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BANDON — Growing up in Eastern Oregon, Mackenzie "Kenzie" Basey, spent a lot of time with her grandfather, a local veterinarian in Burns. The family had horses and other ranch animals, which fostered a love for all animals in Basey.

This past summer, Basey, who has been attending Eastern Oregon University in Bend, assisted her grandfather, Leon Pielstick, spay 12 wild horses in the Burns area to help control the wild horse and burro overpopulation in Eastern Oregon and other western states. 

"I was a surgical assistant and I helped my grandfather. He's been involved with wild horses all my life," Basey said. "When I was in sixth grade, we adopted a BLM horse."

That's one reason the 20-year-old Miss Coos County/Miss Pacific Shores Scholarship Competition contestant chose her community service platform of "Supporting Healthy Animal Habits on Public Lands." 

Basey explained that there are more than 73,000 wild horse and burros on public lands that can sustain only 23,000 of those animals. The result is over-grazing that is pushing native wildlife out of the areas.

"It's an extremely emotional issue," Basey said. "Horses are dying because there isn't enough food for them and there aren't enough people adopting these wild animals. People think horses are a symbol of the West, but they are not native, they were brought here by the Spaniards. In the United State we see them as pets, but by managing the population, these animals will be healthier and there will be enough food for them."

The Wild Horses and Burro Act allowed the Bureau of Land Management to manage the animals and keep them at levels where public lands can support them. 

Basey knows her platform well and has an obvious passion for it. She hopes to have a free screening of the film "Unbranded" by Ben Masters to raise funds for a scholarship program that would help teens learn to train wild horses.

Basey is again living in Bandon with her parents Kelley and Sam and younger brother Adam after attending middle and high school here. She also has an older sister, Danielle. She is competing for the Miss Coos County title to earn scholarship money but can't deny that she loves the program. Basey competed in the Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen Scholarship Competition in the spring of 2013 as a junior in high school. That fall, she was a Bandon Cranberry Festival princess and went on to compete for the Miss Coos County title in 2015, her senior year in high school.   

"It's much easier this time, because I know how to prepare myself," Basey said. 

Basey is now attending EOU online full-time and hopes to finish her degree in accounting this June. She also has been working full-time at Wells Fargo Bank and then First Community Credit Union locally, but just started a job at Sause Brothers in Coos Bay as a receptionist.

"It's really a good company," she said. "I will get to help with a lot of different things and since my degree will be in accounting, I hope this will be a good career move for me."

Basey also recently took on a volunteer position as co-chairwoman of the Bandon Cranberry Festival Court and is working on setting up criteria for new scholarships for the princesses who participate. She was given the Director's Award as a Cranberry Festival princess and at that time it was associated with the Miss America Scholarship Pageant.

"I think if we have more scholarship money, more girls would participate," Basey said, referring to the fact that last year there was only one participant, princess Sarah Skeie, who was crowned 2017 Bandon Cranberry Festival Queen.

"It's hard to pay for school and I think the Cranberry Festival Court is a tradition that people don't want to see go away. I gained a lot from it. I think it's a really great experience that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in if they want."

Basey has also gained a lot from the Miss Coos County program. 

"I think the skills I've learned I couldn't have learned anywhere else, especially interview skills," she said. "I've used those skills for job interviews and that has helped me have the confidence to talk to people. The first year, I was so nervous and shaking when I went into the interview. But now I feel prepared and confident."

Some judges who've known Basey since she competed as Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen have noticed her growth and maturity. Each year, there are five to six judges who conduct the interviews.

"This year, we have a really great interview coach and she's been really helpful, and her daughter (Quinlyn Deming, former Miss Coos County) has been helpful too."

Not to be too serious, the quick-to-smile young woman with piercing light blue eyes has chosen a comedic routine for her talent. Basey will be performing Val's monologue from "A Chorus Line."

"I'm really excited to do it," she said. I've never really felt confident with the talent portion of the competition. But I'm really comfortable with this. It's hilarious and I think people will be surprised because it's really different."

Basey said it's going to be an amazing show this year, with 12 Miss Coos contestants and six Miss Coos Outstanding Teen contestants. 

"I wish I could also be in the audience to watch," she said. 

"I think people have the assumption that this is about being beautiful, a beauty contest, but it's really not," Basey added. "It's really a program that allows women to be confident. It molds strong women. I feel I had the skills before, but Miss Coos County showed me how to put them together."

The Miss Coos County Scholarship Competition will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Hales Center for the Performing Arts on the Southwestern Oregon Community College campus. Contestants will show their platforms beginning at 5 p.m. in the lobby. Tickets are available online only and will not be available at the door - they must be printed out prior to the event. Tickets cost $15 each and can be purchased at Search for the Miss Coos County event.