Wednesday, October 19, 2016

" The Animal Humane Society's Walk for Animals" By Ava Ernst

The Animal Humane Society’s Walk for Animals was an AWESOME experience.  For a few months leading up to the Walk, my family and I raised money for this wonderful cause. While we didn’t quite reach our goal of $1,000, I AM proud to say we raised $750 which qualified us for the “Top Walker” category.  The evening before the event, we drove to the AHS headquarters in Golden Valley to turn in the money we had raised. We had no idea that we had earned prizes for our fundraising efforts so that was a fun surprise!  We received a cute dog bowl, a cooler, a special t-shirt, and a neat zip-up fleece that says “Animal Humane Society” on it which has become one of my favorite jackets.  

It was so nice to have my family with me for this wonderful event!

The morning of the Walk, my mom, dad, and I got ready and then drove over to my grandparents’ house to pick them up because they were participating with us.  We also brought our dog Toots. I felt bad because we weren’t able to bring our other dog, a lovable black lab “Bear" because he was too old to walk that far (he was 15.5 at the time).  A fun fact about Bear:  we adopted him from AHS in December 2014 at the ripe old age of 13.  Senior dogs are THE BEST!

It was fun to share this experience with my fellow queens Kelly and Sabrina!
Once we arrived, we met up with my sister queens Kelly Brown (Miss Teen MN International 2016) and Sabrina Astar (Miss MN International 2016).  I had invited them to participate in the Walk and it was fun to make our first appearance together.  We spent some time walking around and saw so many types of animals—even bunnies in a stroller and a HUGE tortoise. There were so many people there to fundraise and help all animals which was really neat to see.  I especially enjoyed seeing so many different dog breeds, from teacup-sized dogs to mutts to St. Bernards and everything in between.

Meeting fellow walkers and sharing stories about our rescue animals was a highlight of the day!
Finally, it was time for the Walk to start!  As we walked, we saw even more animals and even saw a pirate ship with a Weimaraner dog playing the part of Jack Sparrow!  We only walked for about half the walk because Toots was getting tired (basset hounds have very short legs so that was a lot of walking for her).  
A big old tortoise even came to the Walk!

These people had their bunnies participate in the Walk by pushing them in a stroller!
After the Walk, my family decided to go to one of our favorite places “Psycho Suzis” for lunch because they allow dogs out on the patio.  A lot of the other walkers had the same idea so it was fun to see so many dogs eating outside with their owners.  It was the perfect ending to a great walk and I can’t WAIT to do it again next year!  

Ava Ernst
Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota 2016

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Rallying for the cause" by Morgan Bredde

As I mentioned in my last blog, I've come across many new opportunities to speak about things that I find important and that I feel like others should find important as well. Because I work with organizations through my platform that directly benefit children and families living with or having passed away from terminal conditions, I feel like it is my responsibility to speak on behalf of those who's voices cannot carry these conversations for themselves.

I was honored to speak at a volunteer rally for Crescent Cove this month. Here, volunteers, friends, families and distant supporters were able to catch up on progress, connect with fellow supporters, and discuss our next steps (over some of the yummiest tacos ever, I might add!). Katie, the founder, invited me to say a few words after everyone had introduce themselves. Now if you know me, I am not a woman of few words! Once I get on my soapbox, it needs to fall through in order to get me off of it.

It was Suzanne Gwynn of Ladybug House in Seattle (another incredible woman seeking the support to build a hospice home for children in Washington- that encouraged me to share my story. Often times I get so wrapped up in the stories of families who live this every day that I forget that I have a  story of my own. Being able to share the sacred role of a friend who is actively losing a friend is healing. For years I didn't know what to do with the words in my heart and just let them sit dormant and gather dust. It was so worth it seeing my words connect with volunteers who were still unsure of why they were sitting there that night or what they were getting involved in.

This is my encouragement to those reading this that have something to say but don't know what to say, how to say it, or even who to say it to. Just speak. There are so many people who wish they had the voice, the opportunity or even the courage to do it. Take a chance and know your words could change the world.


