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Congratulations to 2017 winner Hailey Riley

2017 winner Hailey Riley, left, poses with 2017 Willits Frontier Days President, Fred Barry, and 2017 runner-up Keely Ahders, right

Sweetheart Candidates for 2017

Keely Ahders

Keely Ahders, 17, is a senior in the New Horizons Independent Study program and also attends Mendocino Community College. “My horse is named Spirit, age 15, a black Peruvian Paso, but I’m not going to be using her for the horsemanship portion, but am currently looking for a horse to lease or borrow.” Keely’s parents are Heidi and Roger Ahders. She has an older brother, Marshall Ahders, and two grandmothers, Connie Ahders and Evelyn Hayman. As far as after-school activities and hobbies, Keely has played the piano for 12 years, and enjoys cross country, golf, Willits 4-H, raising rabbits, reading, and working with animals. “I decided to run for Sweetheart because it is something that has always look like fun to do and will give me more experience interacting with the community and being part of Frontier Days.“ Keely, who has been riding since she was 5, rides both English and western, and has worked with Michelle Franklin, Marta Bartow and Elaine Mancini. “I plan to attend Mendocino Community College for another year, finishing up my health science and business administration degrees, then transfer to a four-year college to major in biochemistry. After that, I plan to transfer to a doctor of veterinarian or medical doctor program.” During this year’s Sweetheart contest, Keely is “looking forward to meeting new people, learning new things, and going to all the Frontier Day events.” She’d like to thank her mom, Heidi, Elaine Mancini, Marcy Barry, and Lory McAsey from Rainbow Ag. Contact Keely Ahders by texting or calling 707-391-0092.

Hailey Riley

Hailey Riley, 19, is in her second year in college at Mendocino College. “I will be riding my own horse, whose name is Easy Nina; she’s a bay, a solid paint.” Hailey’s parents are Paul and Bonnie Riley. She has a little sister, Morgan Riley, and a grandfather, Mike Riley. As far as after-school activities and hobbies, Hailey rides her horse as much as she can, “especially bareback or on trail rides.” She plays basketball for Mendocino College, and is on a women’s slow pitch softball team at her work place, Howard Memorial Hospital. “I decided to run for Sweetheart, because I’ve been wanting to do it for a while, but between knee injuries and surgery, I was never well enough to, and now that I am, I am very excited to be able to run.” Hailey has been riding for about 10 years, doing gymkhanas, horse shows and trail rides. “I’m going to college to become a certified X-ray technician, majoring in allied health, and double majoring in kinesiology. After getting my degrees and certification for X-ray, I plan to get my certifications in MRI, Ct scan and ultra sound.” During this year’s Sweetheart contest, Hailey is “looking forward to meeting new people and learning more tricks and techniques with my horse.” She’d like to thank “everyone that is helping me along the way. I’m very appreciative of my family for all the dedication they are also putting into this with me.” Contact Riley by calling or texting 707-272-1139.

Information originally published in Willits Weekly, 5/4/17. Please do not reprint without permission.

Congratulations to 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.

Photos from Sweetheart Dinner. Visit gallery to purchase prints.