Meet the Queen: Utah

utah-4Nestled in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains, where the sun can shine, the heavens rain, and snow fall… all in the same day, Morgan, Utah is the small northern farming community I call home.  Being well known for its hard working and industrious people, Utah is often referred to as the Beehive State.  A nickname that seems quite appropriate since Utah is also the state where road construction is the only season understood by most Utahans to last all year! Coming to you from the hometown of world-class Snowbasin Ski Resort, and some of the “Greatest Snow on Earth”, my name is McKenna Lynn Hales, Miss Rodeo Utah 2017.  As a Morgan High honors graduate, I am currently attending Brigham Young University in Provo, studying nursing.

Growing up on a small hillside hobby farm where most of the surrounding landscape was utah-2incredibly rocky and steep, I learned early how to navigate the unstable terrain in an effort to exercise my show lamb alongside my older brother, Tanner, and younger siblings, Reganne and Porter.  Although the walks up the steep grade with an uncooperative lamb in tow may have been difficult for a preschooler, I loved nearly every kind of animal, and preferred spending time outdoors working or playing than anything the house had to offer. Fortunately, in those early years, we happened to live just a few blocks from my Grandpa Russell’s small farm, where I spent summers playing in his little red barn with any animal he happened to have at the time.  An orphaned paint filly appropriately named “Hope” soon became my favorite.  Seeing what my Grandpa considered “natural ability”, he soon offered his only 4-legged daughter to me, and so my journey began.  My Grandfather gave me Hope!

utah-5Hope was the first of many talented animal athletes that have propelled me into a life and love of all things equine.  With watchful eyes and the big dreams of a pint-size preschooler, I can clearly remember my first introduction to the woman who gracefully wore the golden Miss Rodeo Utah crown many years ago.  As a bouncy young rodeo spectator, waiting behind the autograph table at Ogden Pioneer Days Stadium, I may not have imagined the inspiration that simple encounter would have on my future.  From horse 4-H and FFA to High School Rodeo, I have relished each accomplishment and success along the way, as well as learned and improved from each disappointment.

My unforgettable year as Miss Rodeo Utah began July 25th in front of a sold-out crowd during the final performance of Ogden’s Pioneer Days Rodeo, where I was crowned. If you haven’t had the chance to attend a rodeo at historic Ogden Stadium, I highly recommend that enormouse, outdoor venue!  You won’t be disappointed! From that magical night, I have traveled to Las Vegas, Denver, and Kissimmee with many more rodeo and service adventures in the works, and my year is just getting underway!

One opportunity and message I am most excited about this year is my partnership with the American Cancer Society. This relationship will provide me the experience to help improve Utah’s poor cancer screening rates, educate about cancer prevention, and help promote ACS programs and fund raising efforts. utah-3

Cancer has affected my family in very personal ways as my Grandpa Hales is currently suffering through the final stages of a 7-month-old terminal esophageal cancer diagnoses, along with an aunt who fought through a very scary breast cancer battle at the age of 42.  I am confident that by improving cancer screening rates and talking about prevention, we can save lives and spread a message of hope and support that reaches beyond the rodeo arena to families and fans across the state and nation!  You can join me in my efforts and follow my year using the hashtag #MRU2017kickcancer!  Both of my grandfathers have been great supporters and mentors, and instilled in me the message that the only thing stronger than fear is hope.  We can all share hope!


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