Though most of us think of fancy gowns and delicate crowns when we hear the word “royalty,” for McKenna Hales, the term means cowboy hats, horses, and an incredible amount of work.
Hales, who was crowned Miss Rodeo Utah in 2016, doesn’t shy away from working hard to accomplish a dream. But she also recognizes that she doesn’t do it alone.
“For me, every day was a leap of faith when I was trying out,” Hales says. “Looking back I can see how the Lord quietly guided me, and it was usually through the means of other people.”
The Miss Rodeo Utah contest is a rigorous week-long contest held in conjunction with the Ogden Pioneer Days celebration in Ogden, Utah. Hales says a lot of physical and mental preparation was needed for the contest as she participated in interviews, three different horsemanship patterns, impromptu speaking, a fashion show, and a written test.
Practicing riding her horse, studying world and horsemanship knowledge, and mock interviewing and speaking were all part of Hales’ daily and weekly preparation for the challenging contest. But the decision to compete was no piece of funnel cake either.
“If I became Miss Rodeo Utah, I would have to put my life on hold for a year to fulfill the responsibilities that come with it. . . . I remember I would lie awake at nights, and continually stress about whether or not this path was the right one for me to take,” Hales says.
Although many times she may have felt uncertain, and it was hard to trust in God’s plan for her, she moved forward and continued to pray to seek God’s will concerning her life.
“I don't believe in coincidences. I believe that God has a plan for each one of His children and that each of us is capable of something great,” Hales says.
Hales’ goal has come to fruition not only because of her great personal desires, but also because of her strong connection to God, family, and loved ones who have helped her along her way.
“Miss Rodeo Utah is definitely not something that I could have accomplished by myself,” Hales acknowledges. “Just like any sport, there is a great team behind the player. I have a fantastic family who is supportive of any avenue I want to pursue, and a great community who has helped tremendously with my journey.”
And though she accomplished part of her goal by being crowned, Hales anticipates using that opportunity to bring others hope this year—specifically through improving cancer screening rates, educating the community about cancer prevention, and helping promote the American Cancer Society’s programs and events.
“It is a great opportunity that I believe God gave me to potentially touch a lot of people’s lives, build new relationships, and learn along the way,” Hales says. “A couple of years ago my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. After seeing the hardships she went through and the struggles she had, I realized that this disease is real and that there needs to be more action taken as an individual to prevent it.”
Hales also hopes to inspire people spiritually as her title provides occasions for her to share her testimony and faith.
“I get to travel out of state quite a bit as Miss Rodeo Utah, and I usually always get asked if I am a Mormon,” Hales shares. “I think many regret asking the question because I loving sharing what I know with people! I carry pass along cards and hand them out to those who are curious.”
Hales feels the biggest way she shares her testimony, however, is through her example.
Hales recalls a time during a rodeo when she noticed two little girls who couldn’t stop looking at her. She ushered them over, gave them an autograph, and then invited them to sit with her for the remainder of the rodeo.
“I wish you could have seen how excited they were!” Hales says. “I really didn't watch any of the rodeo that night as I was getting to know about the girls’ school teachers, puppies, etc.”
Hales did not think much of the experience until afterward, when the parents of the two girls came and thanked Hales for her great example of kindness.
“Moments like these happen frequently, and it goes to show that you never know who may be watching,” Hales says. “My hope is that others are uplifted when they are around me.”