Speak loudly.


Making the minutes count,



To learn more about Crescent Cove, visit

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"Use your Voice" By Morgan Bredde


This past month has been full of speaking opportunities for me. I never really considered myself much of a speaker until this year. Growing up, I was always the kid who talked too much in class. Luckily, it seems to have paid off through my time with theatre and pageantry.


As Mrs. Minnesota, you must be willing and capable to command an audience of limitless numbers in order to educate, inspire, and occasionally entertain those in attendance. Since I'm not inherently funny, I rend to stick to education and inspiration.


I was invited to speak to Macy's at Mall of America on behalf of the American Heart Association. This was unique because I was speaking directly to employees who were participating in a fundraiser for AHA as well as 8 other local charities. The cool part about this specific fundraiser is that it directly benefitted our chapter rather than the national organization. Employees gathered before store-opening on a Sunday morning and were so kind and welcoming. Being able to connect with strangers joined together on a mission was eye opening. Some people knew their numbers, some didn't. Some people knew risk factors and facts, some knew none at all. But every single person knew someone affected by heart disease. Incredible, isn't it?


One employee was kind enough to share her personal experience with heart disease and I'm so thankful she did. You could see the compassion building in the body language of her coworkers around her and I'm positive that she was able to build deeper connections with those present that morning.


At the time I had visited, they were only a week into the fundraiser and had already raised just shy of ten thousand dollars! Even though it was their "job" to ask customers to participate, that number alone shows me that each employee cared enough to make sure they could do their part to raise money.



I look forward to coming back in February and working with even more employees and interacting with customers while raising funds and awareness. Thank you, Macy's!



Making the minutes count,



Ps- do you know your numbers? If not, log onto

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"My experience at the pageant" By Ava Ernst

Back in February, I told my mom I really wanted to compete in a pageant. My mom said I had to wait until I was 13-years-old because she feels that is the earliest young girls should compete. I begged and begged her but she said no. But then an opportunity came up that made her change her mind—kind of.

With my Proud parents after the pageant

I should mention that my mom was Mrs. Minnesota International 2003 and is now a pageant coach, and she has remained close with the MN International director Allison Stavrakis. Allison had mentioned that the one pre-teen contestant signed up for the pageant had decided to drop out, so she was going to cancel the pre-teen division. My mom thought this might be a good way to see if I really liked this whole pageant thing without actually breaking her rule of making me wait until I was 13 to compete. She asked me if I would be interested and I was like “DEFINITELY!” My mom told me I would have to still go on stage and “compete” alongside the teens in all of the categories but that I wouldn’t actually be competing against any other pre-teens. In my eyes that was better than nothing so I said “Let’s do this!”      


I have seen my mom coach pageant clients but I myself had never done anything like this. My mom taught me how to do a pageant walk, pose, and stage presence. I have always loved the stage! I also memorized and practiced my 30-second platform speech about my platform, “Don’t Shop—ADOPT!”. We had fun choosing my wardrobe, getting headshots, and preparing for the big weekend.


Finally pageant weekend arrived! All day at school on Friday, I couldn’t wait for my mom to pick me up. As you might guess, I was very excited!  After all, this was my very first pageant. I just couldn’t wait to get started!


After hours of waiting, school was over and my mom and I were ready to go. In a half an hour we arrived at the hotel.  During the drive there, I noticed that my throat was starting to hurt a little bit.  I didn’t pay much attention to it because I was so excited.


When we arrived at the Holiday Inn, my mom’s teen client Kelly Brown (now Miss Teen MN International 2016) was waiting for us since we were giving her a ride. We went up to our room to drop our stuff off and then we headed over to the Wellstone Center for Orientation.


During Orientation, we all introduced ourselves and talked a little bit about our platforms. The reigning queens were introduced and it was fun to see some former queens in attendance, including my mom! Then we had our first rehearsal where we learned our stage placements and practiced walking to our spots on stage. It was a lot of fun but my throat was starting to hurt even more. After rehearsal, we went back to the hotel and I went to sleep right away because I had a big day ahead!

