Thursday, July 17, 2014

By Gabby Taylor

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Warrior Dash 5k in Afton, MN. My corporate sponsor Anytime Fitness was a major contributor to this particular run. I was proud to throw on my tennis shoes and sash to attend!


            The Warrior Dash is the world’s largest obstacle race series, help on the most rugged terrain in more than 50 locations across the globe. Participants earn their warrior helmet and medal by tackling a fierce 3-4 mile run course and 12 extreme obstacles. All runners have the choice to become a St. Jude Warrior. Pledges raised go towards St. Jude Research Hospital to help children fight their battle with pediatric cancer. To date, globally, the Warrior Dash has raised $9,834,988!
            I enjoyed walking around and mingling with volunteers and race participants alike. There were numerous booths set up, and it was equally as fun as it was informative to visit each and every one. The atmosphere at this event was electric, as people of all backgrounds gathered together for a common cause. I hope to participate in the actual run next year so I can become a Warrior!

            At the Anytime Fitness booth it was my job to encourage the crowd to participate in our activities. We had a variety of prizes that we were handing out, but the most popular item seemed to be our raffle. For our raffle we had two FitBit Flex’s up for grabs! In order to qualify each attendee had to do 50 burpees. For those of you who are unfamiliar with a burpee, it is where you do a push up then jump back into standing position. Throughout the day, thousands of burpees were performed. I have always said the greatest wealth in life will always be health. I am so thankful to be affiliated with such a wonderful corporation that promotes and encourages the overall health and well-being of individuals worldwide.

            I’ve learned that you really never know who you will run into or meet at appearances. It was a great time seeing both familiar faces as well as fresh new ones! As Miss Minnesota International 2014 I genuinely value the people I have met, and look forward to the people I have yet to meet down the road.


Until next time,

Gabby Taylor

Miss Minnesota International 2014

Second Harvest DISH gala and fundraiser


 By Rachel Flynn


Second Harvest; my personal platform-- had their 11th annual DISH gala and fundraiser this year. This fundraiser is Second Harvest’s biggest fundraising event of the year. My friend Mary and I had the pleasure of volunteering for the event. We set 1,100 table settings and helped make gift-bags for all the guests!  The banquet room was absolutely beautiful after everything was prepared and ready to welcome all the guests.  I was very excited that I was able to participate in preparing for the fundraiser, for the second year in a row.
The night of the event, Second Harvest had a silent auction.  They had such an amazing array of wonderful items in the auction, including; sports memorabilia, beautiful jewelry, trips and so many other items that people could bid on.  Throughout the auction, delicious appetizers from local restaurants were served for the attendees to enjoy.  My personal favorite was the pot-sticker dumplings. I may have had more than one!

After the silent auction closed, everyone went into the banquet room to have dessert.  My favorite part of the program was when Rob Zeaske; the CEO of Second Harvest, presented his speech.  Even though I know the Second Harvest story very well, Rob was incredibly inspirational and passionate about Second Harvest and our commitment to help feed Minnesotans throughout the state.  He truly moved my heart deeply.  After Rob’s speech, a professional auctioneer took over for the live-auction portion of the program, and raised over $200,000 in a matter of minutes!  That was something to see!  The entertainment for the evening was an impressionist; Frank Caliendo who was absolutely hilarious.  Mary and I were laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.  By the end of the night, this year’s DISH gala raised in total, over $690,000!  That money will provide over 2.5 million meals for hungry Minnesotans!  I am so honored to be a part of such an amazing organization that is truly making a difference.  I can't wait to help with the DISH gala, again next year!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mistress of Ceremonies for Sebeka

  By Rachel Flynn


This month I had the honor of being invited to be the Mistress of Ceremonies for the 2014 Miss Sebeka Scholarship and Little Miss Sebeka Pageant on June 20th.  Sebeka is a small Minnesota community of 711 people located north-west of Minneapolis, in the Wadena County.  It was very exciting to see meet the residents of Sebeka, and visit this very special community.  Everyone I met was so kind and welcoming to me!



