Karen Troyer Wins Mardee Swanson Legacy Award


North Platte, Neb. –May 29, 2023 – A North Platte woman has been honored with a special award for her work with the Miss Rodeo Nebraska and Miss Rodeo America Associations.  


Karen Troyer was given the inaugural Mardee Swanson Legacy Award at the Miss Rodeo America pageant last December.


The award is given to volunteers who go above and beyond the call of duty, and Troyer has done just that.


She became a member of the Buffalo Bill Rodeo Queen pageant in 1985, and six years later, when that title was retired and the Miss Rodeo Nebraska pageant moved to North Platte, she joined the Miss Rodeo Nebraska organization.


Since then, she’s done nearly everything there is to do as a volunteer: chaired the pageant committee, served as assistant director, helped with sponsorships, and chaperoned the young ladies. One of her more recent jobs is taking the lady-in-waiting, the next year’s Miss Rodeo Nebraska, to local businesses to secure funding for her travels. When the lady-in-waiting attends the Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas, Troyer goes with her, to introduce her to the functions that she will be participating in the following year, as Miss Rodeo Nebraska. Troyer has attended every Miss Rodeo America pageant since the 1980s.


The award has a special significance for her. It was created in honor of Mardee Swanson, her friend and a North Platte woman who was, like Troyer, involved with the Miss Rodeo Nebraska and the Miss Rodeo America pageants and the Velvet Spurs, an equine drill team. Swanson died last October of cancer.


Troyer and Swanson were close friends. “She couldn’t have been any closer to me than another sister,” she said. Troyer would go to Mardee and husband Swede’s ranch to move and work cattle, and their sons high school rodeoed at the same time. “We spent a lot of time together.”


Troyer loves the horsemanship portion of the rodeo queen contest as much as anything. Growing up on the ranch where her great-grandfather homesteaded, she has been on horseback much of her life.  


She also loves working with the young women throughout their reign as Miss Rodeo Nebraska.


“I love being with the girls, seeing their personalities, and watching them grow and mature.”


She often donated the use of her American Quarter Horse to the reigning Miss Rodeo America, who rode the horse, named Hooker, at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. One of the former Miss Rodeo Nebraska queens borrowed the horse to take to California to ride there. “The girls enjoyed riding him. He was a good horse.”


Troyer never held a queen title: “I was never rodeo queen material,” she said, but her granddaughter, Calie Troyer, has held several titles, including her current one, as Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska. Troyer took a two-year hiatus from the pageant organization when her granddaughter ran for the title.


Joni Jespersen, an executive board member for the Miss Rodeo Nebraska organization and a national director with Miss Rodeo America, has worked alongside Troyer with the state and national Miss Rodeo organizations, and knows her well.


“She’s always willing to give back,” Jespersen said. “She will help with anything that she’s asked of, and she’ll help even if she’s not asked. She gives 110 percent! What an honor for her to be given this award in honor of one of her dearest lifelong friends, Mardee.”


Karen and her husband Dan have been married for 60 years; she credits him for supporting her with her volunteer work. They have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


The 2024 Miss Rodeo Nebraska will be crowned during the first night of the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte in June 14. She will spend the rest of the year preparing to take the state crown in January of ’24.


The 2023 Miss Rodeo Nebraska is Rebel Sjeklocha. She will represent Nebraska at the Miss Rodeo America pageant in December in Las Vegas.


Since the inception of the Miss Rodeo America pageant, Nebraska has had four young women win the national title: Dallas Hunt George (1957), Nancy Ann Brannon (1967), Lisa Poese Jamison (1991), and Lori Bortner Harding (2003).


The Buffalo Bill Rodeo takes place June 14-17 at the Wild West Arena in North Platte. Performances begin at 8 pm nightly.


Tickets range in price from $11-$24 and can be purchased online at NebraskalandDays.com, at the NebraskalandDays office, and at the gate.


For more information and a complete schedule of NebraskalandDays events, visit the website or call the office at 308.532.7939.