Growing up watching and loving the Destin Fishing Rodeo, Angela Hayles knew she wanted to compete in the Miss Destin Pageant in 1997 and represent the city.
Angela wanted to be a role model for other young girls, but had no idea that she was going to go all the way and be crowned as Miss Destin 1997.
“I had no clue whatsoever that I was going to win. When we do this kind of pageant, you go in with girls you know and become friends with them,” she said. “I got out there, did my best and when you hear the outcome, it’s amazing.”
Angela said she grew up fishing with her family and knew a lot about it, but at such a young age, she couldn’t tell a difference between a snapper and grouper.
“By the time October came, I knew everything you needed to know about fish,” she said. “I walked away with experience, but a whole lot more knowledge. You grow and really understand what our city represents.”
Angela remembers running back and forth to write fish weigh-ins scores on the Rodeo's leaderboard.
“Climbing up that latter seemed pretty high to me at the time,” she said. “Trying to write all of the scores on that board, I’m pretty sure most of my handwriting was crooked.”
Angela said it was amazing and a blessing that the Rodeo allowed her to continue to cheer for Fort Walton High School.
“I had practices on Saturday nights and I would ask either the first or second runner-up to cover for me,” she said. “Miss Destin is a well-rounded girl. Playing sports and cheerleading showed exactly that.”
Angela is now married with two children and works at Noah’s Ark Preschool.
“I’m also a huge cheerleader for my kids at sporting events," she said.
After her year as Miss Destin, Angela remained involved with the Rodeo as a board member and the pageant’s choreographer.
“I have choreographed most of the dances for the pageant,” she said. “My first one was in 1998, while I was still Miss Destin.
“I remember being at the pregnant with both of my children and still choreographing,” she added.
This year is special for Angela. She has been chosen to be the chair of the 69th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.
“All the board members told me it was my year and voted for me,” she said. “I said I had no problem with it and just added it to my calendar.”
Angela said it's not about winning the crown, but the experience these girls get from the pageant.
“There’s nothing to lose, but so much to gain,” she said.
There are always some down times at the Rodeo. Angela encourages this year's Miss Destin, Rachel McMullen, to use that opportunity to get her homework done.
“Bring your books and study. Get that homework done,” she said.
But the most important advice she gave McMullen was to embrace the moment.
“Take that extra second to talk to that gentleman that has been coming to the Rodeo for the past 20 years. They are there to make it a special experience,” she said