Lindy Ellis has dreamed of being Miss Rodeo Norh Dakota for a long time. Last weekend, that dream came true.
Competing in rodeo pageants has been a passion for Ellis, of Bismarck, since she first saw Miss Rodeo America Ashley Andrews at a rodeo during her freshman year of high school.
At that time, Andrews was the North Dakota High School Rodeo Queen, and the experience inspired Ellis to chase a dream of being a rodeo queen. For 20-year-old Ellis, that dream has become so important that she has withdrawn from college to see it through.
She says that she feels horrible about dropping out of college. Education is important to her, and she plans to come back some day to finish.
"It really hurt to drop out of school today, but something's got to give, and I'd rather withdraw from class before I lose control of class," Ellis said.
Leaving college is only one of the many sacrifices that Ellis has had to make for her dream, but they are starting to pay off.
After winning many rodeo pageant titles, including Miss High School Rodeo in 2003, she now has the highest title in the state. A week ago, her hero, Andrews, crowned her Miss Rodeo North Dakota.
Ellis described the experience of winning Miss Rodeo North Dakota as "overwhelming." So much so that it didn't fully sink in until days later when she got a phone call from Al Gustin of KBMR and KFYR about "Rodeo Chat," a radio show hosted by Miss Rodeo North Dakota on Friday mornings on KBMR.
It was then that she realized, "Oh that's right, I'm the host ... I'm Miss Rodeo North Dakota!"
As tears of excitement started to flow, she had to pull her vehicle over to get control of herself.
"Sitting there on the side of the road, it was, like, 'wow, I can do this,' " Ellis said.
Some competitors will have a year to prepare for a competition like Miss Rodeo North Dakota. Ellis didn't find out that she was competing until a little more than three months before the competition, but that didn't keep her down.
"It was a lot of money, and a lot of time, and a lot of studying, and I had a lot of people helping me. It was pretty rough," Ellis said.
Starting in June, Ellis went through a rigorous training program that involved diet, exercise, and improved sleeping habits.
Every two to three hours she would eat a meal about the size of her hand, and journal what she ate.
She also would run six miles a day with her personal trainer and lift weights every other day to keep her upper body toned.
As for sleeping habits, she would go to bed at 9 p.m. and wake up early in the morning to get used to those hours before the day of the competition.
Then came rounding up clothes.
Ellis' mother, Karen Hagen, and her seamstress, Louise Dobbs, helped her a lot.
"We threw a dress together in four days," Ellis says of Dobbs. "Kudos to her because she is still sewing for her son's wedding."
For Ellis and the two other competitors, Talara Jojola-Luger and Kalie Seltvedt, the Miss Rodeo North Dakota experience was an action-packed weekend in Minot.
In order to get into the Miss Rodeo North Dakota pageant each of the contestants has to hold a title. Ellis' was Miss Rodeo Mandan, Jojola-Luger's is Miss Rodeo North Dakota Winter Show and Seltvedt's is Miss Rodeo North Dakota State Fair.
The pageant is split into the three categories of horsemanship, personality and appearance. Ellis took two out of three, winning the personality and appearance competitions. She also won additional awards for speech, written test and scrapbook.
Now, as Ellis' dreams are starting to come true, she says she would recommend the three R's for the girls who might be looking to follow in her footsteps.
"Respect yourself, respect others and take responsibility for what you do. I think if you live by those three rules, you'll have no problems."
Ellis' next official appearance as queen will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 20 at the RCC Western Store in Kirkwood Mall.