie Van Roekel for her assistance in the Miss Western States queen contest, Shelia and Robin for being their amazing selves, the Regional Managers, Bethany and Michelle for their help in the ring, and to Mrs. Kathy Creamer, American Angus Auxiliary President-Elect! Traveling to places and shows where I don't know as many people, it is so helpful to see friendly faces to make my year the amazing experience it is!

As I find myself halfway through my year as Miss American Angus, I also find myself nearing the busiest part of the journey. The summer kicks into full gear with Atlantic Nationals, the Southern National Angus Show, the Central Regional Preview Show, and Eastern Regionals. Then of course, Georgia will be welcoming everyone down south for the National Junior Angus Show where we hope to offer just as much hospitality as has been given to me throughout my reign! Thanks so much to everyone who has played a part in this remarkable journey, especially the American Angus Auxiliary and the Queens Committee, including Mrs. Mary McCurry, Mrs. Ginger Olson, and Mrs. Jill Harker! Also, to my family for their support throughout this experience - none of this would be possible without them! And to my mom for being my chaperone and a great travel partner. I definitely couldn't handle all of the airports without her! On that note, I hope that you all had a great spring and I am looking forward to seeing each and every one of you this summer!


Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

- Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

As we gather here in Louisville, we celebrate two distinguished milestones in the history of our breed. The vision that our Angus forefathers had one-hundred-and-twenty-five years ago when they formed today's American Angus Association, and the vision that the American Angus Board of Directors had thirty years ago when they established the Certified Angus Beef program have affected every Angus enthusiast, and I am no exception. In fact, a similar vision has brought me here today, and I attribute this vision to shaping the history that I have made and am continuing to make for myself. In an effort to simplify eighteen years of experiences into a mere few minutes, I chose to split the word "today" into a five-part acronym: T-O-D-A-Y.

"T" stands for "tradition." My family's involvement in agriculture stretches back over five generations. But even more significant in my life than agriculture has been my involvement in the Angus industry. One might think that my connection to the breed is one-sided, as I am the daughter of a twenty-year strong Regional Manager for the Association. However, my family's history with Angus cattle didn't originate with my father. Instead, it began in the mid 1970s with my mom, as she was active in the Georgia Junior Angus Association. I have also followed suit in my family's academic tradition as I am the third generation to attend the University of Georgia in pursuit of a higher education in agriculture. My ultimate decision to pursue a degree in Agricultural Communications, my time spent in and out of the show ring, and my die-hard devotion as a Georgia Bulldog were independent of the influence of my family. Only I can make my personal choices, and only I can continue to expand my family's traditions both in and out of agriculture, Angus, and academics.

"O" represents "outsider." From 1995 until my high school graduation this past May, I attended a small, urban private school where I was considered anything but normal. In an environment where a weekend trip to the beach house was a more common destination than one to the state fair, I definitely stood out among the crowd. Even though there were times when I doubted it, despite the different lifestyle I portrayed in comparison to my classmates, I honestly feel that I was the one with the true advantage. Upon graduation, I found my name in the Honors Day Program followed by numerous individual scholarships, all undoubtedly there because of my passion and involvement in something considered "uncommon" at your typical private school.

"D" is for determination AND dedication. Fourteen years ago, Christy Bell Page stood before a similar crowd with the same intention to serve as Miss American Angus. She made history that year, becoming the first young woman to serve as Miss American Angus from Georgia. When the January 1995 edition of Angus Topics was released with her freshly crowned face gracing the cover, she autographed a copy and gave it to me. At that point, becoming Miss American Angus became a paramount goal of mine, as Christy served as a role model in the Georgia Junior Angus Association, even to someone as young as I. Christy's influence on me as a young child prompted my determination and dedication to making my own history. When I was twelve years old I sat down and mapped out what I hoped would be the next ten years of my life; this list was my vision, similar to that vision that our Angus forefathers had so many years ago. On my list included admission into the University of Georgia, serving as Miss American Angus, and being elected to the National Junior Angus Board of Directors. There have been successes along the road, but there have been bumps and failures as well. However, my determination and dedication to that list I created has never faltered. Through my pursuit of those goals and ambitions, I mapped out my history, and it has led me here today.

"A" represents "awakening." A year before putting my goals on paper, I had an awakening that ultimately led me to establish my vision. The summer prior to my sixth grade year, I had decided that I wasn't going to tell people that I showed cattle. At this point in my scholastic career, I wanted nothing more than to blend in with my classmates and to do the same things they did. I decided that sixth grade was the perfect opportunity to leave my cow showing life behind…or at least to the weekends. In the essence of bad timing, my family won the Clarke-Oconee Cattle Family of the Year only a couple of weeks into the school year. On September 6th, 2001, our local paper published an article entitled "A Family That Works Together Wins Together." My teacher pinned the article to the bulletin board outside the classroom. My secret was out! The article that was originally intended to highlight my family's achievements in the cattle industry instead underscored my struggles with living a double life as a sixth-grade student at a private school and as a competitor in the Georgia Junior Livestock Program. The remainder of middle school, I wasn't known as "Katie," but instead as "Moo Cow." During a brief identity crisis, I begged my parents to let me quit showing cattle so that I could mold myself into the predictable private school "tween." Today I am thankful that my parents didn't give me that option because I can think of nothing as beneficial as my involvement in the Angus industry. At some point that year I had an awakening that transformed me into the young woman standing before you today.

Finally, the letter "Y" stands for "YOU." It is up to YOU to live your life and to make your history. No one else can do it for you. I am making history today because I am the only person who has ever lived MY life. No one else has and no one else ever will. I am unique, I am an individual, and I have a vision that has and will continue to broaden my horizons and develop me into a successful young woman. The American Angus Association and CAB are at the top of their games today because of the roads that they have traveled pursuing the visions of intuitive cattlemen and women. Likewise, the road I have traveled to the spot I stand in this afternoon is a result of the history that I have made in pursuit of this lifelong dream of mine.

Whatever the outcome is tomorrow, Dr. Seuss leaves us with one more thing that will remain true for each and every person in this room, but even more significantly to each young woman participating in this contest: "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is YOUER than you."