One legacy returns, another legacy continues
Several generations of Rodeo Queens appear at Hesperia Days
It’s fitting that Lillian (Stratton) Platt, the first Miss Hesperia and Rodeo Queen in 1948, led the way Saturday as Grand Marshal of the Hesperia Days Parade — much like she was at the start of a legacy that still continues today, as current and former queens followed shortly thereafter.
“I think it’s amazing — absolutely amazing that they even found me,” Platt said of her return. “It’s a circle complete — I’m coming home.”
“To me it just shows that this is a tradition that has carried on, it’s been important to the town of Hesperia and the High Desert and an ongoing tradition for 65 years,” said Hesperia Wranglers Queen coordinator Tonii Ventimiglia, who reigned as a Petite Queen in 1976 at the age of 6 and was also 1981 Junior Queen and 1993 Rodeo Queen.
Former queens shared their thoughts on what it was like to be part of the legacy.
“It was just a part of my life that I really enjoyed, growing up in a wholesome family lifestyle, I’m very proud to be a part of that legacy,” 1966 Rodeo Queen Judy (Lanford) Borkman said.
“I’m here in great part because she’s here,” 1964 Rodeo Queen Chris Toppenberg said of Platt. “She’s part of Hesperia history, I’m proud of Hesperia, she represents us and the beginning of what Judy and I got to enjoy as queens.”
“Awesome, such an amazing thing I feel so lucky just to be a part of it,” 1979 Junior Princess (Junior Queen) Deanna Archdale-Rust said.
Borkman and Toppenberg recalled the costumes they wore as queens.
“I have the original rhinestone hat band,” Borkman said. “We weren’t given crowns.”
Queens wore “formal western suits,” with little adornment unlike today, Toppenberg said.
Even though the titles have changed, five queens today instead of just one, and the costumes have gotten more elaborate — some attributes stay the same.
“Beauty and talent they affect so many children’s lives with just their presence and who they are that that’s what carries on every year,” Hesperia Wranglers President Dawn Stoecker said. Val Shearer founded the wranglers in 1958.
Although it’s changed in an intense way from the way queens looked and what they did, leading “by example” and being a “good role model” remains important, according to Ventimiglia.
Today’s queen title gives the girls pride in themselves and community, an awareness of what they represent — “good morals and values,” and promotes horsemanship and sportsmanship, as they learn to be a gracious winner and loser, Ventimiglia said.
The former queens’ return meant a lot to those involved today.
“I hope that everybody seizes the opportunity,” Ventimiglia said. “We’ve been given the ability to get together and honor these ladies that wore the crown and boots before we did.”
“They set the tone, they set the bar for what we strive to be,” 2012-13 Queen Harmony Latham said. “They left a good path to follow for what we really need to do for the ladies side of the sport,” while also building a “solid base and foundation” for the growth of the youth in a sport that’s been loved by previous generations of families in Hesperia’s history.
“To ride with someone who has the honor of saying I was the first Rodeo Queen is something,” said current 2013-14 Queen Sara McClaine, 17, who couldn’t wait to share the parade with the various queens. “It’s something that I didn’t think would ever happen.”