Hannah Beth Tems was 6 years old when she first attended the Reno Rodeo.
Tems, now 14 and preparing to enter her sophomore year at Douglas High School, was instantly enthralled with the rodeo flag team - an elite group of female riders that presented the national colors and sponsor flags between events.
"I just remember my dad leaning over to me and saying, 'Hannah Beth, my goal for you someday is to be a part of that team.'
"I thought there was no way I could ever do it."
This week, those early childhood dreams will come true as Tems rides across the arena floor with the opening of the 2012 Reno Rodeo.
Tems was one of 55 riders selected for the flag team earlier this spring. Because riders who have participated on the team for more than three years are guaranteed spots on the team, only about 30 slots were open this year.
At 14, which is the earliest a rider can try out for the team, Tems will be the youngest member.
"It's crazy," she said. "I've always wanted to be some part of this rodeo. I always wanted to ride in that arena. I think there are about 10,000 people every night. I'm going to be so nervous."
As final preparations for the rodeo were put in place this week, the reality of the 14-day event has begun to set in.
"It's been crazy seeing the place go from empty to seeing everything building up and the big screens being installed.
"It's that realization that this is actually happening. I'm really excited."
Tems participated in a one-day tryout in April that consisted of successfully navigating her horse through an individual pattern and then a group pattern.
"The horse had to be able to accept the flag," she said. "We carry the flag in a boot on your right stirrup, and they hand you the flag from the ground. Not all horses accept it. It makes a lot of noise.
"You had to show that you had control of your horse and that you have good horsemanship skills. They want to see a positive personality."
She waited a week after the tryouts before receiving an envelope in the mail.
"I was shaking while I was opening the envelope," Tems said. "It said 'congratulations,' and I was so excited. I was screaming.'
The months since have included a lot of preparation for the drills the team will run during the rodeo.
The team will participate in finely-tuned choreographed drills prior to each performance and will volunteer at different events during and after the rodeo.
"I've made a lot of friends on the team," Tems said. "You have to work together and be able to trust them and their horses. You make friends pretty quick.
"It'll be 14 days straight of just flag team. It'll be a busy time."
Tems' selection to the flag team capped off what was a fairly brilliant year on the rodeo circuit.
Aside from carrying a 4.0 GPA as a ninth-grader at Carson Valley Middle School, she competed in a broad range of rodeos and gymkhanas across the state.
She won reserve cowgirl at Smith Valley's junior rodeo last fall and won her class and the overall title at the Washoe Gymkhana Winter Series.
"I just did that to keep my horse warmed up," Tems said. "I ended up winning the whole thing. That was completely unexpected.
"As it got toward the end, I thought I might have a chance at the reserve saddle, but when they announced that and it wasn't me, I thought I'd missed it. Then they said I'd won the whole thing. That was pretty cool."
This summer, after the rodeo, Tems will be breaking in her new horse, Little Miss Me, so as to give her other horses, Diamond Casanova and Montana a break in the coming year.
"It'll take riding every day, putting on a lot of hours, to get there," Tems said. "She's young and she needs to be ridden and patterned. She's not easy to train, but she picks things up quickly. She's stubborn and she likes to do things her own way. It'll take a lot of work."
She'll compete in junior rodeos around the area this summer and plans to compete on the high school rodeo circuit starting in the fall.