‘Not just a pretty face,’ 2019 Dixie Roundup royalty never back down promoting the sport they love

Composite image. Background photo shows the historic Dixie Sunbowl before the start of the 83rd annual Dixie Roundup Rodeo, St. George, Utah, Sept. 13, 2017. Foreground photo, L-R: Dixie Roundup Rodeo co-chairman Chad Drake, queen McKinley Drake, chairman Jeff Twitchell, princess Jaid Stowell and co-chairman Matt Stillman, St. George, Utah | Background photo by Jeff Richards. Royalty photo courtesy of St. George Lions Club, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Life as a rodeo queen has its challenges, but McKinley Drake, queen of the 2019 Dixie Roundup Rodeo, says she’s never been one to back down from a little hard work. 

L-R: McKinley Drake, 2019 Dixie Roundup Rodeo queen, and princess Jaid Stowell, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Mark Breinholt of Colorland Photo, St. George News

Drake, who was chosen as the queen for the 85th annual St. George Lions Club 2019 Dixie Roundup Rodeo in May, told St. George News her blood runs rodeo through and through. She said she was just a young girl in her belt buckle and boots walking around the roundup when she decided she wanted to be its queen someday.

Her dreams will come true this year, as not only will she be leading out Old Glory at the Grand Entry at Thursday’s night’s opening event, she’s also part of this year’s competition.

Having previously served as a Dixie Roundup princess and first-attendant, Drake said she is excited to finally have the chance to serve as queen.

“I am passionate about every event and activity during rodeo week,” Drake said. “I’m excited to go to the elementary schools and meet with the kids, to ride in the rodeo, to converse with the fans, and ride in the parade next Saturday morning.”

Drake, along with her princess Jaid Stowell, was crowned after competing in an all-day event where ladies modeled, presented a speech, tested their rodeo knowledge, answered impromptu questions, interacted with the judges and completed a challenging horsemanship pattern.

Jennifer Hall, Dixie Roundup queen and princess contest chairperson, said these ladies are “not just a pretty face.”

“The contestants make the rodeo, but the royalty promotes the rodeo,” Hall said. “The qualities we look for is someone who presents themselves well, has a large knowledge of horses and the rodeo world, can speak well in crowds, and most importantly, can ride a horse well.”

Hall said this is a huge commitment. From June until September, they are the “face” of the rodeo, acting as ambassadors for the roundup at other rodeos and events around the state. 

She said the queen and princess help promote the rodeo by talking to the younger generation about working hard to achieve goals. All week long, they are visiting schools in the area speaking with children about the sport they love.

L-R: Dixie Roundup Rodeo co-chairman Chad Drake, queen McKinley Drake, chairman Jeff Twitchell, princess Jaid Stowell and co-chairman Matt Stillman after Drake and Stowell, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of St. George Lions Club, St. George News

Stowell said since being crowned she has had the time of her life, adding that participating in the Iron County Fair has been her best day so far. When it comes to the Dixie Roundup, she said that out of the entire week, she was looking forward to going to the elementary schools and visiting with local kids the most.

“I’m so excited to see the fans, especially with the kids. Interacting with people is the favorite part about my reign.”

Stowell said she’s excited and a little nervous about representing the rodeo this week but said she will love getting pictures with everybody and meeting the public.

“My job as the Dixie Roundup princess is to represent the sport of rodeo, the cowboys and cowgirls and all of the hard work put in behind the scenes,” she said, adding that it is very rewarding to see first-hand people enjoying themselves. “It has been so much fun.”

Drake echoed the sentiment and said speaking with fans is also one of the most cherished things about being a rodeo queen.

“My favorite part of the job is spending time with the people and promoting the sport I love,” she said. “I especially love educating kids about rodeo. It’s really amazing to get to know young rodeo fans and see them engage in the performance.”

McKinley Drake, 2019 Dixie Roundup Rodeo queen, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Mark Breinholt of Colorland Photo, St. George News

The former Utah High School Rodeo Queen said she is grateful for the experiences that have allowed her to create meaningful connections and relationships with people that share her passion for the rodeo. It has been a great blessing in her life, she said, adding that she loves it because of the people, from her fellow queens and royalty to the fans to the Lions Club and rodeo committee — everyone that makes rodeo possible.

“Rodeo is a family-oriented sport, and it’s common to hear people in and around rodeo refer to our ‘rodeo family,'” Drake said “We consider fans a part of our rodeo family, and it’s very important to me to try and get to know as many rodeo supporters as I can. We’re all connected by our interest in the sport, and I enjoy making friends with new people.”

Drake said working in the rodeo reminds her that if you work at something you love, you never work a day in your life.

“When you love something the way I love rodeo, the hard work doesn’t seem so hard, and the long hours fly by quickly. It’s especially fun because it’s something I can do with my family and friends.”

When she’s not in school or working, Drake spends most of the time with her horses. Besides her duties as a rodeo ambassador, she will also be competing and said she’s especially excited about the growth of her favorite event: breakaway roping.  

“Rodeo athletes practice their individual events for hours on end, and when we’re done practicing, the work is just beginning,” she said. “We take better care of our horses than we do ourselves. We pack the trailer, clean tack, make travel plans, and much more. Rodeo takes dedication, and it’s more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle.”

The 2019 Dixie Roundup Rodeo runs Sept. 19-21 from 6-11 p.m. at the historic Dixie Sunbowl in St. George. Tickets are on sale daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lions Club or by calling the radio hotline at 435-673-3301.

Written by ANDREW PINCKNEY, St. George News.

• S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T •

Event details

  • What: 85th annual St. George Lions Dixie Roundup Rodeo.
  • When: Thursday-Saturday, Sept., 19-21. 6-11 p.m. |Parade, Saturday, 9 a.m.
  • Where: Dixie Sunbowl, 150 S. 400 East, St. George.
  • Information: Website, Facebook | Telephone:  435-673-3301.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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