To be the queen of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair, one must charm a five-judge panel in two gruelling rounds of interviews, dazzle the crowd with a speech, strut down a dirt runway modelling a sparkling outfit and display excellent horsemanship in the arena.
Ashlee Rose Mills, 21, made it look easy last Sunday. The five-foot-three petite blonde from Eagle Nest stole the show and was crowned the new state fair queen, relieving last yearâ€™s winner, Haley Montes, of her duty.
â€œI was completely ecstatic,â€ Mills said. â€œI just remember hearing my name being announced and just saying â€˜Thank you God for the blessing.â€™â€
Queen contest director Robin Bostic said Millsâ€™ impressive horsemanship skills and eloquent public speech made her stand out from the other seven competitors.
â€œShe rides well, and sheâ€™s well spoken,â€ Bostic raved. â€œWe look forward to working with her this year, and sheâ€™s going to be a great representative for the Eastern New Mexico State Fair.â€
It was Millsâ€™ first time entering the ENMSF pagent, but it was not her first time wearing a crown atop her cowgirl hat. She was the Cimarron Maverick Rodeo Queen in 2005 and 2006, the Colfax County Fair Rodeo Queen in 2007 and 2010, and, more recently, the NM State Fair Queen First Attendant for 2011. She has also been involved with a 4-H horse program and rodeo project for the past six years.
The most nerve-racking aspect of Sundayâ€™s pagent, Mills said, was wrestling with her quarter horse, Rio C. Jericho, a 16-year-old gelding, in the horse ring, even though she has ridden horses for the past 13 years.
â€œHe was just being onery,â€ Mills laughed.
Still, Mills, representing Colfax County, received the highest overall score and won a $1,000 scholarship for University of New Mexico where she is currently a student, a handmade saddle donated from Roswell Livestock, a trophy, a belt buckle, and of course, a shimmering silver crown. She also won the Miss Congeniality award, which was decided by the contestents and does not count in the scoring process.
The first runner -up was Marissa Guerero, 20, from Otero County, and the second runnerup was Jamie Smilie, 21, from Roosevelt County.