With the outgoing titleholder Lillie Imm after Interview
The next day competition started! I was extra excited because this morning I had my interview! I got my hair and makeup done which was really fun. The interview competition was my favorite part of the whole weekend because I got to meet new people! It was soooooo much fun just getting to know all the judges and share my story and my platform with them!  Since I was the only Pre-Teen contestant, I interviewed alongside the Teen contestants.  I later found out that I got the second highest score in Interview after the eventual Teen winner, Kelly Brown.  So I am pretty proud of that!
Answering my on-stage question about my platform "Don't Shop-Adopt!"

After interview was over, we headed to the theater for more rehearsals. We practiced fun fashion wear, evening gown, and on-stage questions. It was also very fun spending time with the outgoing titleholder Lilly Imm during down time. We had lots of fun together and had Subway for lunch which was provided by the pageant.

Finally it was time for the pageant! Surprisingly, I wasn’t very nervous but rather very excited. It was sooooo much fun. First we introduced ourselves and the city or county we represented. Then we each gave our platform speech and answered a question about our platform. I felt very confident with my answer. I later found out I had the highest score in that area (even including the Teens). So I am probably more proud of that than anything else during pageant weekend since that is what this pageant is all about—platform!

Modeling my Fun Fashion wear outfit from the Pageant Shop!

Next we competed in fun fashion wear—I was contestant #1! My fun fashion outfit was rhinestoned neon pink with a black belt and ruffled skirt. I just love it. Lastly, we competed in evening gown. I felt like a princess! The outgoing queens gave their farewells and some special awards were given out.
Modeling my Evening Gown. Even though I had strep Throat, I still felt like a princess!

Next it was time for the crowning. It was so fun having that crowning moment. I could hear my family cheering for me in the audience. After I was crowned, the Teen division was up and I was really hoping my mom’s client Kelly would win—and she did! It was really fun to see Kelly get crowned. Next up were the Miss contestants. My mom didn’t have any clients competing in that division but I was so happy to see Sabrina Astar get crowned! She was so nice to me all weekend. Then in the Mrs division, Morgan Bredde won and she is so beautiful and nice. All of my pageant sisters are so sweet and kind.
My Crowning Moment!

With my new sister Queens moments after the crowning !

After the pageant, we had the Coronation Party where some more special awards were given out and cake was served. The outgoing queens introduced us and we each said a few words. By this time of night, my throat was killing me and really starting to hurt. The next day, my parents took me to Urgent Care and it turned out I had strep throat all weekend and we didn’t know it! No wonder I felt so rotten. But I am glad I pushed through it because it such a wonderful weekend.

Saying a few words at the Coronation Party!

I am so happy I tried this! It is definitely something I want to do again once I turn 13. My first pageant was truly amazing. Special thanks to Allison Stavrakis and the rest of the pageant staff for treating us so well, and also to the sponsors of the pageant for the wonderful prize package. I can’t wait to see what this year holds and I am so honored to be your Miss MN Pre-Teen International 2016!  

Ava Ernst    (photos by Paula Preston)

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Polo Classic Event for the American Heart Association" By Kelly Brown

Out of the events I done throughout my reign, one in particular stands out amongst the others. That event was the Polo Classic Event for the American Heart Association. Here I was able to support the national platform “Go Red for Women”. Not only was a volunteering my time to support, but here I got the opportunity to help raise money! 


My friend and I arrived as a team and got the opportunity to venture the grounds communicating with people about the raffle tickets we were selling. Each individual who purchased a ticket got the chance to win prizes as well as help out the proceeds that all went to the American Heart Association. A wide majority of them were very supportive of the cause! My friend and I as a team raised over two hundred dollars in just over a couple hours.

Not only was it fun raising money and awareness, but it was a blast to look at many cool cars and watch the game of Polo! Old fashioned cars were lined up amongst the field-one even reminded me of Herby and had my lucky number 3 on it! We got to wear super fun Kentucky Derby style hats which made it a ton a fun. I also got to watch many people model the fun hats they wore. It was a great experience full of laughs and smiles!

