Donna Everhart has covered some rocky ground in the 26 years since she won the crown of Payson Rodeo Queen for the centennial anniversary of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.
Everhart, who was Donna Cozart when she was crowned, received special acknowledgment at the 125th annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo in 2009. She was given a special belt buckle commemorating her reign as centennial rodeo queen and served as honorary rodeo queen for 2009-2010.
“I didn’t get a buckle when I was centennial queen,” Everhart said.
Everhart was diagnosed with cancer in 1997 and was told it was terminal. She was bedridden for a couple of years with the disease and was still too weak to participate in her special ceremony last year or ride in any events during the 2010 rodeo.
Although her participation was limited last year, she said, “It was such an honor and a blessing.”
She has defied the odds though, and is getting stronger all the time. In fact, she said she feels strong enough to start pushing to get the Payson Rodeo Queen contest revived. The contest went by the wayside a number of years ago as fewer and fewer young women were interested in participating.
“We can’t let this part of our heritage be lost,” she said.
When Everhart won the crown the rules were changed to widen the field for women interested in serving the community as its rodeo royalty. She said the change was made because it was the centennial anniversary of the rodeo and there was a desire to have a more skilled ambassador for Payson and its rodeo.
At the time, she was in the Mogollon Montoneras, active in gymkhanas and the Junior Rodeo Queen contest.
The year she won the crown, Everhart’s daughter, Frosti Haught, was Miss Wrangler.
She wanted to remind people about all the wonderful residents who made past rodeos and the Payson Rodeo Queen contest such a success.
“Sue Haught made more queen outfits and provided tremendous moral support to all the queens, young and old. It was her loving horse Sunny that helped me win the queen contest. Joey DesJardin of Joey’s Gold and Jim Young were also great support. Jim told me I was the best queen ever,” Everhart said.
She also acknowledged the Montoneras and Larry Everhart, her friend and former husband.
Everhart said she was also grateful for the support from Bill Armstrong, Chuck Jackman, Emery and Judy McKeen, Candi Randall, George Randall and Peggy’s Place.
Since her 1984-1985 reign, her children and grandchildren have kept a hand in the rodeo game. Her daughter, Lisa Clark was Junior Rodeo Queen in the late 1980 and her grandson, Trevor Haught was in high school rodeo. Two years ago he won all-around cowboy honors and first place in bareback riding in the state high school rodeo finals and went on to be ranked 13th in the world.
Everhart’s family has been in the Rim Country since the 1940s. Her parents, Eugene and Betty Voyles and grandparents Doc and Alice Voyles owned the homestead where Frontier Apartments and Cow Town Estates are now located, on the southeast side of Payson.
“I would love to hear from their friends about the stories they told,” Everhart said.