Much more than just a ‘beauty queen’

Former Miss Rodeo America talks life in Bowman, lessons learned

Ashley Andrews-Anderson and Family. (Courtesy Photo)

By BRYCE MARTIN | Regional Editor

Ashley Andrews-Alderson has traded her Miss Rodeo America crown, sparkly dresses and guest speaking engagements for changing diapers, arranging play dates and attending PTA meetings.

That comes with the territory of being mother of three young children, made even more challenging by running a successful business at the same time.

It has been a decade since Andrews-Alderson captured the title of Miss Rodeo America, but the lessons from that experience still linger for the 32-year-old wife, mother, business owner and cancer survivor.

“We don’t dream big enough,” she said in an interview with The Pioneer this week. “We really limit ourselves in what we want to achieve in our lifetime.”

Andrews-Alderson echoed a common catchphrase — a sort of trademark from another successful Bowman County native, Kat Perkins — that her life in southwest North Dakota taught her to be fearless, and to dream bigger.

Born and raised in Bowman, Andrews-Alderson still considers it her home. She moved in 2012 to Chippewa Falls, Wis., about an hour out of Minneapolis, but said she will never forget her ties to the area, especially since some of her family still lives in the county.

“Bowman truly will be my home no matter where I live,” she said in an interview with The Pioneer this week. “I love the people there; I truly believe it’s the coolest community in the entire state of North Dakota.”

There are still things she misses about being a Bowmanite: the freshly raked grounds at the rodeo arena, the crisp air of a warm summer’s day and the connections she made throughout the community.

Andrews-Alderson showed her modesty when she jokingly labeled herself a “has-been” — her capacity and duties as Miss Rodeo America and Miss Rodeo North Dakota had ended several years ago.

But her legacy is to be preserved next month when the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora unveils its new exhibit dedicated to her and her predecessor Brenda Pickett, who was named in 1983 the first Miss Rodeo America hailing from North Dakota.

She and Andrews-Alderson remain the only two from the Peace Garden State ever to capture the title.

“It’s a big honor,” she commented.

Her journey began on a ranch just northwest of Bowman. The youngest of six children, rodeo was already in her blood. She was active throughout school, but maintained great focus on her rodeo career. Competition began for her at a young age, barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying.

“I grew up on the back of a horse,” she admitted. “Rodeo was just always a part of who we were.”

But it was during her teenage years when she was hit with the typical teenage angst. It propelled her into a different aspect of the rodeo world; something much different than the various events her sisters were excelling at.

“I hit those teenage years where you don’t want anyone to tell you what to do or how to do it,” she said. “The ‘rebellious’ teenager in me just wanted to be different.”

That’s when she learned about high school rodeo queen. Wanting to be different, she put her name in the race.

Andrews-Alderson and her mother attended a queen clinic to learn about the position, making her miss her sophomore prom.

It was worth it, she said.

The Bowman native was named North Dakota High school Rodeo Queen in 2001. She was awarded the title of Miss Rodeo North Dakota just five years later, which qualified her to enter the Miss Rodeo America contest. She won that in 2007.

Though it wasn’t an easy journey for Andrews-Alderson.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January 2006, while she served as Miss Rodeo North Dakota.

She went through chemotherapy for six months, still being able to travel and maintain a job, and lost her hair but was declared cancer free in August 2006, a year before her win as Miss Rodeo America.

The Bowman community came out in full support, not only for her reign as rodeo queen, but to help her through her battle with cancer.

When her reign as queen ended, she became engaged to Eric Alderson, who was working as a lender at Wells Fargo in Bowman. She moved back to the area and was hired as executive director of the Bowman County Development Corp.

When some people think of Miss Rodeo North Dakota or America they perhaps imagine shimmery gowns, toothy smiles, perfect hair and cowboy boots. But Andrews-Alderson admitted it was so much more than a simple pageant.

“I think sometimes people see rodeo queen as just a girl in sparkles on a horse at a rodeo,” she said. “They don’t understand all that it entails.”

Instead, for Andrews-Alderson, it was an opportunity that would serve her for the rest of her life. She would go on to learn about public speaking, interviewing, self presentation and form connections for future jobs in the future and scholarships.

It was about learning marketing, public relations and how to be a good representative of “not only yourself but something greater than yourself.” It were those skills that helped her through her position with the BCDC.

She said she never put herself in a box; always figuring she would do something with her life that was different. She strived to be unique.

“That’s kind of how my life has turned out so far,” she said.

Today, Andrews-Alderson hasn’t slowed down.

She owns and operates her own business, Boutique Hub, in Wisconsin. Its ultimate goal is to help improve the life of boutique businesses, connecting them with the industry, appareal brands, designers, fashion bloggers and more.

Her children, Hadley, six; Easton, five; and Jayde, two, limit the amount of times she and her husband get to return to Bowman, but she said they try for at least twice a year. Her mother, brother and sister still reside in Bowman.

“I hope people realize how impactful living in Bowman is, not just for me but a lot of people,” she said graciously.

Andrews-Alderson is scheduled to appear at 5 p.m. April 29 at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame to celebrate the opening of the new rodeo queen exhibit. For ticket information, contact (701) 623-2000.

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