The day before the Pageant, I met with the wonderful director of the Sebeka Pageant; Donna Anderson, and enjoyed a lunch together with her.  Donna then led me a tour of the town before we went to rehearsal to meet the girls competing in the pageant.  At rehearsal, I attended the opening number dance the girls had been rehearsing for months!  It was a lot of fun helping the young ladies with their dance routines.



The day of the pageant interviews, I had the pleasure of meeting with each of the contestants before they went into interview.  I learned more about them as I spoke with each of them before their interview, including helping them calm some of their nerves!  They are truly a wonderful group of young ladies.  The night of the pageant, over half the town attended the pageant! It truly reflected strong community support of the great city of Sebeka.  It is truly something I will never forget.  Thank you to Donna Anderson, and the lovely ladies and girls of Sebeka, for the honor of hosting your pageant. I had such a wonderful time!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Surprise Visit to Sweetwater School

By Gabby Taylor

            Recently, I had the exciting opportunity to surprise a very special class of first grade students on their final day of school! The excitement and energy among these youngsters was truly through the roof. I can recall being their age, and counting down the days until summer vacation. Luckily for these students, that day had finally arrived! After gathering around and watching a slideshow of both pictures and video memories from their first grade year, it was my turn to speak.

            My main focus in meeting with Mrs.Stromme’s class was to emphasize the importance of not only my platform “Sports Safety Education” but also overall recreational safety. Many elementary school children look forward to summer for all the fun activities they get to participate in. Some of these include; swimming, boating, biking, hiking, jumping on trampolines and just being generally more active outdoors in comparison to the winter months. However, with these fun-filled recreational activities does come some rather serious issues. Unfortunately, the subject of far too many news stories include tragic cases of drowning, biking accidents as well as completely unintentional injuries or death to our youth. While the Midwest is home to some of the most beautiful summers, it is extremely important that we educate children at a young age on some tips to have a fun but more importantly safe summer.

            Swimming lessons, helmets, life jackets, trampoline covers, and other basic safety measures were just a few of the things I felt were important to communicate with the students. As Miss Minnesota International 2014 I feel absolutely blessed to have opportunities to share my passion with people of all ages. Although, I must admit these students stole my heart from the moment I walked into their classroom.

            Education and awareness are both incredibly powerful tools, that when properly used can ensure the well-being of generations to come. Together it is my hope that we can share a fun-filled, injury- free summer!


Until next time,

Gabby Taylor

Miss Minnesota International 2014

Timberwolves Bowling for Soup

By Rachel Flynn and Gabby Taylor
                                       On April 6th, I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Bowling for Soup
 Event with my sister queen Gabby Taylor.  We had fun meeting local celebrities, bowling, and playing arcade games!  The event raised 1,916 pounds of food that can provide 1,596 meals to those hungry in MN.  All the food was donated to the Emergency Food Shelf Network.  Thank you Jessica Dereschuk for inviting me to a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, and for holding such a wonderful event! I had an absolute blast!
                        At the Bowling for Soup Event, Gabby and I were also invited by Scott (Skolt) to attend a Timberwolves game with the beautiful Catherine Stanley (Miss MN Teen USA).  The Timberwolves game was very special for me because it was my first basketball game.  We even had the opportunity to meet some of the players and take LOTS of pictures!  Thank you to Scott (Skolt) and his daughter
Jasmine for inviting us to be a part of your very special cheering section!

