BY LEANN DILBECK –
Ms. Hannah Evangeline McDonald was crowned as the County’s newest Queen during the annual Miss Polk County Pageant held recently and will join a long list of talented, beautiful, and smart young women who will have the privilege of promoting and representing their county over the coming year.
Hannah is a Mena High School junior and the daughter of Dr. Gordon McDonald and Lana and Todd Coogan. She has two sisters, Beth Coogan, 19 and Kate McDonald, 13; three brothers, Jacob Coogan, 15, Davy McDonald, 14, and Daniel McDonald, 13, and said, “That’s right… that’s six teenagers under one roof. People sometimes call us the Brady Bunch!”
Hannah is a life-long resident of Mena. “My parents moved here when my mom was eight months pregnant with me, so I was born here even though my mom had planned to have me in Baton Rouge with the obstetrician she had used for her entire pregnancy. My middle name, Evangeline, was to give me a bit of that Louisiana flair since that is where my parents had lived while my dad was in vet school. My father (Dr. McDonald) had always had family in Mena, so that is where he chose to open his business after he graduated from LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.”
Hannah is a very busy teenager and is involved in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, ranging from sports to drama, “I am involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), and NEHS (National English Honor Society). I am also a member of the MHS Spotlight Singers, the high school Theatre Program, and enjoy being in plays at the OLT as well. I also play Ladycat Soccer and run Cross Country.”
But it is singing that is her favorite, which is of no surprise to those who are familiar with her mother’s talents. Yes, Mom is the ‘Lana’ from Lana Gail and the Gail Force, of which, step-dad Todd is also a member of the band. “I enjoy being a spotlight singer most because it’s a period during school specifically for singing! I get to see the members and our director, Tammy Taylor, every day so we have all formed a close bond with one another, which makes our trips for competition extremely fun!”
This apple certainly didn’t fall far from the tree, even in pageant titles. Hannah said that it was initially her mother’s idea to enter the pageant but once the planning began, she said, “I became more excited than even her!” Mom Lana was the 1989 Miss Little River so her advice was invaluable to Hannah. “Of course, it was a bit nerve-racking to try and live up to my mom, but her expert advice helped me along the way.”
Hannah said that her mom has been a tremendous influence in her life and largely responsible for her diversity in activities that have exposed her to many different opportunities and people, “She has had a lot of unique life experiences, and so can give a lot of advice in many different areas. She was highly involved in high school, so has always encouraged me to try as many things as possible to help me discover my passions, and is right there to support me in all my endeavors.”
Not only did Hannah earn the title of Miss Polk County, but a testament to her disposition and character, Hannah was also voted as Miss Congeniality by the other contestants, “Both titles hold an inordinate amount of honor and I was thrilled to receive both of them.”
Hannah will advance to compete for the title of Miss Arkansas Fair Queen and is looking forward to meeting more contestants after having such a positive experience with the local pageant, “This pageant was so much fun to participate in solely because of the wonderful and genuine personalities of the contestants that were involved. Getting to know them and their diverse personalities truly made the experience most enjoyable.”
The win was unexpected by Hannah and she admitted to being shocked, “The first emotion I felt was utter disbelief! Soon after I thought about the duties I would get to fulfill as Miss Polk County and I became ecstatic, but also grateful for all of the help I had received up to that point.”
Still settling in to her new role and title, Hannah is excited to represent and promote an area she loves so much. She discussed what she considered Polk County’s top three strengths, “In my opinion, the first major advantage of Polk County would be its close-knit community that allows everyone to know each other, which makes for a strong morale among the residents. Another advantage would be that the community makes it easy to be involved in the town with the help of the overflowing hospitality Polk County provides. Along with these advantages would be our small size. Larger cities are accustomed to having varieties of entertainment at their disposal whenever they please. Residents here, however, must look deeper into our rural area, which conditions us into fully appreciating every aspect of our location, whereas someone used to having unlimited options would take things at face value. This really gives people from smaller towns a leg up when it comes to optimism.”
After high school, Hannah plans to follow in Dad’s footsteps, planning to attend the University of Arkansas, major in Biology, then attend LSU School of Veterinary Medicine to become a veterinarian. Until then, look for Hannah’s bright smile at local events throughout the coming year as she proudly wears Polk County’s crown.