When Quinn Nystrom was crowned 2004 Miss Brainerd Lakes Saturday, there were 11 women seated in Tornstrom Auditorium who understood what that moment felt like for the 18-year-old young woman.
Many of them had been crowned Miss Brainerd on the same stage and had walked the same runway as Nystrom had on Saturday.
Saturday's scholarship pageant became a homecoming of sorts for past Miss Brainerds.
Vicki Randall, a 1977 Miss Brainerd, resurrected the scholarship pageant after a 13-year hiatus, an event sponsored by Brainerd Area Women of Today and Brainerd Community Education.
In addition to bringing back the pageant and serving as pageant director, Randall invited all past Miss Brainerds to Saturday's pageant. She and other volunteers searched for as many past Miss Brainerds as they could find, asking them to bring their pageant memorabilia with them to Saturday's pageant. The many crowns, trophies, sashes and photographs from past pageants on display Saturday were a testament to the longevity -- and significance -- of the pageant in the lives of the women who have worn the sash and crown.
The 11 past Miss Brainerds who attended Saturday's pageant were brought on stage and asked to walk the runway one more time, in addition to being interviewed about their reign as Brainerd royalty by Bill Musel, master of ceremonies.
"This has been such a dream of mine," said Randall of reuniting past Miss Brainerds. "I am so thrilled."
Dottie (Kendall) Pappenfus received a standing ovation when she walked across the stage accompanied by her granddaughter. Pappenfus, 82, was crowned the 1939 Miss Brainerd. She was 17 when she won the title and is the oldest living Miss Brainerd. She lives at Woodland Good Samaritan Village in Brainerd.
Musel asked Pappenfus Saturday what the differences were between Saturday's pageant and the one in which she was crowned in 1939.
"I didn't need any talent to get to state," said Pappenfus with a smile. "I still didn't have any talent, so I jitterbugged."
Pappenfus had just graduated from Crosby-Ironton High School when she was asked to compete in the Miss Brainerd pageant, which was held in the former Paramount Theater. Her sponsor was Coca-Cola in Brainerd. The company later offered her a job as a secretary, which became her first job after high school.
"I didn't expect it," said Pappenfus of being crowned. "I don't think anybody does. It was pretty thrilling."
"It was such a huge event in my life," said Debbie (Hanson) Stolpa on being crowned 1976 Miss Brainerd. "It gives you the courage to do things in your life you haven't done before. I stood on this very stage and walked this very runway and it's still as exciting today as it was then."
Stolpa, who lives in Winona, said she wanted to attend Saturday's pageant to support Randall, whom she crowned Miss Brainerd in 1977, and to support the renewed interest in the pageant.
"It changed my life and I hope it changes these young women's lives, too," said Irene Rangen, 1978 Miss Brainerd.
"The same reason I came here tonight is the same reason I competed for Miss Brainerd," 1969 Miss Brainerd Peggy (Holden) MacDonald said with a smile. "Everyone said it was a good idea and I went along with it."
"It's very fun to come back and be on the other side, watching," said Jackie (Arveson) Sliver, Baxter, who was the 1974 Miss Brainerd.
"It's been a very great thing to represent Brainerd," said Vicky (Peterson) Schwartz, the 1967 Miss Brainerd who continues to live in Brainerd.
Paula Cotten, 1985 Miss Brainerd who lives in Baxter, was the youngest past Miss Brainerd to attend Saturday's pageant. She explained how her pageant was held at Don Adamson Field at Brainerd High School as part of the Brainerd Fourth of July festivities.
Kathleen Lordbock served as Miss Brainerd in both 1972 and 1973. Lordbock said she was crowned in July of 1972 and then the date of the next pageant was moved to January of 1973 so she attended the same parades and pageants two years in a row.
Deanna (Presttun) Gartner, who lives in Nisswa and Vail, Colo., was crowned the 1957 Miss Brainerd when she was 18. She said she has fond memories of the excitement of the pageant.
Kaye (Hill) Peterson, Merrifield, was 17 when she was crowned 1960 Miss Brainerd. Her mother, Bonnie (Houle) Hill, had been crowned the 1941 Miss Brainerd. She brought her white pageant gown, which was on display at Saturday's pageant.
Peterson remembered one of the last times she walked the runway at Tornstrom Auditorium. She already had been crowned Miss Brainerd and was competing in a regional competition there. Suddenly, while dressed in only high heels and a swimsuit, the lights went out.
"That's a scary thing to be in heels, in a swimsuit, with the lights out," said Peterson.
The first Miss Brainerd pageant was held in 1929 when the late Margaret (Anderson) Hoening won the title. She also went on to be crowned Miss Minnesota, the only Miss Brainerd ever to win the state title. The last Miss Brainerd pageant was in 1991 when Carla (Thiede) Coonan was crowned.
Before the pageant began, the music of songstress Linda Eder echoed throughout Tornstrom Auditorium. Eder had been crowned the 1979 Miss Brainerd. Randall said she tried to contact Eder, hoping she would be able to attend the pageant.
Nystrom said she was honored to join the roster of Miss Brainerds.
"I'm the new one," Nystrom said proudly. "They have big shoes for me to fill, obviously. Hopefully I can do a good job."
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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