Since she was seven years old, Kyla Lightfoot has dreamed of becoming a member of the Cochrane Lions Royalty.

On Sept. 3, that dream came true on the first day of the 55th annual Cochrane Lions Labour Day Weekend Rodeo.

"I didn't realize right away that I was crowned. Once I did, I immediately started crying happy tears," says Kyla. "All of the contestants were amazing. Everybody had something to bring to the table and everybody would have made an outstanding queen, so when I heard I was chosen, I was overjoyed."

At age seven, a good family friend was a Lions Rodeo princess and it made a lasting impression.

"Ever since I saw her, I've always wanted to be a part of this."

She said that the first day was spent becoming accustomed to the important role played by the queen.

"I would walk around with the crown on my hat, and I would have people look at me and smile, and little girls would come up to me. At first, it was surreal, but as the day went on, I realized how amazing it was."

There was more mingling the next two days, buckles to be presented, and a chance to carry the Canadian flag in the grand entry.

On Monday, she appeared in the Labour Day Parade alongside about 10 fellow rodeo royalty members from across Alberta.

"It was amazing, and all of the girls were very welcoming and very kind. It felt like a family that I'll be sharing my life with for the next year, so I'm excited to get to know the girls better."

Over the next year, she'll be making about 60 appearances. Most will be in the Cochrane area representing the Cochrane Lions Club and serving as an unofficial ambassador for the community, but it also includes attending several rodeos in southern Alberta.

In advance of the crowning, there was a full month of judged events for all three contestants.

"I enjoyed it," she says. "There was stiff competition, and I had to put in a lot of effort, but overall it was a learning experience. I learned a lot of good lifelong lessons that I was able to use and will be able to use in my future years."

The 18-year-old has been riding horses since she could walk, starting in an English style in Victoria, B.C., where she was born, then transitioning to a Western-style when her family arrived in Cochrane when she was five.

Kyla attended school in both Springbank and Cochrane and is a member of the 2022 Graduating Class of Springbank Community High School.

Kyla LightfootKyla shares a high five with a young mutton buster. (Photo/Jacquie Matechuk Photography)