Miss Dowagiac discusses future

Published 8:01 am Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mackenzie Whitmyer was crowned the 75th Miss Dowagiac at the pageant Saturday. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Mackenzie Whitmyer was crowned the 75th Miss Dowagiac at the pageant Saturday. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

When asked about her immediate thoughts upon being named this year’s Miss Dowagiac, Mackenzie Whitmyer gave a very simple answer.

She didn’t have any.

“All of my bodily functions just stopped,” she recalled. “I stopped breathing. I stopped hearing everything that was going on. I think I started hyperventilating at one point. I just kept crying. It was something I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”

Whitmyer, an 18-year-old senior at Dowagiac Union High School, earned her title and crown in a field of 11 other girls on Saturday evening during the 75th anniversary of the Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant.

For Whitmyer, becoming Miss Dowagiac fulfills a dream she has held onto since childhood, she said.

“As a little kid, it was really cool to see these girls with crowns and dresses,” Whitmyer said. “As I got older, it was still really cool to look at. I always love to look at other people who are in pageants, seeing pictures of them on stage.”

After years of admiring from a distance, though, Whitmyer decided to take the plunge and enter this year’s competition.

“I went back and forth on it,” Whitmyer said. “I finally came to the conclusion that I had nothing to lose at that point. I felt that if I didn’t go out for it, I would look back later on and really regret it.”

Whitmyer is no stranger to turning her dreams into reality. A longtime fan of local 4-H fairs, Whitmyer decided five years ago that she wanted to raise and show livestock of her own.

She didn’t let the fact that her family doesn’t own a farm get in her way.

Once she was old enough to drive, she began keeping her rabbits, cows, pigs and other animals at her aunt’s farm, which is located about five minutes from her own home, Whitmyer said. She gets up early in the morning every summer to take care of her livestock before she heads into work at her job at the tanning salon.

“There’s dedication that comes with it,” Whitmyer said. “A lot of times, if it’s a 90 degree day and my friends want to hang out at the beach, I can’t go because I can’t leave my animals unattended in that kind of heat.”

Despite these kinds of sacrifices, Whitmyer said she has learned a lot about hard work and patience by participating in the fairs, which have further deepened her passion for livestock.

“You don’t hear from most kids, ‘yeah, I get to go clean the pen today,’ but that’s how it is with me,” she said. “I love it, I live it. I wish I could do it 24/7, because I would.”

With graduation looming in the horizon, Whitmyer decided that she wanted to turn her hobby into a profession, and applied to Michigan State University where she will to study agriculture. It was the first and only college she applied to, as the school ended up accepting her application.

Before worrying about the pressures of higher learning, Whitmyer is concentrating on her new duties as Miss Dowagiac.

Throughout the year she and her court, consisting of Mackenzie Ruff, Paige Charles and Isabel Vazquez, will appear at events around the community and the region, serving as goodwill ambassadors for the people of Dowagiac.

“My court and I decided that we want to go above and beyond what the expectations are, even it’s something as simple as going to the elementary schools and helping out or reading,” Whitmyer said.

Being crowned during a milestone year for the pageant has only added to her sense of responsibility to her hometown, Whitmyer said.

“Miss Dowagiac is a really big deal to a lot of people,” Whitmyer said. “My grandma told me that in the past you used to camp out to get tickets. It was a big deal, and it is still is.”

Despite her new title and responsibilities, Whitmyer said she is looking forward to what the future has in store for her reign as Miss Dowagiac. However, she is a little nervous about what kind of reception she will receive from classmates upon her return to school.

“I hope I’m not treated any different than I was before,” Whitmyer said. “I’m still Mackenzie. Now I just wear a big crown sometimes.”