By TIFFANY RONEY
Almost every little girl dreams of growing up to become a queen. One of these little girls held onto that dream. After four years of hard work and preparation, she finally saw her dream fulfilled.
MacKenzie Riffel, senior at Abilene high school, tried to win CKFF 4-H Queen three times, to no avail. This time, on her fourth try, she won the crown.
She received the crown on Monday night in front of a crowd of more than 200. The crowning took place as the finale of the Dickinson County Fashion Revue at Emmanuel Church.
“It’s always been a dream of mine because my cousins have all won queen before,” Riffel said. “It’s something I looked up to.”
Joanna Erichson, Riffel’s cousin, won CKFF 4-H Queen in 1998. Erichson said she is honored to hear that her experience as fair queen served as an inspiration for Riffel.
“She is a very determined young lady, and she always has gone after her dreams,” Erichson said. “She doesn’t let anything stand in her way, definitely.”
Riffel’s mother, Shawna Riffel, said she is not surprised MacKenzie continued to run for queen after not winning the first, second or third time.
“If she doesn’t succeed the first time in anything that she does, it just makes her want to try harder and get it right the next time,” Shawna said. “It’s been a dream of hers ever since she was a little girl. She started 4-H when she was 5 years old as a Clover Bud. My nieces were older, so she watched my nieces get crowned as fair queen, and she was very excited about that. That was something she always wanted to do.”
The process of running for fair queen included accurately completing an application, editing it for spelling and grammar errors and learning to talk in front of an interview panel and answer questions professionally and without hesitation.
“I think that’s going to be very important to her throughout her life – I mean, interviews, college, everything,” Shawna said.
MacKenzie said this year she had more confidence going into the interview.
Shawna said she attributed this confidence to MacKenzie’s involvement in high school events in which she has been on stage. Additionally, MacKenzie was president of FFA during the 2012-2013 school year.
The interview panel asked her what leadership meant to her and what her plans are for the future. She said they also asked her about her 4-H experiences.
MacKenzie has participated in 4-H through the Navarre Boosters for 12 years. Her projects include meat goats, leadership, food and nutrition, swine, beef, clothing and photography. She said her favorite project is the meat goat project.
“She started with one or two and now she’s up to a herd of them,” Shawna said. “She’s got to breed them and have the babies around and watch them grow. She has learned so much from that project: how to take care of animals, how to figure the feed rations and what to feed for them and the patience and the want-to – the drive, again – that makes a successful herd.”
MacKenzie said she enjoys working with meat goats because each goat has a distinct personality.
“As an owner of the meat goat, you get to bond with each of their personalities,” MacKenzie said. “They’re pretty easy to train. They’re not expensive to feed. And my favorite part is that I raised my own, so when I raised on from a baby to show, on show day, when they win, I know that I did that all myself.”
After she graduates from AHS, MacKenzie plans to major in agriculture economics and animal science at Kansas State University.
“I’ve always been really interested in going into ag law and trying to specialize in animals … because I’ve grown up around animals and it’s what I’m really passionate about,” MacKenzie said.
She said choosing K-State was a no-brainer.
“All my family has gone to K-State in some way, and I’ve grown up being a K-State fan,” she said. “My heart bleeds purple, basically.”
MacKenzie said her four-year journey to the crown made the royal win even sweeter.
“I guess my favorite part is just the whole process of trying four times and the fourth time being my best one,” MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie will appear in the Western Downtown Parade on Thursday. The rest of 2013 CKFF 4-H Royalty will appear along with MacKenzie. These royal individuals include: Chance Hultgren, 2013 CKFF King; Drew Miller, King 1st Attendant; Tyler Hummel, King 2nd Attendant; Sarah Johnson, Queen 1st Attendant and Micayla Stika, Queen 2nd Attendant.
In her year as queen, MacKenzie said she plans to speak anywhere she is invited. Also, she said she hopes she and the rest of the court can make more parade appearances throughout the state.
“I think riding in a parade is a good way to get 4-H out there because all the little kids will see it and want to know more about it,” MacKenzie said.
This passing of values to the next generation is a theme of MacKenzie’s past, present and future in her 4-H projects, her choice of university and her decision to run for queen.
“She wanted to prove to herself that she could do it and then she wants to be a positive role model for he younger kids who are coming up, just like her cousins were for her,” Shawna said.