As the committee for California Waterfowl’s Inter Mountain Banquet in McArthur gathered for a quick photo before the start of its 25th annual dinner last October, Mackenzie Warnock stood out from the rest of the group. Maybe it was the Howa American Flag rifle from the raffle table that she was holding. Or maybe it was the fact that, at 17 years old, Warnock was the youngest committee chair or co-chair in the history of CWA.
Though Warnock may have been much younger than her committee peers she was not lacking in experience with CWA or the banquets. She joined CWA at age 7 and began her current eight-year string of volunteering for the Inter Mountain Banquet by helping serve dinner with her 4-H club when she was 10.
Her decision this year to step up to co-chair duties – alongside Adam Westlake – was a natural one.
Warnock has lived her whole life in McArthur, a close-knit town of just under 350 residents about 75 miles northeast of Redding. So strong is the sense of community that graduating seniors at Fall River Jr. Sr. High School are required to perform senior projects that benefit the community in some way.
As an avid hunter and angler who lists ducks as her favorite game animal, she wanted her project to reflect those principles while also gaining valuable leadership and communication skills.
“I expected some people to underestimate my ability to be chairman and not let me take charge of my project,” she said. “But the committee was really accepting and guided me through the process instead of taking over.”
Leading up to the banquet, she took the lead, driving around the area to secure donations while also assembling custom-built wood centerpieces for the tables. During the dinner, she took to the podium to deliver speeches and made sure to individually thank each of the tables for their support.
“I have known Mackenzie since she was 5 years old when her dad was chairman,” CWA Field Operations Representative Darren Solaro said. “She’s the future of what we need our next generation of kids to be. I’m very proud to call her my friend and proud of the woman she’s become.”
After graduation, she plans to head off to to study physical therapy. She hopes CWA will continue to push to get more youth, especially those from urban and inner-city areas, into the outdoors to help them learn about the joy and benefits of hunting.
“I am extremely proud of myself for becoming the youngest CWA chairman in history,” Warnock said. “I believe doing so has helped influence our younger generations of hunters to be more involved and that age doesn’t matter.”