When the crown descended on her head, Ethnee Nelson had only a few seconds of surprise before her fellow Miss Sauk Centre candidates congratulated her while the audience’s applause echoed through the Sauk Centre Public Schools auditorium July 15.

Nelson, the daughter of Pete and Jennifer Nelson, will spend the next year as Miss Sauk Centre and will represent the community at events along with princesses Sara Kampsen, daughter of Curt and Christine Kampsen, and Nancy Cervantes, daughter of Robert and Nancy Cervantes.

The three competed alongside Tania Salgado, daughter of Arturo and Maria Salgado; Teagan Felling, daughter of Ben and Amy Felling; and Robyn Gierke, daughter of Bob and Pam Gierke.

Emcee Jason McLellan brought his own blend of heart and humor to the pageant.

“I’m honored to be a part of the pageant this year,” McLellan said. “It’s been a fun week getting this evening ready; I’ve enjoyed watching the candidates rehearse.”

The pageant’s judges were Mandy Schneider, Miss United States; Sara Peterson, Miss Woman Minnesota; and Dayna Deters, owner of Dayna Deters Determined Fitness.

The candidates began by dancing to a musical medley centered around the pageant’s theme, “All that glitters is gold.”

For the talent portion of competition, Salgado and Cervantes both chose talents based on their Hispanic heritage; Salgado performed a traditional Mexican dance, while Cervantes gave a cultural presentation based on the life and origins of her family. Kampsen played selections from “The Greatest Showman” musical on both piano and violin, Felling sang “Home Sweet Home” accompanied by her ukulele, and Robyn Gierke speed painted a portrait of Elvis while his song “A Little Less Conversation” played in the background.

Nelson won the talent competition with her energetic dance routine to a medley of music by ABBA.

Between the talent exhibitions, the pageant recognized the past Miss Sauk Centre ladies in attendance, five of whom were invited onstage for questions. Each of the ladies reigned in a different decade, from the 1970s through the 2010s.

The 2019-20 Sauk Centre royalty – Miss Sauk Centre Katelyn Groetsch and princesses Mariah Ahrens and Kaitlyn Mynczywor – performed a skit which showcased the talents they displayed in the 2019 Miss Sauk Centre pageant.

Nelson, escorted by Jason Felling, also won the evening gown competition in a white and gold dress. Other awards included Miss Photogenic, won by Cervantes, and Miss Congeniality, won by Gierke.

Before the evening ended, the outgoing Sauk Centre royalty gave their farewell. There was much emotion in their appreciation to fellow royalty; Mynczywor said she had bet Sauk Centre Area Chamber of Commerce president Stacie Michels that she would not cry during her speech. Mynczywor did, though, and so she owes Michels a coffee.

The royalty also thanked the sponsors and organizers as well as the community for supporting them during their two-year reign.

“As all past royalty say, it goes by in the blink of an eye,” Groetsch said. “Even though we were blessed with two years, it truly did. I have to say representing Sauk Centre is an experience I will cherish and hold with me forever. I will never forget all the incredible opportunities, experiences and people I have met along the way.”

Groetsch and the princesses also left words of advice and encouragement to the royalty they would crown to succeed them.

“To the girl I crown tonight, represent our community with poise and confidence,” Groetsch said. “Never take any moment for granted.”

See next week’s Herald for a Q&A with the new Sauk Centre royalty.