Kelly Klick (formerly Tjepkes) is from the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She had no prior experience with beekeeping (except an appreciation for honey), but one of her teachers at North Hennepin Community College suggested she look into the competition though she’d never considered doing anything like the honey queen program but thought, “why not?” In order to prepare she studied a lot of books that her teacher lent her and she took an introductory course in beekeeping at the University of Minnesota.
Kelly was 20 when she became the Minnesota Honey Queen and the following year, when she was 21, she won the national competition. She was the only contestant in the Minnesota competition but once she made it to the national competition, she had 7 or 8 other competitors. Her biggest challenges in the program were getting over being nervous in front of large groups of people, adjusting to different food, cultures and climates while she was traveling. Prior to her reign and tour, Kelly had never been outside of Minnesota. She most enjoyed the visits to the coasts, especially California and Texas. She also joked that sometimes she would be touring in places without cell service and that was quite difficult. Though there were challenges, she overcame her shyness and became much more comfortable speaking in public.
Kelly especially enjoyed of her conversations with kids about how honey is made. Meeting beekeepers around the country was also an incredible experience for her. They were really friendly and truly wanted to teach her because “they knew that I was the way to get information to the media and to the public.” Kelly explained her role as an “ambassador” to advertise and promote the industry. She mentioned that in some ways, Colony Collapse Disorder was helpful for the industry because it got people’s attention and showed them just how vital beekeeping is to agriculture. One of her favorite quotes is by Einstein: “if honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years.”
Kelly’s experience as honey queen made her much more aware of the industry herself as she formerly had no interaction with it. Now she always buys honey from local sources rather than at the grocery store, she still talks to people at fairs and helps chaperone new Honey Queens and Princesses when they are in town. Once she and her husband move from their apartment into a house she plans on having her own hives. Until then, she has become friends with a beekeeper at her church. With her background as honey queen, she has advised him on technical beekeeping things like checking for mites, smoking and taking out combs. In return, he’s given her more experience inside the hive.