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Every year, Willits Frontier Days holds a contest to find the perfect representative for the upcoming Fourth of July celebration; someone who will be an ambassador for the organization, demonstrate poise and personality, be an accomplished equestrian, and exemplify the ideals of western life.

Since 1927, contestants aged 16 to 20 sell tickets to the annual events and compete in riding and poise competitions to decide the year’s winner. The contest starts May 1 with the girls out, dressed in their western finest, selling tickets to the barbecue, rodeos and more. Closer to the end of the competition, the girls prepare a speech based on the year’s theme that they recite in front of family, friends and a panel of judges. They also model western wear and answer questions from the panel. The riding portion of the judging takes place during the annual Horse Show event and includes the girls riding a predetermined pattern on horseback, as well as answering questions from the show judge focusing on equestrian and rodeo knowledge.

The contest runs until the evening before the Sweetheart Dinner, usually held the last Saturday in June. Ticket sales are tallied by a CPA and added to the scores from the poise and riding competitions, and a winner is chosen.

The winner is then crowned at the invite-only dinner in front of family, friends and supporters. It is there that she receives a silver belt buckle, silver spurs, silver tiara, engraved saddle, American flag chaps, flowers, and congratulations galore. Girls also earn 15 percent of their ticket sales, which makes competing for the title a great summer job, too.

The winner then gets to enjoy participating in the year’s following events including riding in the Grand Entry for the California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association and Junior Rodeos, riding in the parade, helping move cattle in the arena, and posing with winners of other contests, as well as making many other appearances during the festivities. The winner is also encouraged to attend other state and local events to represent Willits Frontier Days, including high school rodeos, CCPRA and other circuit rodeos, local fairs, school functions and more.

The winner also joins the roster of past Sweethearts, at right, and is invited to all future dinners where the past Sweethearts are honored with roses and a group photo.

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Various Locations
Willits, CA 95490 United States
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