Feature

Cowgirl uses SAIT experience in Queen competition

As she stared up at the Stampede Queen and Princesses of yesteryear at two or three years old, SAIT alumnus Cait McLean, now 22, set a goal.
“I asked (my dad) who they were when I first saw them, and he said they were cowgirl princesses,” Mclean said. “For a girl who grew up riding a pony and loving pink, that was the number one thing you could want to be.”
Every year, the Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses are crowned from an average of 20 or so applicants. The winning trio acts as spokeswomen for the Stampede at up to 375 events throughout the year.
“We had a really diverse group of bright, talented young contestants,” said Dana Tremblay, chair of the Calgary Stampede Royalty Committee.
“I think this year what might have set them apart is just the added excitement around the fact that it was the centennial.”
This excitement certainly led to McLean’s decision to participate in the competition for the first time. “You have a bit of hesitancy when you put your name forward,” she said. “This is a big year for the Stampede, so you kind of wonder: Why would they want little old me?”
Despite her inhibitions, McLean found comfort in the training and preparation she received at SAIT. A fifth-generation rancher from southwest Alberta, McLean grew up immersed in Western lifestyle and heritage. After high school, she enrolled in SAIT’s broadcast news program.
The career choice was all in the family.
“My dad went to SAIT 30 years before I (did), on the dot,” she said.
Both McLeans graduated from the same program, and now also work for the same radio company. “He was a morning man, and now I’m a morning girl.”
For McLean, the training and experience she gained at school and in the work force were indispensable as she progressed through the competition.
“It takes a huge amount of confidence to go out and talk to somebody you’ve never met before,” she said. “SAIT prepares you in the sense that it’s like a playpen. You can make all your mistakes and do all your silly things in front of a great support team.”
While McLean was eliminated from the Stampede Queen competition when the judges narrowed the field to 10, she appreciated the experience and opportunity.
“It’s hard at first, because you (think) they don’t want you, but then you remember it’s a developmental program.”
Running again is not out of the question, either. “I don’t remember a trio in recent history where at least one of them was not somebody who was on at least their second attempt.”
This year, unsuccessful contestants will be provided with feedback from the judges to help them identify areas for growth, should they decide to apply again. “I will definitely look at it when it comes down the road again, but that’s a year away,” said McLean.
Victoria Macdonald, a current SAIT student, also competed in this year’s competition. She made it into the top six.

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