Horsin' around: 2009 Girl of the West visits Academy

Cadet 3rd Class Jared Barkemeyer, right, talks to April Biernat, the 2009 Girl of the West, during her visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 22. The Girl of the West and her aide, Jessica Greene, toured the Academy to promote the 2009 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Denise Navoy)

Cadet 3rd Class Jared Barkemeyer, right, talks to April Biernat, the 2009 Girl of the West, during her visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 22. The Girl of the West and her aide, Jessica Greene, toured the Academy to promote the 2009 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Denise Navoy)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- It's not very often that horseplay is allowed on the Terazzo, but that's exactly what happened when the 2009 Girl of the West and her aide visited the Academy Monday with horses Whisper and Classy China. 

April Biernat, the Girl of the West, and Jessica Greene, the aide to the Girl of the West, made stops at the 98th Flying Training Squadron and Falcon Youth Center before visiting cadets outside the Mitchell Hall Dining Facility to promote Air Force Academy Day at the 2009 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. 

The rodeo is scheduled for July 8-11 at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. Air Force Academy Day is scheduled for July 11. 

Rounding up an audience might seem like an ordinary objective but there is more going on at this rodeo than just roping and riding, said Cloriss Palmer, Girl of the West coordinator for the rodeo. 

"We're very unique in that all of our proceeds go to the military," Ms. Palmer said. "Since World War II, all of our proceeds have gone to military charities. We've contributed more than $1.5 million, and every military installation in the Pikes Peak region receives our proceeds." 

Area bases give back to the rodeo and contribute to the overall success of the program through volunteering. Local military personnel assist the rodeo by contributing their time and services wherever they are needed, according to the rodeo's Web site, http://www.coloradospringsrodeo.com/. 

"PPOBR is run by all volunteers and we get volunteers from every installation," Ms. Palmer added. 

Ms. Biernat and Ms. Greene talked with cadets about the rodeo and tried to give them an alternative to typical summer activities. 

"We enjoy promoting (the rodeo) to them because it's a great event for them to get out and enjoy something in Colorado Springs that's out of the box from routine stuff -- it's great entertainment," Ms. Biernat said. 

Cadets showed interest and enthusiasm about the rodeo. 

"I think it's awesome," said Cadet 3rd Class Jared Barkemeyer of Cadet Squadron 36. "I used to rodeo as a kid, so I'll definitely go." 

"It's a good way to get the word out," said Cadet 1st Class Courtney Swaney from Cadet Squadron 30. 

Ms. Biernat and Ms. Greene said they were happy to have made it out on such a beautiful day. 

"Thank you for having us out," Ms. Biernat said. "We enjoyed it and had a lot of fun -- you guys treat us so well here. I think it's a two way street in appreciation." 

"It's a great honor -- the experiences that we get and just the little bit that we can do for you guys because you do so much for us," Ms. Greene added. "It's our way of saying thank you." 

For information on volunteer opportunities during the rodeo, contact Master Sgt. Daniel Thompson at 719-333-9389 or Master Sgt. Angela Evans at 719-333-3998.