Week 9 was one I will not soon forget. I am actually writing this at the end of Week 10, just two days before I depart for Atlantic City. So many emotions seem to wash over me from time to time. Excitement. Anticipation. Gratefulness. Nerves. Fear. Yes, I said fear. There is a type of fear that one can feel in anticipation that something great could happen. In fact, there were times right before Miss South Dakota that I was downright terrified. I would break down into tears because of the possibility that everything I had worked so hard for could come true. It is not necessarily a bad thing – it is incredibly freeing to be overwhelmed with so much emotion that you learn to lean into God and let go. As I sit here today, I find myself in that spot again. A spot where I want to lean into God and His plan for me more than anything.
At the end of Week 9, I had two “Showers of Love” as I’ve coined them. I attended sendoff parties for Miss America in Sioux Falls and Huron. On Saturday, my parents and I loaded up the car with my Miss America wardrobe and hit the road for Sioux Falls. The sendoff party started at 2pm at the Sanford House. Linda Soyland planned the entire event, with her sidekick (of course), Karli. Linda has been, quite literally, my fairy godmother. I first met Linda when I competed in Miss SD Outstanding Teen. She was the executive director at the time I won the teen title. Over time our friendship has blossomed. Linda is one of the most generous, selfless, kind people I have ever met. And her daughter, Karli, is no exception. Ours is a lifelong friendship.
Let me give you an example. I pulled into Sioux Falls around 9:30pm on a Wednesday evening, with the intent to stay in a hotel for the night after an appearance. I had several things I needed to finalize, as my Miss America paperwork was due the very next day. However, every hotel in Sioux Falls was booked solid. I sat on the side of the road for a good 10 minutes – just Rosie and me. After realizing crying wouldn’t get me anywhere, I picked up the phone and called Linda at 10pm at night. She took me under her wing, gave me a place to sleep, helped me finalize my paperwork for Miss America, and offered to priority mail it the very next day. This journey to and through Miss South Dakota shows me every single day that God has put some incredible people in my life. If I get nothing else from this year, I have already gained more than I deserve.
The Sioux Falls Sendoff Party was exquisite. Bethany from Sanford Children’s Miracle Network allowed us to use the Sanford House for the event. The venue was gorgeous. Thank you, Bethany, for your generosity and willingness to help us host a remarkable event. Also, thank you to everyone that donated a silent auction item to help raise money for CMNH and the Miss South Dakota Scholarship Foundation. Similarly, thank you to Sioux Falls Federal Credit Union for sponsoring the tasty desserts from Chef Dominique.
Once everyone arrived, we started the fashion show. This was particularly special for me because Alex Hoffmann Bisson emceed the entire event. Alex was Miss South Dakota when I was the teen. It is surreal to share this year with her, as someone I looked up to for years and still do. Thank you to all my Miss South Dakota sisters that came to support me – Alex, Tessa, Meridith, Julia, and Amy. Also, thank you to all the local titleholders that performed and attended the event. Your support means the world to me. A HUGE thank you to Miss South Dakota Outstanding Teen, Jessica Benson, and her mother Jennifer for coming all the way from Rapid City for my send off. Jessica – it has been one of my greatest joys so far to share this year with you. Love you dearly.
During the Q&A session, Alex asked, “What are you most looking forward to in these last couple of weeks before you leave?” I thought for a second and explained that although this can be a stressful time, on the flip side of the coin there have been so many people that have shown me their love and support. I treasure those people and God’s hand in bringing them into my life. It is like the silver lining. Yes, preparing for the dream of a lifetime can be stressful. It can be overwhelming. But the outpouring of love and support has far surpassed any stress. I love people. I love the people God has placed in my life.
That evening, my parents and I drove down to Vermillion to go to RED Steakhouse, our favorite restaurant of all time. It was my parent’s anniversary, and we wanted to celebrate. Being back in Vermillion was a bit emotionally overwhelming. I truly treasure my time as a Coyote. My family used to go to RED Steakhouse after football and basketball games. So many memories. Good memories. GO YOTES.
The next day I waited with anticipation for my sendoff party in my hometown, Huron. Before the event started I did a couple mock interviews to prepare for Miss America. Thank you to those that volunteered their time. Your belief in me means the world to me. Thank you to everyone that helped make my sendoff a success – Callee, Jonathan, Curt, Louise, Carolyn, Kendall, and the entire Schroder family. Thank you, Kristi Smith, for making delectable cupcakes and, Kendall, for the delicious desserts. Thank you, Lori Corcoran, for making white and pink crown mints.
Callee Bauman Wachter has been an undeniable blessing in my life. A God-given blessing. Callee gave me the push I needed to begin this journey over 10 years ago. In a way that only Callee can, she convinced me to take a leap and try the teen competition. Here I am, 10 years later as Miss South Dakota. God always sees His plan through in His own timing. I am reminded of this every second of every minute of every day. As I relish in this year as Miss South Dakota, I also realize that I have graduated from college and will begin my career after this dream. Sometimes I am tempted to fret over making plans and worry about making the wrong choice. In these moments, I try to bring myself back to the present as Miss South Dakota and this example of God’s timing.
Thank you again to all the local titleholders that performed and attended the Huron sendoff party. Special shout out to Cameron Schroder for helping me change frantically from outfit to outfit. Also, very special shout out to Elizabeth Hofer for singing “I Hope You Dance.” Here is a snippet of the lyrics:
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Loving might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
**Cue tears streaming down my face
Elizabeth – it’s as if you knew exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. There is God, again. Thank you for putting the words in Elizabeth’s heart, and thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing His voice.
Also, a very special thank you to Miranda Mack for driving to Huron for my sendoff party. Miranda, you gave me the perfect example and role model to follow. Your heart shined during your reign as Miss South Dakota. I pray the Lord gives me the strength to show my heart the way you courageously did.
In two days, and thanks to countless people, we raised over $2,700 for Children’s Miracle Network and the Miss South Dakota Scholarship Foundation.
Thank you to the entire community of Huron, Iroquois, and the larger Beadle County for your unwavering support. Thank you to the entire state of South Dakota. Thank you for letting me share this dream with you. Thank you for believing in me. It is a privilege and honor to represent the community that raised me.