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ST. MARYS — SummerFest week was kicked off in style Sunday night as nine local girls competed for the title of 2013 SummerFest Queen.
The contestants charmed the audience with their bright smiles and glittering dresses.
“Tonight is an important night for these ladies, and I think there’s going to be a very high energy show and everybody’s going to be thrilled tonight with all the work the girls have put into this,” Master of Ceremonies John Wale said.
The audience cheered for each girl as she introduced herself, and the crowd was filled with the girls’ friends and family, some holding up posters with encouraging messages. Each contestant walked the stage in casual and formal wear. The casual wear they chose specifically to show off their personalities, and some girls chose flowery dresses while others chose dress shorts. The formal wear varied from glitter and sequins to lacy and flowery.
Each girl answered a question chosen at random from Wale, and their answers, he said, were completely thought of in the moment. Questions included things like whether the contestant considered Facebook to be a positive or a negative influence on peoples’ lives, to which the girl answered that it had its good and bad effects.
Past SummerFest contestants provided entertainment throughout the night, showing off their various talents. Recent MHS grad Brooke Hertenstein performed a modern dance, and Makayla Buehler, who also recently graduated, also performed a more ballet-type dance. Drew Houser played the piano and sang, and 13-year-old Blake Garret also did ballet.
Hertenstein shared with the audience what her time as queen meant to her.
“My past year as queen has been absolutely amazing,” she said. “I have made many memories that I will never forget. Some of these memories include all of the past contestants. Getting up early, practicing walking over and over again, answering a bunch of random questions, and working extra hard to perfect that opening dance ... While the pageant has given me many memories, it has also taught me many things. It has helped me to become the confident woman I am today. Even though I have danced in front of large crowds and given speeches for many years, the pageant has taught me a new kind of confidence. It taught me how to be confident in not only myself, but in all of my thoughts and values. It taught me to never give up on the goals and dreams I have set for myself.”
Hertenstein waited with sashes and bouquets as Wale announced each of the winners the audience had been eagerly awaiting.
The 2013 SummerFest Queen was awarded to Bailey Gottschalk, whose face showed both shock and delight. Gottschalk was stunned to hear her name called.
“Speechless,” she said when asked how she was feeling. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m so overwhelmed and excited. It’s like something that you always look forward to as a little girl, being the town queen, and finally getting there feels so good. I’ve been coming to (SummerFest) as long as I can remember, watching everyone come on stage ... It means the world to me that I can be a role model for all the little girls in our town, and to be able to be that girl that they all look up to. It’s such a big thing for me.”
One of the biggest challenges for her throughout the whole experience was being serious, as she is one who likes to have a good time and be the funny one in the room.
Gottschalk came into the Pageant with experience as she competed in the Miss Ohio Teen Pageant last summer, where she placed in the top 15. The experience was invaluable, she said, as was her help from SummerFest Queen Pageant Chair Deanna Halko.
“I learned that every girl is beautiful in their own way and they all have that one, special unique quality about (them),” she said. “I never would have thought there would have been so many different girls (from) so many different groups and cliques that could come together as one and realize that we’re all just like one big town family, almost.”
The first runner-up was Brooke Martin; second runner-up was Angie Boley; and third runner-up was Sarrah Miller.
Miss Congeniality went to Sierra Braun, and Best Personal Interview went to Bailey Gottschalk.
Halko, who oversaw the pageant, praised the girls’ effort.
“We have a lot of great girls (who) came out for it,” she said. “They were all very positive, very, very smart girls. I feel very good about this year.”