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Local Life

What does it take to be the Locals’ Choice for Best Cowgirl?

How about having ridden a horse since she was a baby, as far back as she can remember? And being happiest in life when she’s in the saddle? And competing on horseback? And being a certified horseshoer?

Does having a typical day that entails irrigating fields, mending fences, cutting hay, and caring for horses count for much?

And what about helping oversee the family’s other ranch operations across several states?

All at the tender age of 22?

That’s the life being lived by Kendra McKennis of New Castle, and one she was born into.

Her maternal grandparents ran a cattle ranch in the area starting in the 1940s, and Kendra’s mom, Jill, inherited it and turned it into a horse boarding facility.

She passed away in an accident in Wyoming in 1995, while driving to a horse show. But Kendra and her father remain heavily involved with The Farm Horse Center east of New Castle. Kendra’s younger sister, Alice, also is an accomplished equestrian, not to mention a standout alpine skier.

Kendra said she never questioned being a cowgirl.

She competes in English-style competitions such as jumping and three-day events.

“I ride English but I’m doing all the ranch work and all of that so I’m kind of a cowgirl that rides English most of the time,” she said.

She also is involved with the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, which put on a recent rodeo Bible camp in Rifle. And she’s engaged to Matt Ward, who works mostly as a local ranch hand.

Her favorite horse is Thea, a thoroughbred and former race horse. Kendra has competed with Thea for years, but doesn’t get to ride her a lot because the boarded horses need training and exercising.

“Most of the time I’m riding other people’s horses,” Kendra said.

For a lover of the cowgirl life, it sounds as if Kendra is living the dream.

Other Finalists: Olivia Nevonen, Lana Jeffryes

Best Cowboy

John Martin is good at getting votes, and not just as Garfield County commissioner. He’s the cowboy-dud-wearing politician who goes by the middle name of “Wyatt.”

Other Finalists: Brian Aleger, Bob Jeffryes

Best Smile

“Sara smile, won’t you smile a while for me?”

How often must Sara Leitraker have people remind her of these Hall and Oates lyrics? Probably a lot, if her pearly whites are as pretty as locals say.

Other Finalists: Tonya Nieslanik, Jennifer Rose

Best Local Couple

Joe and Vargie Archuleta are twice as nice, voters say. Like butter and bread. Summer and swimming. Wine and candlelight. Brad and Angelina. Ugh ” did we really say Brad and Angelina?

Other Finalists: Kim and Sam Mille, Richard and Starr Zeder

Best Teacher

Hey, Shellie Dix (Formerly Shellie Smith) at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, maybe you should teach a lesson on how you’ve become so beloved by the community. Then again, maybe you should just sit back and enjoy your accolades and your summer vacation.

Other Finalists: Kate Butcher, Alfonso Alfini

Best Local Politician

Bruce Christensen is a relative newcomer to politics, as a Glenwood Springs City Council member for two and a half years and mayor for the last half year. The self-effacing Christensen probably would joke that a politician’s popularity is inversely proportional to his or her time in office.

Other Finalists: Tresi Houpt, John Martin

Best Post Independent News story

Yes, no one can resist a good, or in this case, a great animal story. This dog needs a cape!

Zion, an energetic yellow Lab (is there any other kind?) jumped into the Roaring Fork River and helped pull 9-year-old Ryan Rambo to safety. Ryan had fallen into the frigid river from a raft. He was wearing a life jacket but needed help. That’s when wonder dog came to the rescue. Way to go Zion! And congrats!

Other Finalists: District attorney recall, immigration

Best Place to Read a Newspaper

Grab a cup, sit back, crack open the newspaper and relax on one of the comfy couches or chairs at the Summit Coffee Shop because it’s the Best Place to Read a Newspaper.

Other Finalists: Downtown Glenwood, Sayre Park

Best Non-Profit Group

Rof.net, or the Roaring Fork Internet Users Group, came up a few clicks ahead of the competition in this category. Rof.net has been providing local Internet access almost since Al Gore invented the Internet.

Other Finalists: Mountain Valley Developmental Services, Advocate Safehouse Project.

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