FORT WORTH -- Decades ago, the great-great-grandparents of Whitney Andras began breeding Hereford cattle.
The Oklahoma teenager now represents the breed as the National Hereford Queen and will help preside over the Junior Breeding Heifer Show today at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
"I grew up admiring the queen every year," said Andras, 18, a freshman at Connors State College in Warner, Okla. "To now be the ambassador for this breed and have little girls looking up to me is amazing."
A common fixture at the Stock Show, queens and junior queens, sometimes called sweethearts, hand out ribbons, chat with attendees and pose for photographs. They usually wear sashes with their title, tiaras or cowboy hats and boots.
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Queens are typically high school or college age and are voted on by members in their association.
"Queens add glamour to the entire cattle showing industry," said Diane Johnson, a Fort Worth event planner who was the 1980-81 Kansas Hereford Queen. "They serve as spokeswomen for their breeds and the entire beef industry, so we expect them to be well-versed."
For most, that comes easily. Many of the queens have grown up on or around farms or ranches and have shown animals themselves. They understand what it takes to raise animals and compete.
Jessica McCall, 22, started showing cattle at just 9 years old. The Louisville, Ky., native is now the National Shorthorn Lassie Queen.
Wearing the queen's winter uniform -- a long red plaid skirt and vest with black cowboy hats and a tiara -- McCall passed out ribbons Sunday and smiled for photographs with show finalists.
"It's a great honor to represent a breed I love in a positive light," McCall said. "This is a long, important tradition we are carrying on."
For Cara Cummings, 18, serving as Texas Hereford Queen has provided an opportunity to travel the state and country, immerse herself in agriculture and meet new people.
"Texas is a very proud state," said Cummings, a senior at Longview High School. "Being asked to represent my state is an honor."
At times, Cummings said, the responsibility is a weighty one.
"Everyone knows who we are, and everyone is watching," she said. "We have to be on our best behavior at all times."
Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056