BANGOR — When judges chose Olivia Grace Ellis as Miss Blossomtime for 2019 she certainly looked the part.
Her long, light blonde hair was perfectly coiffed. Her makeup just right, and she appeared quite poised on stage in her sequined white gown and high heels.
But there’s another side to the small-town girl from Bangor. Some would even refer to her as a “tomboy.”
During summer months you’ll see “Gracie,” as family and friends call her, in shorts and a T-shirt working at her grandparents’ blueberry farm. When she’s not doing that, Ellis plays varsity softball and volleyball for South Haven High School’s volleyball and softball teams. In fact, she’s gotten so good on the ball field that she recently got the nod to play softball for Manchester University in Northern Indiana next spring.
“I’m not the average pageant girl,” Ellis said laughing. “The first time I bought high heels was for the Miss Bangor pageant.”
Yet she didn’t stumble a bit on stage and ended up earning the crown.
“When I won I was so shocked,” Ellis said. She was even more shocked when she advanced to the Miss Blossomtime pageant in March and was crowned queen.
“I was up against 23 girls,” Ellis recalled. “Half had done several pageants. I thought, ‘no way.’”
Ellis’s grandmother, Mary Ellis, wasn’t one bit surprised her granddaughter earned the title of both Miss Bangor and Miss Blossomtime.
“She’s an all-around girl,” Mary Ellis said. “What you see is what you get. When she was in the Miss Bangor pageant, I said, ‘you’re going to win.’ She said, ‘Oh, grandma,’ but the judges look for people who are ‘real.’”
Ellis gets her ‘realness’ from her parents, who say they set high standards for their children.
Jim Ellis, her father serves as a lieutenant for the Kentwood Fire Department near Grand Rapids, while her mother, Kelly, is a licensed, board-certified professional counselor who owns Water’s Edge Counseling Services in South Haven. Oldest sister, Winter, attends Grand Valley State University and was an honor student and athlete at South Haven High School, while Ellis’s twin brother, John, excels in sports and academics at South Haven High School.
“My husband and I have been very strict,” Kelly Ellis admits. “We have very high standards and expectations. As a result we have to be good examples.”
The family lives by what Kelly Ellis refers to as “the 24-hour rule.”
“If they want to do something, they have to give us a 24-hour notice,” Kelly Ellis said. “If they don’t do that, they don’t go. It takes the last-minute planning out of the equation.”
Ellis said she’s thankful for her parent’s rule.
“I feel that philosophy has helped me in getting to be more organized and to be more me,” Ellis said. “I’m thankful they’re strict.”
Jim and Kelly Ellis also want their children to be active at school, in sports and in their community.
“We’re always non-stop going,” Kelly Ellis said, laughing. “That’s one thing you know about our family.”
To drive the point home, Ellis recalls the day last November when she took her PSAT during the day, then competed in the Miss Bangor pageant that night.
Ellis took both tasks in stride. She also takes her school work in stride, along with involvement in the community.
A member of the National Honor Society at South Haven High School, Ellis is also dual-enrolled at Lake Michigan College. She’s president of the Youth Advisory Committee, as well as a member of the Be Nice mental health awareness initiative, student government and the drama department.
When she’s not in school, Ellis coaches volleyball for the Little Lady Rams and serves as a National Honor Society mentor.
Her involvement in school, athletics and the community will serve her well in her role as Miss Blossomtime for the coming year, Ellis thinks.
“I’m not your average girl, but that’s OK,” Ellis said, thinking about the many upcoming appearances she’ll be making during Blossomtime Festival week and beyond. “They’re not just looking for Miss Blossomtime. They’re looking for someone a little girl will look up to.”