DALTON -- When Kathryn Hamilton of Dalton walks into Gillette Stadium in Foxborough next Thursday and performs in front of 70,000 football fans, a childhood fantasy will be coming true.
But it took a lot of mental and physical effort for the 22-year-old to become a New England Patriots cheerleader.
"It's always been a dream," she said in an interview with The Eagle. "My family are all huge Patriots fans."
Born and raised in Dalton, Hamilton went to Wahconah Regional High School and has been cheerleading since age 6.
While her dream remained, other goals came first, including becoming a certified floral designer. She's also taking classes in interior design and earning a business degree in Boston.
When she began the seven-week audition process of becoming an NFL cheerleader, she was up against 300 other women with similar dreams. Over the course of tryouts -- dancing, training, being tested on her knowledge of football -- she remained in the running.
"The further along you go, the more nervous you become," she said.
Hamilton took part in a two-week boot camp with 40 other women, which included intense workouts and learning choreographed routines. Afterward, it was all about marking time.
She waited nervously for the email that would tell her whether she was going to make the cut and become one of 31 Patriots cheerleaders for the 2011 season. Past members of the squad and newcomers alike have to try out each year to make the team.
"I cried when I found out because I was so happy," she said. "It was really amazing."
Even after making the team there was another potential hurdle: the NFL lockout.
The lockout, she said, was in the back of all their minds, but cheerleader director Tracey Sormanti told them to remain positive.
Hamilton said the cheerleaders met with fans and promoted the NFL while the lockout loomed. Last month, an agreement was reached between players and owners. The new 10-year collective bargaining agreement was ratified by the players Thursday, officially ending the labor fight that could have stalled the 2011 football season.
And now Hamilton's big day is at hand. The Patriots' first pre-season game is Thursday at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I'm getting ready for the game," she said. "It's very exciting."