HELENA — In 1961, Kitty Ann Quigley Taaler took the honor of Helena’s first-ever Miss Last Chance Stampede. Now things are about to come full circle 61 years later as she serves as the Stampede parade’s Grand Marshall.
Kitty was just 17 when she took home Miss Last Chance Stampede.
“I don't actually have a rodeo background,” she admitted. “I have a promotion background. My father built Frontier Town. He and Homer Phillips, Phil Carson and my dad all got together and started the Last Chance Stampede and said, well, Kitty, I think you will run for rodeo queen, because it will be good publicity for Frontier Town. So that started my rodeo, so to speak."
But her first rodeo win didn’t come easily. She borrowed an Arabian named Brandy from her friend, Dorothy Gunlock. Brandy had never been off the ranch, so when they entered the ring, things went south.
“I simply just put my hand on my thigh with a lot of weight, and my legs really hold on and we the whole time. So I finished the ride and I thought well, I didn't have any chance to win anyway,” Kitty Ann recalled.
She was granted a re-ride and the then-Miss Rodeo America loaned Kitty Ann her horse.
“It was like peaches and cream. We just did sliding stops with a zip. We had a beautiful ride. So that was happy, happy news for me,” she said.
61 years later, Kitty Ann is ready to take on the Stampede once again.
“I feel so honored to be in this because for sure, I'm pretty sure, this will be the last parade that I'm ever going to be in. And I love parades. And I have fun in them. And I whoop and holler in them,” she said.
In her years with the Stampede, Kitty Ann has had many fond memories. But her favorite, was watching her brother, Peter, get thrown off a bronc.
“It almost brings tears to my eyes... Sitting with my dad, and my brother Peter was riding the bronc. And he had a great to have a ride on Orbit was the name and I was supposed to be sitting there like a little lady. And boy, he just went way over the top and he didn't get up. The ambulance came and he broke his pelvis. And he was the hard luck cowboy for the Last Chance Stampede that year. And guess what the prize was? 100 Frontier Town dollars. So that's my happy, happy memory and Peter was okay. But he couldn't spend the 100 Frontier dollars,” she laughed.
And after all of Kitty Ann’s rodeo accolades and her induction into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, she says her greatest accomplishment is her family.
“I think having, at age 37, having our daughter Taegan Taaler-Walker. Because she's been just a joy to me," she said. "She has more intestinal fortitude than I have so, yes, she and my husband are. I have two darling step daughters or daughters, their families. I'm grateful for family. I'm grateful for loyal friends. And I'm grateful for Montana.”