 Miss Teen Minnesota 2017
Kelly Brown

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Fashion show fun! "by Sabrina Astar


From August 16th to the 18th my sister queen, Kelly, and I had the most amazing opportunity to emcee at the Maple Grove Community and Recreation Center for their annual Back to School fashion show and their senior fashion show. It was such a fun appearance that will stick with both of us for the rest of our lives.

On the 16th Kelly and I were able to attend the rehearsal for the Back to School fashion show that would take place the very next day. During this practice we butchered names and were corrected frequently on how to pronounce names correctly so that on the day of the show we would be completely professional and the show would go smoothly. This was also the time when we got the opportunity to officially meet the models and talk to them about how to have good stage presence. Kelly and I even walked the catwalk ourselves to not only lighten the mood, but also to make the models feel more comfortable on stage. This part of the process was a blast, we really got to connect with the students modeling and got to learn a little about them before they hit the stage for “show time”.

We headed to the show to next day with excitement to see the models all dressed up! One thing that was very unique was that each model got to pick her own outfit from whatever store she wanted at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove. Each outfit was personalized and it was awesome to see what each model picked to showcase. Kelly and I were continuously stating how we wanted to go shopping afterward to try and replicate some of the outfit choices. The show went seamlessly that night and we both felt like each model left the Community Center with a little more confidence then when they came in that day!

On our last day Kelly and I emceed the senior fashion show. This show was nothing short of a goodtime and a lot of fun. The seniors were so awesome to work with and had so much style on stage. Many of the models were cracking jokes and giggling on stage which gave the show such a lighthearted and relaxed vibe. It was a great way to end our time at the Maple Grove Community Center!

I want to give a big “thank you” to the Maple Grove Community Center and Recreation Department for letting Kelly and I be a part of such a fun event! I hope that future queens get this experience because it was nothing short of amazing!

Miss Minnesota International

Sabrina Astar


"My Mrs. International experience!" By Morgan Bredde

This is the first entry in a three-part series about my Mrs. International experience!

First up, my preparations!


I worked with an incredible team to get ready. From Cheri Kennedy and her amazing mock interview judges, Sarah Moses for her keen eye for my wardrobe, Gaspar Cruz for my killer gown, Suzy Bootz for her marketing plan and mental preparation, Dee Henderson and her body contouring sponsorship, Meg Junker of Core Meals for my detailed meal plan and prep, and the ever-so dedicated Adam Spiker for my fitness prep. Let’s not forget my wonderful husband and supportive mom and family. I couldn’t have done this without any of them.



I was most nervous about fitness as I was only 6 months postpartum by the time the pageant actually hit. The neat thing was that my fitness preliminary would hit exactly 5 months after I started training with Adam. I am so proud to say that I was able to lose 70 pounds (none of which was baby weight—I lost 15 pounds during my second pregnancy) in that short frame, gained a great deal of lean muscle mass, and dropped my body fat from 21% to a very lean 13%! Adam and the community support at Vault Fitness kept me going as I reached for my goals and I am so happy to continue working under his guidance and fun sessions! Meg of Core Meals measured and calculated my macros to ensure that everything I was eating was fueling me for my workouts and helping me keep my goal in mind while I made heart-healthy choices. Through Dee’s sponsorship, I was able to smooth any wrinkles in my skin and reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Her staff is welcoming, knowledgeable, and so much fun to be around! It is still so surreal to think that I won fitness!

Cheri and I had been working together since I was pregnant with Blayre. Talk about a Cinderella story! I was around 200 pounds, with bright blue and purple hair, and a desperate need to combat post and antepartum depression. We spent countless hours together, she wiped many tears, celebrated all my victories (no matter how small), held my babies, cheered me up and on and always reminded me that I was her Mrs. International. We are just getting started, but I know she is forever a friend. Every Tuesday, we had a mock interview session with her outstanding judges: Marcia, Gerri, and Dennis. They nipped all my bad habits in the bud and polished my words until they shone my heart from within. I am a notorious speed-talker, so I always challenged myself to slow down—it never really did though!

