Montana Silversmiths – Dillon Hahnkamp
Third-generation cowboy, Dillon Hahnkamp, is no stranger to the rodeo lifestyle. Although his little hometown of Melrose, Montana only has 75 residents, he had a father, Jay, and grandfather, Charlie Hahnkamp, who set the example in front of him his entire life. Now 20 years old, Dillon still carries on that rodeo tradition in his own life and is grateful to have a wonderful support system making it possible for him to compete at the college level in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, as he secures an education for his future. Dillon was a recipient of the Montana Silversmiths Pursuit of Excellence scholarship this past spring, and he is looking forward to putting the scholarship to use in the fall as he continues his education.
Dillon attended school at Beaverhead County High School in the nearby town of Dillon, which is home to approximately 5,000 Montanans. He competed in the Montana High School Rodeo Association as a calf roper and team roper while in high school. After graduating in 2017, he went on to Ranger, Texas to attend Ranger Community College where he competed in the NIRA and studied welding technology. “The Southwest region of the NIRA is one of the toughest regions there is. It’s just a melting pot of fantastic ropers and the competition there is outstanding. I think if you want to rope, that’s where you need to be for at least a little while.” Dillon appreciates all that he learned while in the region and is proud to have made it to several short-gos at region rodeos during his time there.
Dillon’s dad competed as a calf roper, and he and Charlie also worked as pick-up men at pro rodeos in Montana for nearly 30 years. Charlie also worked for many years as a stock contractor. “My grandpa went with the more reliable paycheck when it came to rodeo. He’s 88 and still rides and shuttles cattle around, he’s a true cowboy. He’s the real deal.” Dillon’s mom, Denise, is from Minnesota and rodeo was not a huge part of her life before moving to Montana. However, she is now immersed in the lifestyle with Dillon, and his younger brother, Cord, 15, who competes as a bareback rider and roper.
Dillon is still making the decision between attending school in Laramie, Wyoming at the University of Wyoming, or Miles Community College in Miles City, Montana next fall. He’s considering focusing on business to complement his welding skills he’s gained so far and turn his associate degree into a bachelor’s degree while continuing to compete in the NIRA. Dillon appreciates the support of Montana Silversmiths and is honored to carry the scholarship with him as he continues to prepare for his future. “Being a college student that rodeos is very expensive. When you have to be at school with horses and trailers and have the extra expenses that rodeoing in college entails, every little bit of help makes a huge difference. I am so grateful to Montana Silversmiths for recognizing me with this honor.”
Implemented in 2005, the Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship program was created to give back as an investment in candidates who have a history of self-improvement and a desire to better themselves and their communities. Montana Silversmiths’ vice president of marketing, Judy Wagner, explained, “Montana Silversmiths is grateful for this opportunity we have to give back. The most rewarding part is reading the applications and stories the applicants send in. It gives me hope and pride in the future to see the talent and stories these young people share with us. Of course, it’s a great asset to have straight A’s, but the whole premise of this scholarship is not just academic, it’s more about applicants that have improved themselves no matter what, and the effort they have put in to get where they are.” The trophy hat feathers that Montana Silversmiths unveiled this year seemed like the perfect product to pair with this scholarship program, and a portion of the sales of the trophy hat feathers will be used to support the Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship program.