Dixie Roundup Princess shares love of rodeo

ST. GEORGE — When McKinley Drake was six years old, she put a tiny tiara on her cowgirl hat and walked around pretending she was a rodeo queen.

“And that was the moment I decided that I was going to be the Dixie Roundup Princess one day,” she said.

Now 15 years old, Drake saw her dream come true this year when she was named 2015 Dixie Roundup Princess. She takes her role seriously.

“Rodeo queening is honestly the most time-consuming and most rewarding thing in my life,” she said. “I spend hours studying, riding, anything to get ready for the contest and to represent rodeo, and I absolutely love it.”

Following in the footsteps of her mom, a former Roundup Princess and Queen herself, Drake has several titles to her credit, but this one is special.

“The Dixie Roundup Rodeo practically raised me,” she said. “As far as I can remember, I’ve been there every year eating a hot dog and drinking a Sprite from the concession stands and having one of their world-famous hamburgers.”

Drake said the first time she ever ran barrels in a rodeo was at the Dixie Roundup. She was eight years old.

“I remember walking in that arena and feeling absolutely amazing especially as I watched the Dixie Roundup Princess and Queen ride around the arena,” she said.

The Desert Hills High School sophomore juggles the demands of her title and her schoolwork. Although she’s still undecided about what to study in college, she does have some academic passions.

“I love science,” Drake said. “I’m actually a part of the science Olympiad team, and last year I won state in bridge building and got second in fossil events.”

Rodeo princesses need to know the ins and outs of all rodeo events and keep track of current professional cowboys, but Drake says what’s important about rodeo is not winning or losing.

“It’s not about rodeoing and it’s not about riding and roping calves and turning steers. It’s about the lifestyle and the family values that are involved with it,” she said. “Rodeo teaches you something that no other sport can. It teaches you how to cowboy up and power through the pain. It teaches you to stay up until two in the morning and get up at six the next morning. It teaches you things that no other team sport can because rodeo is more than a team sport. There’s not another sport on earth where you see the competitors cheering the other competitors on.”

Drake hopes rodeo fans from all over Southern Utah make it to the Sunbowl this weekend.

“Dixie Roundup is incredible because of the people involved, but even more than that, it’s at the very end of the PRCA season, which means it’s critical to cowboys and cowgirls trying to make it to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas Nevada in December,” she said. “It’ll be a great showing. I hope everyone comes to see it and has a great time.”

The 81st Dixie Roundup will be held Thursday through Saturday at the historic Sunbowl in downtown St. George.

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