Sarah Moses is a genius. Point blank, period. Her stock is amazing, but never once did I feel like she was more focused on a sale than just dressing me to be as confident as I could be. Even with so many things going on, she went above and beyond to make sure I had everything I needed to make an impression. She also worked with the amazing talent, Gaspar, to design my dream gown. It was exactly what I pictured and then some, and Gaspar was able to make magic happen on the tightest of deadlines and was so kind to deliver my gown in person AND alter it on me! Not only was I dressed in a gorgeous gown (covered in vintage, hard to find stones), I was able to walk confidently to my dreams knowing I wouldn’t trip!

Lastly, Suzy Bootz was such a treasure for me. Being able to speak to a former Mrs. International a couple times every month was almost like talking to a celebrity. Here was a woman who had held my dream job for a year and was now helping me on my journey to hold it for myself. She calmed so many fears of mine. I know how draining it must be to answer the same questions over and over, but she did so and did it with a smile and a warm heart. Her husband owns hospice homes, so you can imagine how much of a blessing it was to hear her touched by my platform and to watch her become passionate about it as well! Suzy had this reminder for me, at first, it was a phrase used to center me in my purpose. She would ask me: “Morgan, when you’re sitting on the couch with Oprah during her life class, and she asks you ‘What do you know?’, what will you tell her? How did you get here?”. I pondered this so often, and always wondered what exactly I would say. But after a particularly scary grapple with pre-pageant anxiety about failure, she found the one sentence that calmed all fears. She said: There was a 1st runner up to Miss USA one time. She might not have won, but tell me—do you know who Halle Berry was first runner up to? No? Then remember Halle Berry.” See, losing is not always failing, it’s making room for different successes. So as my name was called for third runner up, I was not upset. Disappointed? Sure! Of course! But I remembered Halle and walked with my head held high. You haven’t seen the last of me, in fact, I am just getting started.



Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, and my special blog where my husband gets his very own blog dedicated to his immeasurable support of my pursuit of the crown!



Making the minutes count,



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“If you’re a California girl, how on earth did you wind up in the frozen tundra?!” by Morgan Bredde

A lot of people ask: “If you’re a California girl, how on earth did you wind up in the frozen tundra?!” My mother landed a job at Concordia University in January of 1996. We moved from SoCal to St. Paul in the freezing cold…without winter coats (I don’t think they even sold them in California at the time). Since our initial move, I have fallen deeply in love with Minnesota and its lack of seasons.


I currently reside in Woodbury, it’s a booming suburb with a small-community feel. Fun fact: There are 3 Mrs. Minnesota Internationals living in Woodbury. I guess you could call us a lucky city!


There are a few things everyone should know about MN, so I have separated it by category: best food, best attraction, my favorite thing about Minnesota, and we must talk about the weather (aka, snow!)

The best food: I am OBSESSED with the food from Holy Land located in Midtown Global Market. They have the best attitudes in addition to the best food. When I was pregnant with Blayre, we stopped for the first time. I was in heaven! The crispiest fries, the most flavorful meats, the Holy Land sauce alone is worth the trek downtown. The best part is definitely the people who work there. They played with Beau and treated him to his own plate of fries. We will always make a trip to see them when in the area. They were also recently featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so you know they’re yummy!


The best attraction would have to be the Mall of America. It’s really what we’re known for. Besides the hundreds of shops and eateries, it features two hotels, one aquarium, one theme park, and a movie theatre! There’s truly something for everyone!



My personal favorite part of Minnesota is the theatre district! Minneapolis is rich in theatre opportunities, many of which I have partaken in since I was a very little girl. Besides our diverse culture and fast-paced city vibe, the theatre district is how we earned our nick name “The Mini-Apple” as it reminds many of New York City! You can catch Broadway shows and local treasures year-round.

