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As a reporter — and generally curious guy — I enjoy talking to people who are passionate.

Luckily, there’s really no shortage of passion here in Kings County.

Two weeks ago in this column, I spoke to a local man who’s passionate about comic book characters and cosplaying as various superheroes at local events to give kids the opportunity to meet bigger-than-life heroes in real life.

Last week, I talked to some local students making a movie for the Hanford Film Festival (which is Saturday at the Hanford Fox Theatre.)

This week, I had the chance to talk to Laton Rodeo Queen Whitney Iskenderun.

While I know a bit more about movies and comics than I do about horse-riding, that didn’t matter much, as she knew more than enough for the both of us.

 The 16-year-old Laton Rodeo Queen represented her town at the 66th annual Woodlake Lions Rodeo over the weekend.

Iskenderian, crowned about a month ago, was one a collection of regional rodeo royalty that rode through the parade that, kicking off the weekend’s festivities.

“I’ve been to the rodeo the last three years and I’m super excited. This is my first year going as a visiting queen in the parade,” Iskenderian said.

And while the parade is a fun opportunity, she said, she and her new horse were more looking forward to performing in the rodeo itself, when I talked to her the day before the rodeo officially began.

“Parades can be stressful for the animal, but as long as he tries and he gives me his all, I’ll be happy and I’ll be impressed,” she said.

Iskenderian’s horse is named Duke, a moniker he borrows from the “Dukes of Hazzard,” which is fitting, she said, since he’s a little wild.

The rodeo queen said that performing in front of an audience can be “thrilling,” and she’d be especially happy out there on the field when she hears the announcer call her name, followed by “Laton Rodeo Queen” over the loudspeaker.

“It’s fun. You just smile the whole time and it’s a real smile, not a fake one,” she said.

Iskenderian, crowned the 2018 Springville Sierra Rodeo Princess last year, has her sights on becoming Miss California Rodeo in the future.

I didn’t get to attend the rodeo proper, just some pre-game media activities before the official opening, but I did have lunch in Woodlake – Taqueria Super Taco’s quesadillas are out of this world – and it was charming how geared up the town was for the long-running rodeo.

Almost every storefront downtown had signs in the window welcoming out-of-towners to the rodeo. Some had collages of drawings by local students of cowboys and cowgirls.

And, of course, there’s a huge, beautiful mural downtown celebrating the town’s rodeo tradition and cultural diversity.

While I’m certainly no Clint Eastwood, Iskenderian and the people of Woodlake’s passion for the rodeo was infectious nonetheless.

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Parker Bowman is the assistant content editor for the Hanford Sentinel, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ Parker_THS or send an email to PBowman@HanfordSentinel.com

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