MRA Alumni-Where are They now? Karie O’Donnell Herbers, Miss Rodeo Washington 1996

By: Miss Rodeo America

Karie O’Donnell Herbers – looks every bit the Irish lass with her auburn hair and warm smile. She fell in love with the Miss Rodeo America program back in 1996, when she served as Miss Rodeo Washington, and represented the Evergreen state in the 1997 Miss Rodeo America Pageant. She and her mother Candy Gratton have been serving MRA ever since that contestant experience and have not missed attending an MRA Pageant in those 25 years.

Karie grew up in Poulsbo, WA. She earned a B.A in Communication and Journalism from Central Washington University, located in Ellensburg, WA, where she also earned a post baccalaureate specialization in Human Resource Management. Additionally, she obtained an PHR (Professional in Human Resources) designation from the Human Resource Certification Institute.

Today, she is a resident of Ellensburg, along with her husband Jay Herbers and her seven-year-old son Reid. She works as a Reimbursement Manager for a pharmaceutical company.

“I love my job as I am helping patients access life-changing therapy at the lowest possible price,” says Herbers. “And, I love raising my son to love the western way of life.”

Serving as Miss Rodeo Washington in 1996 and competing for the title of Miss Rodeo America 1997 provided a forum of personal development that Karie was able to parlay into her professional career.

“I work in a very competitive industry and have interviewed for and received promotions, says Herbers.

“I have been told many times my interview skills are some of the best they’ve seen!

“I always chuckle to myself thinking ‘if they only knew the hours of interview prep I’ve done over the years.’

“Being a rodeo queen gave me confidence, public speaking skills, time management and organizational skills.”

Serving as a state titleholder was only the tip of the iceberg for Karie. She has continued to serve the rodeo industry and the Miss Rodeo America Pageant diligently.

Much of Karie’s service to the Miss Rodeo America Pageant has come in the form of leadership and fundraising. She served as National Director for the Miss Rodeo Washington Pageant for ten years and served on the MRA Executive Board for six years.

Karie has the unique experience of having served on every MRA pageant committee at various times. But it is her passion for the MRA Scholarship Foundation that spotlights her stellar service and leadership skills. She has been a very active member of the MRASF since 2010, currently serving as MRASF President, the first former state titleholder to do so.

At the next MRA pageant, you might see Karie selling flowers in the hospitality room or prepping flower delivery to the contestants or managing the Bucks for Bags auction, which are large fundraising operations for the scholarship foundation.

“I’m very proud to serve as President of the Miss Rodeo America Scholarship Foundation, says Herbers.

“Some of my very best friends are those I have made though my involvement with MRAI and MRASF, and I hope to continue my involvement as long as I possibly can.”

Working on pageant committees and seeing the new crop of queens enjoy the MRA Pageant experience can serve as a reminder to alumni like Karie of just how far they have come in life, from the memories of serving as a state titleholder to the joys of family life and pursuing a successful professional path.

One of Karie’s favorite memories as Miss Rodeo Washington was representing her title at Cheyenne Frontier Days, standing alongside Arlene Kensinger, who directed the visiting royalty at CFD in those days, and together shared the rushing moment the Air Force Thunderbirds flew over the grounds.

“We were just having a normal conversation and I remember thinking ‘oh my goodness, this is THE Arlene Kensinger that I am talking to’, says Herbers.

“Through my involvement with MRAI and MRASF we became good friends and I told her this story later.

“Rodeo is one of the few places where your heroes can become your friends – our legends are accessible.”

The pageant relationships withstood the test of a time period without the ready access of mobile phones and social media available now.

“The friendships I made with rodeo committees, sponsors, host families and local queens remain some of my closest today, says Herbers.

“And, I have remained good friends with some of my fellow titleholders.”

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