When MacKenna Hales entered her first queen contest at 9 years-old, she never imagined she would end up representing the entire state of Utah as Miss Rodeo Utah 2017.
“As a young girl, I can remember going to the Morgan County Fair and being awestruck with how beautiful and kind the local rodeo queens were. Although I didn’t win my first contest, I learned a lot about how things work and knew this was something I wanted to pursue.”
The following year, Hales won what is now called the Morgan County Fair Junior Princess title, and from that experience on she was hooked.
Following the Morgan County Fair, Hales moved on to High School Rodeo, where she competed in the queen contest, cutting, pole bending, barrel racing and reined cow horse events. “With the help of some pretty awesome equine partners, I experienced great success in high school rodeo,” stated Hales.
A few of notable accomplishments include: 2014 Silverstate International Rodeo Queen, 2015 Silverstate International pole bending champion, 2015 NHSFR cutting qualifier and top 20 finisher at the NHSFR in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
“Being competitive in a variety of rodeo events helped me to develop and refine the horsemanship skills needed in the queen contest,” attributed Hales. Following high school, she was named Hooper Tomato Days Queen, Lehi Roundup Queen and third runner up in the 2015 Miss Rodeo Utah contest.
“There is so much preparation that goes into competing for a contest of this caliber, and there was no way that I could have done it on my own. I have so many friends and family who were such a huge support to me,” credits Hales.
Hales gives thanks to her amazing trainers including Travis Wigen, Mack Weaver, Andy Christensen and Zeph Schulz, who made sure that both Hales and her horse were as ready as possible.
“I coordinated practice interviews each week, trying to refine my interview and communication skills. I’ve had study sessions with multiple people each week to make sure my knowledge of current events, PRCA happenings, and equine science were where they needed to be,” admitted Hales. But it didn’t end there.
“We have met with designers and stylists to refine and produce my wardrobe. There have been speech and modeling practice sessions with local professionals and the list could go on. Most of all, I have had people who have supported me and simply believed I could accomplish my goal,” said Hales thankfully.
Hales acknowledged that the hardest part of this competition for her was just deciding it was something she wanted to do and staying dedicated to that decision. “There were so many different avenues I could have chosen instead of competing for Miss Rodeo Utah that might have been just as rewarding. I am extremely blessed to have this opportunity available to me,” said Hales.
Her mother, Becky Hales, said, “As we watched coronation from the grandstands on July 25 at Ogden Pioneer Stadium in front of a sold-out crowd, we were completely thrilled and elated that she had been rewarded with top marks in every judged category! What a way to end the week. She had felt good about her contest, but I think she was more surprised as anyone at the final outcome. It was a priceless night for all of us!”
The newly crowned queen says she is a true believer that you can do anything you set your mind to. She commented that,”Being a rodeo queen isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work, and sometimes you don’t see your work pay off right away. It takes a lot of persistence and patience, but in the end you’ll find you’re a lot better person because of it.”
Those vying for the title of Miss Rodeo Utah need a full support team behind them, in whatever form that takes. “There are so many people working behind the scenes to even make this a possibility. My biggest supporters would have to be my family. They have sacrificed so much of their time, talents and resources in order to help me succeed,” remarked Hales.
MacKenna’s mother is a native Morganite and is the daughter of Paul Russell and Joan Duncan Tomlinson. Ron and Becky Hales were able to build their first home here and have lived in Morgan ever since. They have three other children: Tanner returned home from a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last summer and is attending Brigham Young University; Reganne, who rodeos as well but is not a fan of the queen contest event; and Porter, who is an avid baseball fan.
Becky was also involved in rodeo growing up, but not to the extent her daughters were. “I loved high school rodeo, but was also heavily involved with volleyball and basketball. Things were a lot different then. For the queen contest I wrote my own speech and even made a suit and horsemanship outfit used in competition.”
“My beautiful mother has been my main seamstress, cheerleader and supporter. I could never repay her for all of the hard work and sacrifice she put in on my behalf. My entire family has given up a lot for me to have this opportunity, and I am forever thankful for their endless encouragement,” said MacKenna.
Her mother said, “As a mom, the most challenging aspect has been trying to maintain balance and perspective. As a perfectionist, it can be difficult for me to walk away from a project with the idea that I have done enough. It has been a constant battle to help and support her, and at the same time keep in mind that our real objective is not the rodeo queen title, but instead to help facilitate growth into the remarkable woman that she has become.”
During the pageant itself, the contestants are sequestered and not allowed any communication devices. MacKenna had many close friends and family members drop off notes of encouragement and special gifts to help keep her spirits up and provide support through the six-day contest.
MacKenna would like to thank all her sponsors as well as Ogden Pioneer Days and the Miss Rodeo Utah committee for organizing such an amazing week. She also thanked the Lehi Round-Up Rodeo for sponsoring her entry and the four judges there who gave her this opportunity.
“I have gained so much from competing over the years that it’s hard to comprehend all the ways it has benefited my life. It has really taught me how to be organized, independent, work hard, accomplish goals and most importantly, communicate with people. I used to be so scared to talk to people! I would even have my mom order for me at McDonald’s,” confessed MacKenna.
Overcoming that fear of speaking is something she still works on every day. “Learning to communicate has helped me develop so many great friendships that I would have never made otherwise. It seems like the more involved I become, the more people I bump into that become lifelong friends.”
Now that her dream of becoming Miss Rodeo Utah has been realized, after her year-long reign, MacKenna plans to complete her degree in pediatric nursing at Brigham Young University. She said, “It has also been a goal of mine to marry in the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and be able to raise a family in the western lifestyle.”
There’s a quote that has become a new motto for MacKenna. “People won’t remember what you said or what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.” She hopes to have a positive impact on those who she comes in contact with. “Being involved in the western lifestyle and the sport of rodeo has taught me so many valuable life lessons. It’s a lifestyle where the entire family can be involved and grow closer to each other as a result. I hope to be a positive role model and enjoy every minute of this next year!”