Rachel Flynn
Miss Teen Minnesota International 2014
                        The Bowling for Soup event put on by the Minnesota Timberwolves was such an exciting event to attend. It was a perfect blend of Rachel’s platform as well as my own. The Emergency
Food Shelf Network took in countless food items as well as monetary donations in the hope to provide meals for the hungry here in our home state of Minnesota! It is always amazing to be surrounded by such passionate and caring individuals. As most of you know “Ending the Hunger Crisis” is Rachel’s platform, while “Sports Safety Prevention” is mine. Between the bowling, professional athletes and Strike out Hunger theme, I can certainly say that Rachel and I were in our element. We were blessed with the opportunity to meet some pretty amazing people during this event including but not limited to both JJ Barea (Timberwolves athlete) and Catherine Stanley (Miss MN Teen USA). We even had the exciting opportunity to be interviewed by Tony Fly for the “On the Fly” show!
                        I will admit among my talents, bowling is not one them. Even with bumpers, I had a difficult time breaking a score of 100. Rachel and I had such an enjoyable time bowling, although it did seem more like a comedy show then a game of bowling. By the time I went home, my stomach muscles were sore from laughter! The arcade games were also equally as entertaining, Rachel definitely is the more talented dancer between the two of us. We found this out rather quickly after I attempted to play a dance step resolution game! I unknowingly had picked the hardest level to play, so moving forward there will be some funny videos to follow this blog posting! One other very special person Rachel and I were blessed to meet was a man named Scott (Skolt) who was dressed in all Timberwolves gear, including face paint and all! Skolt offered us to tickets to the Timberwolves game the very next night. Being a sports fanatic, I couldn’t pass that up.
                        The Timberwolves game was even more fun than I expected. Rachel, Catherine and I attended the game with Skolt, and his daughter Jasmine. Once we arrived at our seats the noisemakers were handed out, along with posters, and some words of advice from the super-fans! We were told to simply, BE LOUD! We did just that, and the wolves were later lead to win. Before leaving the game, I was able to meet some of the Timberwolves players and even get a few autographs. These athletes are so incredibly gifted and talented at their craft. This is an event that I am so happy I got to be a part of, I look forward to doing more Sports themed appearances down the road. Thank you so much Scott for your generosity, it was an unforgettable experience. I may be biased, but I personally believe that Minnesota is home of some of the best sports teams (Vikings and all)!
Until next time,
Gabby Taylor
Miss Minnesota International 2014

Womanless Pageant

By: Kimberly Stommes and Gabrielle Taylor
Miss MN International 2014 and Mrs. MN International 2014 ready for an exciting evening as a guest and a judge of the LLS Womanless Pageant
 When we were asked to be guests and judge the Womanless Pageant held in Minneapolis as a fundraising event to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, we were honored! Both of us were so glad that we took part in this event because neither of us have laughed so hard in our lives! What made it even more enjoyable, was watching Brad, Miss Minnesota International 2012 Gabby Taylor’s father participate in the event as Anita Workout. Gabby served as her father’s coach in the weeks leading up to the pageant. It certainly served as a fun bonding experience for the father-daughter duo. Gabby thoroughly enjoyed helped ‘Anita’ try on evening gowns at the mall, learn how to walk/pose, and prepare for the talent portion of the competition. Even though ‘Anita Workout’ did not win the crown, it goes without saying that Brad learned a new found respect for what exactly goes into pageant preparation (on a much smaller scale of course)!
The contestants competed in evening gown, fitness wear, and talent. Some were very talented, and some were…very talented at lip singing! It was certainly an entertaining night watching grown, confident family men dressed up as woman strutting their stuff onstage. Aside from the actual pageant itself, there also was a Silent Auction and raffle. The night turned out to be a success for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and everyone in attendance had a wonderful evening of laughter and comedy!   
We were invited to attend this event by Kathy Schwab Matsui who was running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Man & Woman of the Year campaign is a fundraising competition in communities across the United States in which participants vie for the title of Man or Woman of the Year. They raise funds for blood cancer research in honor of local children who are blood cancer survivors. The titles are awarded to the men and women in each community who raise the most funds during the ten-week campaign; the top local fundraisers in the country also win the national titles. (Information from:
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world's largest nonprofit health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. Since 1949, LLS has been dedicated to curing leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. To find out more about LLS, please visit the LLS website:
Miss MN International 2014 and Mrs. MN International 2014 pictured with the Womanless Pageant contestants
Yours truly,
Gabrielle Taylor
Miss Minnesota International 2014
Kimberly Stommes
Mrs. Minnesota International 2014

Meals for Minds

By Rachel Flynn

One of my absolute favorite programs that Second Harvest has is called “Meals for Minds”.  I've been volunteering with this program through Second Harvest for the past two-and-a-half years.  “Meals for Minds” is in a partnership with Target stores.  They coordinate monthly grocery distributions through a mobile food pantry at 10 elementary schools across the Twin Cities.  This last year, Meals for Minds distributed 80 million pounds of food to students across the Twin Cities!  Wow!


