Ogallala woman lives out dream
It still doesn’t seem real.
Laramie Schlichtemeier was crowned as a lady-in-waiting six months ago, during the first performance of the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte.
On Jan. 7, following a coronation ceremony, she will officially take over her reign as Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2017. But for Schlichtemeier, the whole experience up to this point seems surreal.
“I’ve been dreaming of being Miss Rodeo Nebraska since I was 5 years old,” said Schlichtemeier. “Now that I almost am, I sometimes wonder if it’s all just part of that dream.”
In the upcoming months, the Ogallala woman will log thousands of miles as she crisscross the nation, promoting her home state, the sport of professional rodeo, the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association and, most importantly, herself.
“I’ve always just been that crazy horse kid,” said Schlichtemeier. “I grew up in town, but my grandparents own a ranch up by Alliance. I spent a lot of time there, and that’s where I got my love for the western way of life.”
Her dad had her on a saddle before she could walk. She rode a horse by herself for the first time when she was 2, swung her first rope when she was 4 and at age 5, met her first rodeo queen, Miss Rodeo Nebraska 1999 Halie (Forre) Whitaker.
“From then on, I knew I wanted to be just like her,” said Schlichtemeier.
It would be years before that happened. As Schlichtemeier got older, she competed in junior rodeos, jackpot ropings and National Barrel Horse Association events. She entered her first rodeo queen contest when she was 17, but it took her three tries to snag a title.
“I was always the runner-up, and it was discouraging,” said Schlichtemeier.
She didn’t give up, however, and her perseverance eventually paid off. In 2012, at age 18, she was named the Old West Trail Rodeo Queen in Crawford. The year after, Schlichtemeier was crowned Ogallala Roundup Queen.
“I decided I was going to be done with pageants after that,” said Schlichtemeier. “I needed to focus on college.”
She changed her mind at the encouragement of a friend, Emily Taylor, Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2016.
“Emily was the MRN Lady-In-Waiting at that point,” said Schlichtemeier. “She told me she really thought I should run for Miss Rodeo Nebraska, but I didn’t think I was ready. Emily kept pushing me, telling me to at least give it a shot so that I could say I tried.”
Schlichtemeier gave in – partly because she had another goal she wanted to reach.
“I was at a point in my life where I knew I needed to lose weight to be healthy,” said Schlichtemeier. “The MRN pageant became my motivation. I spent the next six months, exercising and eating right. The more I lost, the better I felt. I dropped over 115 pounds.”
She went into the June competition with a newfound confidence and swept the categories of horsemanship, speech, personality, photogenics and congeniality.
Since then, Schlichtemeier has filled in at events Taylor was unable to attend, gathered sponsors and graduated from Chadron State College – she has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in agribusiness and marketing.
“I’ve also been putting a lot of thought into what kind of mark I want to leave on the rodeo industry and on younger generations during my reign,” said Schlichtemeier. “I plan to visit schools and talk to students about rodeo and agriculture because I think it’s important for them to know where their food comes from. I also want them to know they can achieve their dreams.”
As for what she’s most excited about, Schlichtemeier is looking forward to traveling to two rodeos on her bucket list, the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon and the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada, as well as showcasing her hometown.
“I’ve gotten a lot of local sponsors, which is great because there haven’t been many MRNs from the western half of the state,” said Schlichtemeier. “This is an opportunity to get the names of Ogallala businesses out there and put them on the map.’
It’s just one of many doors the MRN crown will open for her, and Schlichtemeier plans to walk through all of them with no regrets. Her slogan for the year is, Rope Your Dreams.
“That’s because my experience is comparable to roping,” said Schlichtemeier. “Sometimes you stretch your rope out all the way and it still seems like you’ll never catch that calf. The same is true with dreams. Sometimes we spread ourselves so thin, we think we’ll never make it. But then, you make that catch.
The public is invited to Schlichtemeier’s coronation celebration Jan. 7 at the Haythorn Land and Cattle Company, 17 miles north of Ogallala. The social hour will start at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 each and can be reserved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.