Lastly, Minnesota is notorious for its weather. The fact that we actually had -57-degree weather makes me feel like I’m living amongst the brave researchers in Antarctica. People always wonder how we handle it and why we would choose to live in a place that stocks winter gear year-round…but quite honestly, I’m that girl that gets thrilled for the first snowfall. There is something incredibly magical about a snow-covered yard for Christmas, and I love the way it glitters underneath the lights on our house. I do love a good sunny vacation, but I would take blizzards and boots over bugs and sunburns any day!



I am proud to call Minnesota my home state and to represent it to the fullest this year!


Making the minutes count,
Mrs. Minnesota 2016
Morgan Bredde

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

" 1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days" by Kelly Brown

 1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days. That is the time I was so generously granted to make a mark with my platform with the International pageant by my side. If one was to ask me before I was crowned  what I plan to do with my platform throughout the year, my response would be: “To live, breath, and promote it”. Now that time has passed, I am more able to not only tell you more specifically what I plan to do, but what I HAVE done. 

Throughout my year as your Miss Teen Minnesota International, I aspire to raise awareness for people with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays because they have NO boundaries and therefore needs to be shared. I will continue sharing my brothers’ story in hopes that someday people will understand that disability does not mean inability! My goal will continue to be protecting the rights of those with disabilities and supporting their inclusion and participation in our community. 

I have and will continue to dedicate my time and effort to organizations such as The Arc, Project Explore, Summer Olympics, and others aiming to support people and their families. I have events approaching in the fall with Project Explore that includes hanging out with these individuals! I have volunteered at the Summer Olympics which included meeting many amazing people and having fun, taking pictures, and directing people around. Many more times like this are to come for the remainder of my reign.

Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown

Friday, August 26, 2016

"Prelude to…Oh no!" by Morgan Bredde


As a Go Red for Women ambassador, we are committed to raising awareness and funds throughout the year. I am extremely passionate about events and coordinating my love of celebrating with my unwavering need to educate women on ways to prevent heart disease. One of my favorite appearances thus far was the Prelude to Polo dinner at renowned celebrity artist, Anthony Whelihan’s home.


Sabrina, Kelly and myself decided to attend together and I’m so glad we did. With nationals coming around the corner, it was so nice to check in and reconnect with them both as we had been so busy with preparations. Our duties ranged from greeter, to information centers and I was grateful that we had each other to keep company in between guests arriving.


I had been able to meet our speaker for the evening on behalf of the American Heart Association, and her story was incredible. She survived a heart transplant and now served as a life-saving resource for other women and people affected by heart disease. It is such an honor being able to hear her talk at our meetings, but being able to witness her move other people with her words is so inspiring. Always use your voice for the greater good!


I will never forget taking a photo with the polo horse that made an appearance. I absolutely do  not mess with horses. They’re huge and I have no shame admitting that they terrify me. But of course, I’m still living my “year without fear”, so I took a picture with him. 1000% NOPE. I said hello, he said “Winnie Neigh Neigh” and then moved a little too quickly for me. Naturally that was one of the photos captured by the event photographers.


After collecting myself again, we had the opportunity to mingle with guests during a fabulous dinner about our upcoming year, our platforms, and the most incredible macaroni and cheese we were all shoveling on our plates. With the fitness competition only a couple weeks away, I opted to only 2 trips to the heaping bowl of cheesy blessings, but made a mental note about the many minutes I would need to spend doing cardio to work off the food I just ate.


Perhaps the coolest part of the evening was the performer who entertained us with wheeling around the guests in a large steel wheel and then lit his shoes on fire and dazzled us as the evening came to an end. It was so nice to see so many people come together to support our fight against heart disease in such a fashionable, unique manner. Anthony has such gorgeous art and was generous to donate the official painting of the Polo Classic to a raffle ticket winner where all the proceeds directly benefitted our chapter of the American Heart Association!


Even if horses aren’t my thing, I would do it one hundred times over just knowing this event helped save lives.


Making the minutes count,