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A queen gets her crown

Tiffany Mannikko takes over role with Omak Stampede

— The Omak Stampede celebrated the end of one reign and the beginning of another Saturday at its annual coronation and banquet.

A whirlwind year as Stampede queen ended for Tonasket High School graduate Breanna Howell, who passed on the crown to Tiffany Mannikko after a ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of the rodeo and its volunteers through 2013.

“I could not have asked for a better year,” Howell said.

Mannikko, 18, said she is excited about having the opportunity to represent the community for the next year, and she’s looking forward to the non-stop challenges ahead.

Howell closed out her reign with an emotional recap of her past year, speaking of some of the challenges, the surprises and the funny moments along the way.

“The funniest thing that happened all year: My dad got shot with a confetti cannon,” she said.

She presented gifts to the family and community members who had supported her during her time as queen, as well as gifts for Mannikko that will help her as she takes on the role.

Howell said the three events that stood out most to her were the National Final Rodeo, the Calgary Stampede and the Omak Stampede.

Howell said she adopted the Calgary Stampede’s motto of “Hell or high water” — which came about due to the floods that ravaged that area — as her own motto as she traveled more than 12,000 miles and rode eight different horses during the 12-month span.

One of her other mishaps along the way came returning from a different festival in Canada, when her vehicle, along with its trailer and her horse, received the “dreaded orange ticket.”

“For those of you who have never traveled across the border, or never gotten that orange ticket, that means you have to pull over and wait for someone to inspect your cargo,” she said.

The inspector had to search the entire vehicle, including underneath the belly of her horse, Legs.

“Legs was not happy,” Howell said. “If looks could kill, he would have killed somebody.”

Aside from the countless hours her family devoted to her time as queen, Howell credited Royalty Director Millie Gann for her support.

“If not for Millie, I wouldn’t have had the courage to try out for Stampede,” she said.

Gann deflected the praise back to Howell.

“Thank you Breanna for the fabulous job you did, and you are forever a part of our circle,” she said.

Gann said one of the hallmarks of Howell’s reign was setting up a Facebook page for the Omak Stampede queen, a platform which will remain in place for future royalty. The page allowed Howell to keep the community up to date on her activities and to stay in touch with other rodeo queens she met during her travels.

Gann introduced the rodeo’s 2014 queen to the crowd of more than 100 people.

“She has dreamed of this moment since the first time she saw a rodeo queen at age 10,” Gann said of Mannikko.

Mannikko is currently a student at the Okanogan School District’s Omak Learning Center and she will graduate in June.

Her interests include horseback riding, singing, listening to music and barrel racing. She previously served as Okanogan County Junior Rodeo princess in 2008.

Mannikko gave the speech she had originally planned as part of the speaking and modeling competition, before former Okanogan County Fair queen Menze Pickering withdrew from contention.

This year marked the fifth consecutive year Stampede has not had a contested queen competition.

“How many barrel racers do we have here tonight?” Mannikko asked a cheering audience.

She talked about the history of women in rodeo events and credited early barrel racers for being the foundation of professional female athletes today.

“I’m very, very honored” to be able to represent the community, Mannikko said.

After her speech, Mannikko kicked off her fundraising efforts with several handmade and homegrown items that went up for auction, raising more than $200 in a matter of moments.

Prior to the coronation, President George Dunckel commended the rodeo directors and volunteers for their efforts in the past year.

“I think we’re doing a heck of a good job and I’m very, very proud of this community, pulling together and doing the job that we’re doing,” he said.

Dunckel also presented a pair of awards, with Mike Ables being named Committeeman of the Year and Dan Salkawske being honored with the Rawhide Award.

Ables discussed Stampede’s financial situation with the crowd.

He said Stampede made a profit of about $5,000 in the past year, with $575,421 in revenues and $570,075 in expenditures.

Stampede will start the year with a balance of $91,287.

“I know we did good, but $91,000 is a far cry from $570,000,” Ables said. “So anything anybody can do is much appreciated.”

Vice President Leon Hoover presented six names of people who were nominated for the associate board — Geral Hersey, Marilyn Oestreich, Gary Stevens, Dan Berg, Mike Holsworth and Pete Palmer.

All six were approved by the board of directors.

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