Kennan Dawson is a hometown girl through and through. We’re only a few steps into Bellaire and a patron at Ruthie’s Chicken And Dairy Twist says, “I think I hear Kennan coming.”
The Ruthie’s customer ends up being an old friend of Kennan’s. The pair chat and catch up for a moment, and Kennan explains why I’m following her around.
“It’s for Cherry Queen stuff,” Kennan explains to her friend. “They wanna see what I do all day.”
Kennan’s summer days are filled with running for Cherry Queen, running to keep herself in shape for track team, job shadowing and working.
Kennan encourages her friend to call her later and we walk to Short’s Brewery, Kennan’s sponsor and also where she has worked as a hostess for over three years. Kennan is warmly greeted by regulars and co-workers who are happy to see her, and she shows me around the brewery.
“I love working here,” Kennan tells me, “we have a patio where people can bring their dogs and we have the best chocolate chip cookies. I could probably eat four a shift!”
One (very good) chocolate chip cookie later Kennan and I leave Short’s and walk down the street to meet with Kennan’s second sponsor and close friend at Fischer Insurance, Chris Davies. Chris has known Kennan most of her life and was the Miss Bellaire Director when Kennan was crowned Miss Bellaire in 2016.
“I’ve known Kennan since she was a little girl,” Chris tells me. “I would take her and my daughter out for ice cream or out to eat and Kennan would ask for coffee! It was the funniest thing seeing this little girl want to drink coffee. Kennan and her siblings are like a second set of kids to me.”
The three of us sit in the sunshine and Chris says that she didn’t think twice about sponsoring Kennan for Cherry Queen.
“We all support each other in this community, and she is just a perfect candidate for this. She’s always ready to help someone.”
If Kennan was to win the title of Cherry Queen she says that her main focus would be to promote the northern Michigan cherry industry.
“With different imports and tariffs and things like that, we don’t want to overshadow the local farmers here. I wanna do what’s best for them.”
Kennan and Chris embrace before we leave to check out some of Kennan’s (literal) stomping grounds.
As a member of the track team at Alma College, summers may include a break from studying, but not a break from running.
“I wanted to be able to run and not go to a big school, you know? I graduated high school with 32 kids and I wasn’t ready to jump into a big school. I’ve made a bunch of friends through track and cross country at Alma.”
Kennan shows me some of her favorite places to run – her high school track at Bellaire high school, and Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area.
The Glacial Hills trail is hidden in a pretty woods. As Kennan and I walk in the air suddenly feels about 10 degrees cooler. Kennan notices my surprise at the temperature change.
“It’s all the trees,” she says smiling. “The trees block out the sun, which is definitely nice when I’m running.”
The natural setting is a perfect place for Kennan to run, not just because of the tree filtered cool air, but because she loves every aspect of nature; the peacefulness, the plants, and most important, the animals.
Kennan has been passionate about helping animals since she was young and tells me a story about rescuing a cat off the side of the road that was matted, flea-ridden, and had worms. Kennan’s father was not pleased and declared that the cat would be an outdoor only cat, until Kennan dutifully nursed the cat back to full health with medication to de-worm and de-flea the cat.
“He’s my baby now! I’m obsessed with him. My dad always tells me not to talk to people about my cat because I’m absolutely crazy about him.”
It’s fitting that Kennan is a biology major at school on a pre-vet track. Her passion for the well-being of animals will translate well into a career, and she spends some of her summer days job shadowing Dr. Ackler, who works as a vet out of Mancelona.
We take a short drive to visit the Mancelona Veterinary Hospital and Kennan shows me around the office. The office is filled with all sorts of animals and friendly staff.
“We have a pet pig out back,” Kennan laughs. “Let’ go feed him!”
The ornery pig is wary of me, but happy to see Kennan who has treats with her. She fearlessly feeds him and he’s happy for the attention.
Kennan and I wrap up the day at a dock that is off the beaten path on Lake Bellaire.
“We usually come here to swim and avoid the crowds at Torch Lake. My dad likes it over here because the water is flat so it’s easier to water-ski and be out on the boat.”
The water is calm and quiet, the sun is making it’s way to set and Kennan tells me why she why being Cherry Queen is important to her.
“I would love to be Cherry Queen because of all the different opportunities that come with the program, from the travelling, to representing my community which I absolutely love, my area and Traverse City and all the local farmers.”
Being a former Miss Bellaire, regal life isn’t new to Kennan, and another crown just may be in her future.
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