On May 14, I volunteered with Meals for Minds at St. Paul School of Music.  I packed fruits and vegetables into five-pound bags to be handed out.  I also helped set up tables to hand out milk, meat, dairy products, and many other items.  These items were all donated from generous local grocery stores.  The students and their families then went through the line and received food.  It’s hard to think about the fact that people my own age don’t have enough food to eat, which is one of the many reasons I’m so thankful that programs like this exist.


                     Each student goes home with 35 to 40 pounds of food to last them the rest of the month.  Second Harvest goes back to each school once a month during the school year.  When volunteering with Meals for Minds, I love talking to the kids and seeing how excited they get when they receive the food.  It's truly a life changing experience.  I feel so blessed to serve such a wonderful community and to be truly making a difference for those in need.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

37th Annual Get in Gear Run

Over 2,000 people gathered at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis on April 26th, to participate in the 37th annual Get in Gear 10k, 5k, 2k, and half-marathon race.  The night before the race, I volunteered handing out bibs to the runners.  This was the ninth year the Get in Gear race has partnered with Second Harvest Heartland food bank supporting them in their mission to end hunger.  Get in Gear matched funds donated by participants up to $10,000 to help Second Harvest.  Participants in the event brought bags of food to be given to Second Harvest, which is one of the nation’s largest, most efficient, and most innovative food banks.  I enjoyed meeting other fellow volunteers and it was truly inspiring to see so many participants running to fight hunger.


             The next day, I got up early to assist at the race.  I started out helping the runners get on the buses that lead to the actual race.  After the race started, I was given the “Prize Patrol” duties.  This was my personal favorite part of the whole weekend!  I got to walk around with a giant bag full of t-shirts, water bottles, hats, socks, etc. to hand out to random people at the race.  It was really fun to see people’s faces when they were given the “prizes.”


              I am so glad that I got to be a part of this super fun event! There were so many wonderful volunteers who really made the experience fun.  If you are looking to join a race next spring or volunteer for one, I highly encourage you to sign up for Get in Gear 2015.  You will have a blast!  I can't wait for next year to do it all over again!  If you’re not a runner but would still like to donate to the cause, feel free to do so here:

 By Rachel Flynn
Miss Teen Minnesota 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

10 Reasons to Enter the International Pageant System

By: Kimberly Stommes


As I make appearances I often get asked the two following questions, “why do girls and women do pageants” and “why do you like the International pageant system?” I thought that writing a list of the top 10 reasons to enter the International pageant system would be very beneficial to many of you thinking of entering this pageant system.


1.       Entering a pageant allows you to gain experience, self-confidence, and to improve your speaking skills. This is extremely helpful in all areas of your life. I use all of the skills that I have learned through pageantry every time I meet someone new, interview for a job, or make an argument in court. (That is only naming a couple of places that I used these highly valuable skills on a daily basis). It is important to realize that you do not have to win the overall title to gain these skills. I learned more about myself and who I wanted to be in the years that I did not win a title.


2.       The girls you compete with become your best friends and your family! You meet amazing girls/woman from all of your state and country and create life-long friendships. I still speak with many of the girls that I have competed with when I was younger! I even had pageant friends as bridesmaids in my wedding!


3.       Joining the International system means that you will need to have a platform (if you do not already have one) that you will speak on throughout your year as a contestant or titleholder. The beautiful thing about the International system is that they open the doors for you to get involved with community organizations that allow you to get more involved with your community, or perhaps even start your own community organization! You have the opportunity and the power to raise awareness for a cause and much more! The possibilities are endless!


4.       The sisterhood that the International pageant system has to offer is out of this world! The moment I was crowned I felt that I had been accepted into this new family and many of the past queens came rushing the stage with gifts and congratulatory comments! Many of them have offered advice to me for nationals and their friendship. The system recognizes past queen and their continued accomplishments in life and their communities.

