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Miss Northwest enjoying reign thus far

After a few attempts at winning a crown so she could move onto the Miss Minnesota competition, Lacey Erickson has finally reached that goal.

Erickson, 20, was crowned Miss Northwest 2008 at the start of the Northwest Water Carnival events.

She graduated from Pelican Rapids High School in 2006 and is enrolled at the University of North Dakota in broadcast journalism.

At the pageant, Erickson also won the eveningwear and personal interview portions of the pageant. Other winners included Heather Erickson, first runner-up and swimsuit; Amanda Hanson, second runner-up, talent and Miss Congeniality; Breanna Sinner, on-stage interview and Forever Family scholarship.

Her platform is "Creating Awareness for Special Olympics," and Erickson talks about why Special Olympics, and pageanting in general, are important.

Have you competed in pageants in the past?

Yes, I have. I was Princess Altona from Vergas when I was 12 in 2001, and then I was Miss Teen Minnesota International in 2005. And then I've been doing the America system since 2006, and I have done Miss Mankato twice and Miss Northwest twice, Miss Moorhead, Miss Heart of the Lakes. That's six pageants, yeah, I've done quite a few. And I kept getting first runner-up in every single one. I just kept going, didn't let it get me down. And now I won!

I bet you were happy when you won?

Yeah, I was shocked. It didn't really hit me. When I didn't get called first runner-up, I kind of like "OK, I can still win this." It was funny because Mackenzie (Ross, 2007 Miss Northwest) was like "you could just tell like you didn't know what to do because you were just in shock." I didn't really hit me until I was taking pictures afterward, and then I was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to Miss Minnesota!" It all kind of hit me at one time.

I'm assuming then that Miss Minnesota has been a goal for quite some time?

Every since I was little I've wanted to be Miss America. I would prance around in the living room, watching the pageants. And then for some time I was a huge tomboy because I have a lot of older brothers. Then my aunt told me, she was kind of joking, that there was this talent contest -- and she knew I loved to sing because I've been singing in church since I was 6 years old -- and it also has sportswear and... So she was trying to get me to do it and not tell me it was a pageant.

But I ended up doing it and that was Princess Altona, and I ended up winning. That really boosted my self-confidence and it kind of just got me into the whole pageant world, and then I started competing for other pageants.

I really encourage young women to do pageants because it really, for me, boosted my self-confidence and also gives you great skills for the real world. You do an interview and practicing interviewing is huge, especially when you get into college and I had to apply for jobs and do interviews.

I've always gotten complimented on my interviewing, so that's really big.

I noticed you won the personal interview for Miss Northwest.

Which is exciting because when I first started doing pageants, I was really nervous doing interviews and I never would win interview. Now, at Miss Moorhead I won interview as well, and now here. It's kind of exciting. I feel like I'm improving.

Your platform is about Special Olympics. Tell me a little about why you chose that.

When I was in high school, I started volunteering for Special Olympics through the high school, and I would go to meets and work with the athletes. When I was Miss Teen Minnesota, my platform actually wasn't Special Olympics, it was Let's Get Healthy.

I would go around and talk to kids about exercising and staying away from the TV and stuff like that. But what really inspired me to switch to Special Olympics was just because I've been involved with it for so long. It's so much fun. I just love going to their practices and volunteering with them.

They always have smiles on their faces and no one is ever unhappy. They're just excited they actually get to compete and do things that people that don't have physical or intellectual disabilities can do. It's a great organization that gets people with special needs to able to compete.

I also have a cousin, Laura, that has Down Syndrome so she has kind of inspired me to get potential athletes to get involved in Special Olympics. She wasn't involved in Special Olympics until she was 7. She just inspires me to get involved with Special Olympics as well.

I just love going to the meets, it's so much fun. What I used to do was hand out the trophies and that was so much fun. No matter what the award is, they're just as excited if it's first place or sixth place. They just get so excited that they get ribbons. It's really fun to see them.

You've been Miss Northwest for about a week. Have there been any activities that have been extra fun?

All of my appearances have been really fun. My first appearance was the demolition derby, and I had never been to a demolition derby before. I got to wave the flag to let them go. It was funny because I'd be waving the flag and then I'd get so excited and they'd be like, "come down, come down! You're going to get dirty!" That was really, really fun.

Then also, we have the water fights on Wednesday and those were so much fun to watch the people and all the teams get together. The funniest thing was the police department and the fire department were head and head and they were just smack talking each other. It was really entertain for the whole crowd. And then I got to hand out the awards at the end.

It was really fun. It's just really great to see so many people at all these events, coming together for Water Carnival. It really supports the Jaycees and it's really amazing to see all the people come out.

Is there anything you're looking forward to in the next year as Miss Northwest?

I'm really looking forward to promoting my platform, but at the same time, I think it's really important to get more girls involved in the program. Numbers are declining for pageants all over, and I think if I get to go and talk in high schools -- it's a great program to get scholarship money.

I've won a lot of money just by getting first runner-up in all those pageants and now winning this one. It's great scholarship money. So I think going into high schools and talking to young girls about getting involved and maybe competing in Miss Northwest or wherever they would like to compete I think that's kind of a big goal of mine.

Also, I'm really looking forward to going to Miss Minnesota and representing the northwest area.

Anything else?

I hope everybody goes out and supports the community cause they've been doing a great job already.