DAHLEN, North Dakota – North Dakota rancher Terry Ellingson could sing until the cows came home.
He sings while doing chores at his Simmental ranch near Dahlen, in the church choir, for weddings and funerals and before college athletic events.
''Our family is blessed with the gift of music. Whenever we got together, we would sing. That's where it started," Ellingson said. ''When I was 7 my dad taught me to sing bass. When I was 8 years old, I sang at my sister’s wedding reception."
He continued singing throughout his grade school and high school years and, in college, joined the North Dakota State University Glee Club.
When Ellingson saw a post about the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association singing contest on social media, he decided to send the organization a tape of himself singing the National Anthem that a family member had recorded at a University of North Dakota basketball game.
''If you go, they pay all your expenses," he said. "You get a free pair of pants, a hat and a shirt."
Ellingson learned in October that he was selected as one of four finalists in the NCBA contest. Voting began on Nov. 1 and continues through Nov. 19. The public can vote for their favorite singer once a day until the deadline.
The contest winner will receive a trip to the Cattle Industry Convention in Houston, which will be held Feb. 1-3, 2022, where he or she will sing the National Anthem at the opening ceremony and an evening event.
The winner will be announced Nov. 22.Ellingson had about a thousand votes as of the end of the first week of November, and the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association had thrown its support behind him, singing his praises on social media and urging its members to vote for their favorite son.
While Ellingson was grateful for the support of the NDSA and others, he wasn’t optimistic about the chances of winning because the contestant in the lead had about five times as many votes.
“I think I’m finding an uphill battle here,” he said, with a laugh, on Tuesday, Nov. 9. “I need a lot of help. This is the bottom of the eighth, and we’re in big trouble here.”
Win or lose, though, Ellingson will keep singing and carrying on his family's tradition.
''I think it’s important to use the gifts you're given,” he said. "It’s in our genes. We just love to sing.”
Ellingson’s supporters can vote for him online at https://convention.ncba.org/general-information/get-involved/national-anthem-contest/vote-now?fbclid=IwAR0Seyv26Ttip-HVGp_C-a-udA7ukcGt-7BMneXwngVZzMG9fO5uNdn9lbw.