5.       Pageantry can open the door to the entertainment world for you in the areas of modeling, acting, performing and more! Many contestants and titleholders get the opportunity to speak about their platform throughout their state and nation. Many have become famous, publish books, or book modeling/television jobs. The International system has just announced that the newly crowned national queens will be exclusively signed with a modeling agency!


6.       The International pageant supports women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. In the Mrs. division they really support and showcase the many accomplishments of married women. The multiple roles of wife, mother, professional and community volunteer are recognized and celebrated as they should be! This system truly motivates married women and their families to exemplify traditional family values, and encourages them to make a difference in their communities!


7.       Going shopping for your pageant wardrobe is so much fun! Trying on numerous beautiful gowns and jewelry makes you feel so special! Imagine the fun and glamour of being on stage in an evening gown of your choice! In the Mrs. division it is so much fun to have your husband on stage with you during your special moment in the spotlight! Not many people can say they have experienced something like that before!


8.       The on-stage question about your platform is a unique opportunity for you to share your platform with hundreds of people attending the pageant finale. Even if you only impact the life of one individual listening, it makes all of your hard work worth it! My platform is Drive Out Diabetes which is about raising awareness for diabetes prevention and management. At my state pageant, two things happened: first, an elderly man actually went into diabetic shock during the middle of the pageant. When people were running around backstage trying to figure out what to do for this individual, I was able to offer my advice. The second thing that happened is that situation coupled with my on-stage answers made the audience realize that diabetes is a very serious disease! One individual told me that they did not realize there was not a cure for diabetes and that there are even things at work people can do to try to stay heart-healthy and reduce their risk of developing diabetes!    


9.       Pageantry will change your life! Pageantry changed the person I used to be into the person I am today. I learned so much about myself and who I wanted to be. I learned the importance of setting goals and understanding what it takes to put a plan in action to achieve those goals. I learned so much about life, poise, grace, self-confidence, communication, networking, interview skills, and much, much more! I cannot express enough how much pageantry changed my life, and I know it will do the same for you whether you win a title or not. When I did not win a pageant I know that I still walked away with much more than a title, crown, and sash.


10.   If you are the lucky/blessed one to win your state’s International pageant title, you are in for the ride of your life! You have just won the lottery because you have been given the opportunity to touch the lives of others for a full year! Another wonderful thing about the International system is that they help arrange appearances for you! Many other systems do not offer this to their titleholders.


Please consider entering your state’s International pageant this year! To enter the Teen/Miss/Mrs. Minnesota International pageant, please visit our website for additional information:

Please leave comments as to why you have entered the pageant world, be whatever pageant system you have entered, or why you LOVE the International pageant system!

Yours truly,

Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International  2014


Flint Hills International Children’s Festival

I had the opportunity to be involved with the 14th annual Flint Hills International Children’s Festival presented by Ordway Center for Performing Arts. This is Minnesota’s signature arts celebration for children and families and is one of the largest of its kind in the nation! 25 countries were represented at the event which featured international performances, music, and many tents/stations with fun cultural activities to participate in.

I try to bring my daughter and husband with to as many events as I can because being a Mrs. Minnesota is really about more than crowning an individual, it is about crowning a family. I brought my daughter Ava with to the event. We spent time walking around and visiting the various tents and learning about different cultures. Ava really enjoyed the cultural dances that were performed, especially a tribute to the Vietnamese culture. She enjoyed the face-painting booth (although she preferred to have the paintings done on her arms- and yes, I said “paintings”, plural, because she stood in line a couple of time to get more paintings..haha!)   She also really enjoyed making a butterfly book. The booth was sponsored by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the book she was able to cut out in the shape of a butterfly and write a story about butterflies.

Ava enjoyed visiting the various booths where she learned about 25 different countries across the world!

 After venturing to each of the different tents/stations, Ava and I helped volunteer at the Young Artists Initiative booth. We were able to meet children and families and assisted them in making a fun and easy Bolero game for them to take home. They were anticipating over 1500 visitors! It was a really nice day for the festival! A special thank-you to Krystle Igbo for inviting us to help out at the event!

Yours truly,

Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. Minnesota International 2014