New Willmar Fests Queen of Festivals crowned; 'It means more than I can say'
For three young women, the last day of Willmar Fests ended just like a fairy tale.
Megan Michaelis, 19, was crowned Willmar Fests Queen of Festivals at Saturday's coronation. Also crowned were Shelby Morton, 18, as Aqua Princess; and Ashley Bach, 18, as International Princess.
"It feels unreal," Michaelis said, brushing away tears after the coronation ceremony. "It means more than I can say. I'm really excited for this year."
For Morton, winning the title of Aqua Princess fulfilled a longtime dream."I feel a rush of emotions right now," she said. "Once I calm down, I'll realize I've been looking forward to this for a really long time."
The newly crowned royalty will represent Willmar in various parades, festivals and coronations in surrounding Minnesota communities throughout the year.
The three women will also travel to Aberdeen, S.D., and to Winnipeg, Canada, as ambassadors of Willmar.
Michaelis, as Willmar Fests Queen, will fulfill an additional commitment: She will travel to Minneapolis next summer to compete with roughly 50 other women for the title of Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes. In the past, twelve Willmar queens have gone on to win the Aquatennial.
This year's reigning Willmar Fests Queen of Festivals, Kaitlin Schlegel, will represent Willmar next month at the Aquatennial. She received her official invitation to attend during Saturday's coronation.
Schlegel also gave a farewell speech, thanking community members for their encouragement and support.
"To represent Willmar has been a true honor and blessing, and I absolutely would not take anything back," she said. "My work doesn't end here tonight -- it has just begun."
Fourteen women were candidates for Willmar Fests Queen of Festivals this year, the most the festival has ever had, according to Katie Simenson, coronation chairwoman.
The winners were chosen by a panel of five judges from other festivals who did not know any of the candidates prior to Willmar Fests. The royalty candidates were judged at festival events throughout the week on their smile, confidence and participation with the crowd.
Simenson said the crowning of the royalty is an integral part of Willmar Fests each year.
"The coronation gives these women an opportunity to grow and be involved," said Simenson, a former Aqua Princess herself. "It was great to see all these girls wanting to be a part of this."