By Ryan Lengerich
Ashlee Stallings spent Sept. 5 in bed in a battle with strep throat.
There was no way she could compete for the state fair queen crown, she thought.
If that was not bad enough, it was her 20th birthday.
The Curry County fair queen representative fought the illness and made it to Albuquerque for the four-day competition. Had she been forced to give her speech Wednesday she couldn’t do it — she said couldn’t talk.
Her voice bounced back Thursday and she delivered what she described a “fun” speech about her home state to a three-person panel.
Friday she was crowned the 2005 New Mexico State Fair Queen, the first Curry County winner since Shalei Erramouspe in 1997, and the eighth overall.
A Texico High School graduate and special education major at Eastern New Mexico University, Stallings is on the ENMU rodeo team and a volunteer with “Mini Blessings,” a therapeutic riding program for disabled children in Clovis.
“It has been a dream for a long time. I have going to the state fair since I was 3 years old, and just meeting the rodeo queens when I was there — they have been role models for me,” Stallings said. “I just want to be that role model for all the other little girls out there.”
Stallings, who grew up in Los Lunas and moved to Clovis 10 years ago, beat out 14 other contestants from around the state.
“It was a really tough contest and there were a lot of really good girls,” she said. “When they called my name I was like ‘oh my gosh,’ — it was pretty overwhelming.”
As rodeo queen, Stallings was awarded a saddle and a custom trailer. She will ride and judge pageants at fairs and special events around the state in the coming year.
The Curry County queen is traditionally crowned at the Pioneer Days rodeo, but Stallings said she missed the event this year for a trip and had no intentions of competing in the state event. She had not competed in a rodeo queen pageant since she was 12.
Wilma Fulgham, chairman for the Pioneer Days Rodeo Queen Pageant, told Stallings nobody represented her age division and promptly agreed to name her queen. Stallings accepted the crown and began her three-month training.
“She was very consistent in everything that she did,” said Fulgham, who won the first state fair queen competition in 1950. “She was very attractively dressed and just very graceful.”
The contestants were judged in part on horsemanship, personality, speech, knowledge of rodeo and poise.
It took about 15 pairs of boots and at least that many dresses to win the competition, Stallings said. She changed outfits three times each day and was forced to borrow all her clothes from her college roommate, who has competed in similar pageants.
Stallings’ mother Kathy broke down in tears at her daughter’s crowning moment.
“It was a dream come true for her,” Kathy Stallings said. “She’s just so natural. What you see is what you get.”