Posted by Carrie Wintle on Feb 25, 2019 under

Last week took me across the entire state and then some. It was a busy, but heartwarming week . . . seems appropriate considering Valentine’s Day was on Thursday. The beginning of the week took me back home to Huron.

On Tuesday morning, I visited Buchanan Elementary to talk with the first graders, all 240 of them. This was my first school visit back in my hometown. I loved every second. The kiddos filed into the gymnasium, eyeing the crown quizzically.

Callee Wachter’s, Miss SD 2006, son, Charleston, was in the class, and I was eager to see him. He is a spunky, fun-loving little boy – always running here and there. When I saw him come into the gym I waved as big as I could, and he quickly diverted his eyes. I waited for him to look again and gave the biggest wave. Again, he looked away as fast as possible. Third times the charm. Finally, on the third wave he gave me an inconspicuous wave where his hand lifted at the wrist and quickly fell to his side. I was in awe. Never, in my life, have I seen him so shy. Callee said he was nervous to see me, but alas, I got a picture at the end of the presentation.  

The presentation was centered around Money $heep and helped the students learn about saving and spending their money. I love telling the story of Chloe and Mr. Money $heep. Thanks to Money $heep’s generous sponsors, each student left with their own copy of Mr. Money $heep. Thank you Mrs. Korkow for arranging the presentation, and Mrs. Heinz for welcoming me into your school.

That afternoon, I was off to Washington Elementary to visit Mrs. Halter’s students. I love going into individual classrooms because it gives enough time for more personal interaction with the students. We acted out the characters in Mr. Money $heep and learned about budgeting. Each student took home a copy of Mr. Money $heep and an autographed picture. This is my favorite part of being Miss South Dakota – meeting kids, learning about their hearts, and being a positive role model in their lives. Thank you, Mrs. Halter for opening your class to me.

Wednesday was a special day. I was off to Mellette for the first “Lunch with Miss South Dakota.” It was particularly special because it was for Mareya. A few years ago, Mareya was my little princess at Miss Siouxland and in the Miss South Dakota Organization. Her mom reached out to me about coming for lunch, and, of course, I was thrilled. It was a complete surprise for Mareya. Her mom met me at the front of the school and walked me to her daughter’s classroom. Mareya’s eyes grew 10x when she saw I had made the trip to see her. She introduced me to her classmates, her friends, and her teachers. For lunch we ate French toast, and it took me back to my childhood days.

I started doing “Lunch with Miss South Dakota” because I remembered as a kid how special it was to have a guest visit for lunch. I thought if I can make a few kiddo’s days, why not? My lunch with Mareya did not disappoint. 

On Thursday, I was off to Rapid City for another “Lunch with Miss South Dakota,” but this time with a 6th grader named Emi. I arrived at her school and met her mother, who had come to take pictures. The office called Emi down. Since it was Valentine’s Day, she gave me the sweetest box of chocolates (which I devoured). After introductions, we were off to the lunch room. Emi introduced me to all her friends who were so excited about my visit, asking “How can I get Miss SD to have lunch with me?” Emi had several questions typed on her phone that she wanted to ask me. One of which was, “How did you get involved in Miss SD?” I cannot wait for more lunch dates. If you would like me to visit your school to have lunch, please reach out so we can set up a date.

Immediately after I left Emi’s school, I drove to pick up Jessica, Miss SD Outstanding Teen. We hit the road for Hot Springs to visit the VA. They had invited us to the Valentine’s Day party. When we arrived, there was music and plenty of room on the dance floor. It was so good to see familiar faces from when we visited back in June during Miss SD week. I was hesitant to test out my dancing skills, but the professionals taught me how its done. Jessica and I walked around with the Little Princesses to hand out Valentine’s cards. 

That evening we stayed with Wendy and Wayne Wells. Two years ago, Wendy and Wayne were my host home for Miss SD week. I have developed the most meaningful relationship with them since then, practically becoming family. Going to their house, feels like I am coming home. Wendy prepared a delicious dinner, dessert included.

Friday morning, Jessica and I were back on the road for a school presentation at St. Paul Lutheran’s School in Rapid City. We visited the Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st-2nd grade, 3rd-4th grade, and 5th-8th grade classrooms. Every presentation was focused on Money $heep, however, sharing the day with Jessica was time I cherished dearly. She helped read to the kiddos and told them all about her journey as MSDOT. Thank you, St. Paul’s Lutheran, for having us.

Are you tired yet? Woofta. But the week wasn’t over. Jessica and I loaded the car after our last presentation and headed for home. The next day we had to be in Brookings for Miss SD Orientation, so Jessica and I had a sleepover in Sioux Falls. The time I have gotten to spend with Jessica this year means the world to me. The sisterhood we have has been one of the highlights of my year as Miss SD.

Saturday was a big day. An emotional day. It was candidate orientation for Miss South Dakota and Miss South Dakota Outstanding Teen 2019. Woah. Spending the day with all the candidates filled my heart. It filled my soul. I gave a presentation at the beginning of the day titled, “Year in Review.” Jessica did the same, but she went first. Halfway through her talk, I started to tear up. I immediately thought to myself, “Welp. This is going to go south.” At the beginning of my discussion I made a disclaimer that I would probably cry through the entire thing. It wasn’t worth trying to hold back the tears because they were flowing like waterworks. I told the girls about how the morning after I was crowned Miss SD, I met all the Forevers’ for a brunch. I cried through the entire thing and don’t think I could utter a single word the whole morning. I’m an emotional person, what can I say? I wear my heart on my sleeve. But I assured everyone, tears are my ultimate expression of gratitude.

I talked about my journey in the Miss South Dakota Organization dating back to 2007, when I first competed in the teen division. I shared some of my favorite appearances, ranging from Local Competitions to Once in a Lifetime Events to Little Moments. Finally, I ended the discussion with a few tips for the young women competing for Miss SD. The highlights being, “seek the job, not the title” and “channel the heart of a Miss SD.”

Later in the afternoon, I was given a chance to talk personally with the candidates. In a raw, real, vulnerable moment I shared some of the challenges I have faced this year. I shared with my friends what makes being Miss South Dakota one of the most challenging years of your life, and I shared why it is one thousand and ten percent worth it. I wanted each of them to feel like they were walking into Miss SD week with a clear mind and realistic depiction of what the job of Miss South Dakota looks like. Vulnerability is hard. But it is only possible when you’re surrounded by incredible young women. To the candidates vying for Miss South Dakota – thank you for letting me open my heart to you. Thank you for listening. To South Dakota – you’re in good hands. The next Miss South Dakota is going to blow you away.

I emphasized in my presentation during Orientation that one of the best things I have done is share this year with the people I love. My friends. My pageant family. My Miss SD sisters. But most importantly, my parents. This year has been just as much my mom and dad’s year as it has been mine. I am grateful that I get to share this experience with the people I love most.