by Greta Sowles
It’s been a busy year for Waconia resident Jeni Haler. Ten months ago she was just beginning her senior year at Waconia High School. By October, she crowned the first Miss Waconia, and as of July 19, Haler’s new title was that of 2014 Aquatennial Princess.
Haler was crowned out of 47 other contests, marking quite the accomplishment for the Miss Waconia Scholarship Program, seeing as the program is in its first year.
This whole process started for Haler last June when she applied and became a candidate for Miss Waconia. Haler and five other candidates attended coronations and parades in other communities and did volunteer work, such as helping at the Lake Waconia Triathlon, Relay For Life and the Carver County Fair.
“It was a building year, so we didn’t know how much or little to do,” Haler said.
Oct. 14 was the day of judging for the candidates. It started at 10 a.m. with interviews, continued with an explanation of “personality outfits” and a series of fishbowl questions and concluded with the coronation at 6 p.m. at Island View Dining in Waconia.
Out of six candidates, Haler was crowned Miss Waconia and runner-up Sybil Rosenau was crowned Miss Waconia Princess. According to Haler, who has talked with royalty from other communities through the Aquatennial Princess program, six girls is an impressive start to Waconia’s program, as most other communities have between three and 10 candidates. Miss Waconia receives a scholarship of $1,000 and Miss Waconia Princess receives of scholarship of $500. As of July 19, with Haler’s crowning as 2014 Aquatennial Princess, Rosenau assumed the role of Miss Waconia.
“We couldn’t be more proud of how great a job these young women have done representing the city of Waconia throughout the last 10 months,” committee member Ashleigh Moelter said.
For Haler, it has been a family tradition to do pageants, as her two older sisters were both Carver County dairy princess finalists. She was also looking for scholarships for college in the fall. But perhaps the biggest reason that Haler became a candidate was her desire to represent Waconia. In a senior seminar class, Haler and her group members were finding pros and cons of Waconia, looking for ways to improve the community through a service project.
“Our group had come up with this incredibly long list of pros and maybe two small notes with our cons,” Haler described, noting that she has enjoyed the volunteer aspect of being Miss Waconia.
Haler’s best friend Jackie O’Konek also added that she does get noticed around the community.
“All of my neighbors know that she is my best friend, and they just think that it is so cool that a girl can represent Waconia so well,” she said.
During the candidacy for Miss Waconia, it was mentioned that the candidates could attend the Minneapolis Aquatennial, a 10-day festival held annually during the third week of July.
To attend Aquatennial week, the winners from local communities pay a $925 entrance fee, which pays for food, housing and transportation during the week. The candidates then fill out a variety of applications that ask questions that are later judged. From the moment the candidates arrived at the hotel on Sunday, July 14, they were being judged. The only time they could not be judged was on their candidate floors.
“Being in your room is your relax time,” said Haler, adding that it was a relaxed environment and that she never felt like she was being watched.
Every morning from Monday through Thursday, the candidates had a different interview, which included panels, round robin questions, impromptu speeches and fishbowl questions from other community candidates. A final coronation speech was given to the judges on Thursday and then the candidates waited for the judges’ decision. According to the program website, “the candidates are judged during the candidate program on a variety of criterion including their poise, professionalism, public speaking ability, current and future goals, education and co-curricular/extra curricular activities.”
On Friday, July 19, Haler was crowned one of the two Aquatennial Princesses who are beneath a Queen of the Lakes, who is represented this year by former Miss Annandale Riley Bruns.
Throughout the next year, Haler, the other princess and the queen will make a combined 300 appearances around Minnesota and the nation. The two princesses and the queen will make trips to Wisconsin and Canada, while the Queen of the Lakes alone will visit the Rose Bowl parade in California and will also make trips to San Antonio and Georgia. Each princess is designated a captain and the queen is designated a commodore for supervision during appearances and travel.
The royal family’s most recent appearance was at the Twins game on Tuesday for “Just Sparkle” night, and they will be attending a parade in St. Anthony on Friday. The events and appearances are scheduled until Dec. 7. Every weekend of September, Haler’s first month of college at the University of Minnesota, has a planned event, most of which last two days. Haler considers herself disciplined and does not fear the month’s busy schedule. She is double majoring in Spanish and animal science.
Apart from the scholarship money given to the royalty, which is currently $3,000 for princesses and $4,000 for the queen, and a required wardrobe, the women are given gifts from visiting dignitary.
“We are just showered with love and gifts and anything else you could possibly imagine. We took a horse drawn carriage through Minneapolis. You just don’t know what to do with yourself,” Haler explained.
Despite this, Haler would do it all for free. “Not only are you traveling and meeting with people, but you are practicing your interview skills,” she said. “You just have the opportunity of a lifetime.”
She emphasized that it is something that every 18 to 23-year-old should consider.
Haler feels very indebted to all of her Aquatennial sponsors – Waconia West Carver Rotary, Koch Bus Services, Waconia Farm Supply, Hultgren Hoxie & Waki Orthodontics, Waconia Veterinary Clinic, Yetzer’s, Chestnut Realty, WaCo Repair, and her parents.
“Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “All I can give them is my most sincere thank you.”
The Miss Waconia Scholarship Program is now accepting applications for the 2013-14 program. Candidates must be 18 by July 1, 2014 and can be no older than 23. Anyone interested should contact candidate director Melanie Hagen at [email protected]
Contact Greta Sowles at [email protected]