GUNNISON, Colo. – Mackenzie Bode is anything but a typical Gunnison resident.
She moved here to town a few years ago to attend Western Colorado University, and she decided to stick around. She landed at job as the annual giving and scholarship officer for the university’s foundation and opened herself up to be involved in the community.
That includes her membership on the committee that organizes the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration, set for Thursday, July 14-Saturday, July 16, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.
“I fell upon Western by happenstance,” said Bode, who lived in southern California for several years before finishing her adolescence in Fort Collins, Colorado. “I played competitive softball when I was in high school, and considered taking a scholarship to play in college.
“I’ve always lived in bigger cities when I was growing up, but I knew I was a small-town girl. Western was the perfect fit, and the Gunnison community was the perfect fit. I had the opportunity to try almost anything here. It was the lifestyle I wanted to live.”
To know Bode is to realize it’s a wise combination. She also is a good fit for the Gunnison Valley and all that comes with living in the Rocky Mountain community.
Her baby steps into the Cattlemen’s Days committee came five years ago when she served as an intern for Meagan Mensing, chairwoman for sponsorships.
“She brought me in as a student to do social media,” Bode said. “From there, it grew to handling social media for Cattlemen’s Days, then media for (Cattlemen’s Days) Tough Enough to Wear Pink, and photography for the rodeo and all TETWP events. Today I’m honored to serve TETWP as the development and media director and continue my role on the Cattlemen’s committee. I’ve gotten to know more people on the committee, people who grew up in Gunnison, on ranches and who only know the Western lifestyle. Here I am today, and those people have taken me under their wings and are showing me the ropes, literally.
“I just caught my first steer; 5-year-old me would be going nuts if she knew.”
Country living is definitely the life for her.
“Growing up, I would have loved to have done 4H and be riding horses,” she said. “I’ve always been a horse girl, but I didn’t grow up doing any of that. We lived in California from when I was 7 to about 14 or 15, and the area we lived in definitely was not in the Western lifestyle.
“That was a hard decision I made when I chose to come to Western. If I had stayed close to home and gone to (Colorado State University), I would have studied agriculture and equine science. I knew if I decided to come to Western, I’d have to get my foot in the door another way and that’s what got me involved in the community.”
She had the foresight to understand the importance of volunteerism in the community, especially for the Gunnison Valley’s biggest event. At just 24, she has much to learn, but she’s embracing all that is out there for her.
It’s just what events like Cattlemen’s Days need: Members of the community who are willing to step up and handle a big-time role in an established celebration. It helps, too, that she’s part of a youth movement for people of her generation that also see the need.
“Since 2018, I’ve been totally engulfed in Cattlemen’s Days and the Western lifestyle,” Bode said. “I m doing what I’ve wanted to do my whole life and still growing and learning each day, which is all I could ask for.”
Cattlemen’s Days will celebrate its 122nd year this July, and it’s a way to honor the generations of families and hard-working people that made Gunnison what it is today. She wasn’t raised in the county, nor did she spend her summers working in the hayfields or working cattle with her family.
But Bode is as much of the community as anyone, and Gunnison is very much part of who she is and what she wants to continue to become.
“When I graduated college, I was already pretty deep in the Gunnison community,” she said. “Everybody told me I needed to leave and see what’s out there. I did a horsemanship internship in Washington, and I traveled around a little bit trying to figure out who I was post college. Finally, I got the opportunity to come back full time with my new position at the WCU Foundation and TETWP’s growth, and I jumped on it.
“Why would I leave a place that I’m so connected to? I didn’t move here for the college itself. I moved here for the lifestyle and for the community. I picked the kind of community I wanted to live in, and now I’m here living the dream and can’t wait to pay it forward to the next. More and more each day, I get to be the person that little Mackenzie always wanted to be.”