Bismarck woman crowned Miss North Dakota had history on her side

Posted 6/20/23 (Tue)

By Julia Jaramillo / The Bismarck Tribune

June 18, 2023 at 4:05 PM

BISMARCK — When Sydney Helgeson of Bismarck won the Miss North Dakota 2023 competition in Williston on Saturday, June 10, the history that was on hand and in her heart made the honor even more special.

The 22-year-old recent college graduate won the title during the competition’s 75th anniversary. Over 30 Miss North Dakota titleholders saw her be crowned, including the first Miss North Dakota, 94-year-old Kitty Page.

“It was an incredibly special year to be crowned,” Helgeson said.

Her achievement also came about six decades after her inspiration — her late grandmother — almost wore the crown.

Experienced competitor

Helgeson has been in the pageant scene since she was 11 years old. Her first experience was with the Miss North Dakota youth program. Back then, it was called Preteen Miss North Dakota. Helgeson won the title in 2013, making this year her 10-year anniversary.

Helgeson went on to compete for Miss North Dakota Teen. She won her second year competing in 2017 as a junior in high school. It was the same year Bismarck's Cara Mund was named Miss North Dakota. Helgeson originally had no plans to participate in the Miss North Dakota competition, but she said watching Mund's journey inspired her to compete for the title.

Mund went on to win the Miss America crown, being the first contestant from North Dakota to hold the title. Helgeson will represent North Dakota at the Miss America competition in January.

This was Helgeson’s third year competing for Miss North Dakota. She said that her years competing in pageants have shaped her through the relationships she's made and the skills she’s gained. Helgeson's roommate throughout college was a Miss Florida teen whom she met at Miss America Teen nationals.

“I think it’s just made me a confident young woman that’s able to not only be empowered myself but empower other young women, too,” she said.

Grandmother inspiration

Helgeson cites her grandmother as her initial inspiration to compete in pageants. Her grandmother was Miss Minot in 1961. She was a first runner-up for Miss North Dakota, a place which Helgeson also took her second year competing.

Helgeson would go to her grandmother’s house as a little girl and try on her dresses. When Helgeson won Miss North Dakota Teen, she wore her grandmother’s dress from 1961 for the talent portion, and she wore the dress again when she competed in Miss America Teen. Her grandmother came to watch and saw her dress on a national stage.

Helgeson’s grandmother died during the coronavirus pandemic due to COVID-19.

“Even though she’s not here, I know that that’s something that I share with her,” Helgeson said of competing.

Looking to the future

Helgeson’s community service initiative is “Live United: Building Strong Communities Together” as a partnership with United Way. Community service was instilled in Helgeson from a young age, she said. She volunteered at United Way throughout high school and eventually interned there.

As Miss North Dakota, Helgeson wants to partner with all eight United Way affiliates in the state to find out how she can help them meet community needs. Her goal is to get people, especially young people, involved in their community and to see the value in it.

Her passion for nonprofit work carries into her academic life, as she sees herself working for a nonprofit after her time as Miss North Dakota. Helgeson graduated this year from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and business administration majoring in management and entrepreneurship. Her win as Miss North Dakota Teen granted her a full tuition scholarship to the school.

Now, she won a $10,000 scholarship as Miss North Dakota. Helgeson said that the money enables her to explore going to graduate school.

She said she’s proud to represent North Dakota on a national level. She mentioned that going to college in Alabama made her eligible to compete for the Miss Alabama title, but she decided to come back to her home state.

“I was born and raised here. I did go away for college, but I chose to come back because this is my home and it was something that was important to me,” Helgeson said.

Within days of becoming Miss North Dakota, she found herself with a busy schedule. It can get overwhelming, she said, but she’s glad that she’s busy and hopes the rest of the year will be similar.

“I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet. I wear the sash and I’m going to all these media appearances, but it’s a little weird. Especially since I’ve been in it for so long,” she said. “Just watching, not even just Cara, but all the Miss North Dakotas that have come before me and actually getting to join that sisterhood and be part of that group is really special."