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2016 Winner Halee Reed
2016 runners-up Cheyenne Walters, Sierra Skinner and Caylan Knight pose with winner, Halee Reed, at right

The role of Willits Frontier Days Sweetheart is coveted by all little ladies in the saddle who see the glamorous, tiara-clad annual winner make her way around the ring during her Sweetheart Run and Grand Entry.

Candidates for Frontier Days Sweetheart are responsible for helping create awareness of the Fourth of July events by selling tickets in the community. Those crowned Frontier Days Sweetheart help out in the arena every year, handing out awards, chasing cattle, riding in the parade and posing with winners for photos, as well as making appearances at other rodeos in the name of Willits Frontier Days.

Many families have a legacy of several generations of Sweetheart winners, and other Sweethearts blaze their own path to the coveted silver spurs and tiara given to the winner by the Soroptimist International Willits club, which helps put on the contest.

Contestants must compete in a poise and personality contest, demonstrate their mounted horsemanship skills, answer questions about rodeo and the equestrian lifestyle, and start selling event tickets in early summer. Ticket sales continue until the last minute before the Sweetheart Dinner where the winner is announced.

Ladies interested in running can contact Willits Frontier Days at 459-6330

Sweetheart Candidates from 2016

From left to right: Calayan Knight, Sierra Skinner, Cheyenne Walters & Halee Reed

Calayan Knight | 485-2316
Age and Schooling: 20, Junior at Mendocino College, working towards an associate degree in business. Graduated from New Horizons in 2013. Horse: Peaches, a 12-year-old mare Quarter Pony. Residency: Moved to Willits from Laytonville when she was 4 years old. Plans for the Future: Owning her own therapeutic riding facility or other entrepreneurial endeavor. Riding experience: Has been riding for 16 years, owned horses for 10. Started with English riding, showing, some dressage, and some hunter/jumper. Recently doing more Western and enjoying trail riding. Family and support: Mom Gail Lawner; friends Thea Grusky-Foley and Joan Whitney. Calayan comes from a family with three other siblings. Why she’s competing: The experience of running for Sweetheart was such a fun experience last time when I ran for the 2014 title. I want to use the lessons I learned and now, with knowing more, give it another try. I met tons of new people and made great friends while running last time, and I look forward to seeing them all again during the season!

Sierra Skinner | 841-6669
Age and Schooling: 18, Senior at Willits High School. Horse: Cinder, an 11-year-old Palomino. Residency: Moved to Willits in 2014 from Senora. Plans for the Future: Become an agriculture teacher. Study at Shasta College and then return to Willits to teach. Riding experience: Has been riding for 5 years, enjoying trail riding and packing with pack stations, and recently became involved in goat tying, too. Family and support: Mom Jennifer Skinner of Willits and father Dan Skinner. Sierra comes from a family of four other siblings. Why she’s competing: “I thought it would be a great experience, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. They have similar competitions in Senora, and I thought it would be fun to run here this year.

Cheyenne Walters | 354-4484
Age and Schooling: 17, Junior at Willits High School. Horse: Nani, a 16-year-old mare Paso Fino. Residency: Lived in Willits all her life. Plans for the Future: Become an X-ray technician, maybe attend Sacramento State. Riding experience: Enjoys spending time riding with her mom and doing trail rides, especially at the McKee ranch. Family and support: Mom Jami Whitman and dad James Walters of Willits. Cheyenne comes from a family with seven other siblings. Why she’s competing: Running for Sweetheart has been something I’ve always wanted to do. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t run!

Halee Reed | 354-3154
Age and Schooling: 17, graduating this year from New Horizons via independent study. Horse: Twilight, a 15-year-old gelding Quarter/Morgan. Residency: Lived in Willits all her life. Plans for the Future: Become an underwater welder and attend school in Florida. Riding experience: Competed in horse shows, gymkhanas and trail riding. Enjoyed Western Pleasure, but recently learning more English riding, too. Family and support: Dean and Laura Reed of Willits. Halee comes from a family with six other siblings. Why she’s competing: “I thought it would be a great experience and give me a way to spend more time with my horse. I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new people. I am excited for this summer job.

Photos from Sweetheart Dinner. Visit gallery to purchase prints.