Sunday, May 15, 2016

" Meet Miss Minnesota 2016"



I am so proud and honored to have been crowned Miss Minnesota International for 2016. My journey to Miss Minnesota was very unique and I feel so blessed that I get to share with all of you how I got to where I am today.


            I want to start off by sharing my home life with all of you! My father was a corporate executive for much of my 4 older siblings lives which, in turn, caused our family to move frequently while I was very young. Our family has lived in Seattle, Baltimore, Green Bay, and Chicago. just to name a few locations. I myself was actually born in Louisville, Kentucky in the year 1997. When my parents decided to custom build a house of their dreams they finally said “This is it! We are staying here for a while!” It has been almost 10 years since that day and I am thankful that I get to call Minnesota my home. Why do I love Minnesota so much you may ask? I love how in the morning you can be finishing up a Glam Doll Donut while drinking a SpyGirl from Spyhouse coffee and just a short while later be hiking the trails of Minnehaha Park. The diversity of our state is what makes it such a wonderful place to grow up.


            My hometown of Hastings is just about 30 minutes away from Saint Paul, our states capital. This is the place where I really found out who I am and the what kind of persons I want to be. Throughout high school I did a variety of activities; Volleyball, Younglife, show choir, theater, Student Council, Class Officers, Link Crew, Youth Ambassadors and Peer Tutoring were among my favorites. Links below are to see me in action participating in some of these extracurricular activities. ( Go to 10:50, Look for the tall sassy girl in the middle) ( Go to 44:50, Look for Sharpay)


            Many people would ask me why I did so much at such a young age and truthfully it was because I loved everything. I loved being a performer just as much as I loved being a middle blocker. I think that being so involved really has made me such a well-rounded person today. When pageants came into the picture I was more than excited to give it my all.


The Miss Minnesota Pageant was the first pageant I had ever competed in and I am beyond blessed to have taken home the crown. It was not luck that got me to where I am today, it was hard-work, focus, and determination. I am very excited to represent Minnesota proudly at the Miss International Pageant in July and I know that my past experiences will help me to be the perfect candidate to take home the International title.


 Your Miss Minnesota International 2016
Sabrina Astar


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

" About Me" Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota 2016

Photo by Paula Preston

Hi everyone! I’m Ava Ernst and very excited to be your new Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota International 2016! I love animals, downhill skiing, being a member of the North Suburban Makos swim team, and all things Star Wars! I am an only child and live with my mom, dad, and pets in the northern suburbs of St. Paul.  Speaking of my mom, she was Mrs. Minnesota International 2003! In fact, she crowned her successor when she was pregnant with me!

My platform is “Don’t Shop… ADOPT!” and I am dedicated to helping rescue animals find homes. In my family, we have rescued many pets, such as our now 15-year-old black lab Bear who we got from the Animal Humane Society at the age of 13 after his owner died. We also rescued our 3-legged cat named Tippy who sadly passed away last spring. My mom helped my grandparents find a rescue English bulldog named Sweetie who is just a sweetheart. She was a breeder dog from a horrible puppy mill but now she is pampered and loved every day instead of being locked up in a cramped, tiny cage. As you can probably tell, this is a cause I feel very strongly about!   

Photo by Crowning Images
I am a huge Star Wars fan and have loved the movies for as long as I can remember.  My mom still had her Star Wars toys from when she was a little girl but she gave them to me which was pretty cool. My family and I waited three hours in line just to get good seats on opening day of “Star Wars - The Force Awakens!” I love the lead character Rey because she proves that average girls can be heroes no matter what background they come from. 


Competitive swimming is a big part of my life. I am a member of the Makos swim team. The team is so organized and the drills make me feel more confident when I compete in swim meets.  As much as I love swimming, downhill skiing is my very favorite sport in the world. For the past three years, I have skied with the Otto Hollaus Ski Club each Sunday. We go to various local ski hills and have terrific instructors. This past January, my family and I took a ski trip to Whistler, British Columbia which was where the 2010 Winter Olympics took place.  Last year, we skied in Crested Butte, CO which was a great trip.  I hope we go somewhere fun next winter! 


I am also on basketball and volleyball teams in the summer, and play golf and tennis in the summer and also go to horse camp.  I used to play soccer but am hoping to take riding lessons instead. 

 Music is my passion. I have played guitar since the age of 7 and I love to sit around the campfire at our cabin and play along with my mom and grandpa! My guitar instructor Todd is so fun and I have even played (and sang!) in front of my whole school for a talent show. I recently started taking voice lessons with recording artist Keri Noble and I am learning so much from her. 

Photo by Crowning Images

My family is so kind to me and I am so lucky to have such loving parents. My mom always volunteers to take time out of her day to help out at any track meets of mine or bring me to my swim practices. And my dad smokes such delicious meat (he loves to watch cooking shows) and loves to take me fishing!  My parents helped and supported me all the way in this pageant and I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for their support. I love my family and the neighborhood I live in. My grandparents live just one mile from us and my aunt and uncle live three miles from us—we have a big family dinner every Tuesday night and I love having my family so close. 


I am so excited for this year!  Next week I will be making my second appearance at the Psycho Suzis’ Puppy Pageant which will be a blast. Thank you so much for reading and make sure to read my next blog coming soon!  Have an awesome day!


Ava Ernst

Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota International 2016





Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Meet Miss Teen Minnesota 2016"

My name is Kelly Brown and I am an 18 year old from Inver Grove Heights, MN! I have recently been crowned as Miss Teen MN International and am so excited to continue my endeavor this year! I grew up in a  family as the youngest of 4 siblings. I have two kind-hearted brothers as well as one fun and bubbly older sister! I genuinely enjoy being the youngest because the youngest is always the favorite, of course! 
On my free time I volunteer my hours to my high school’s varsity lacrosse team as a student athletic trainer. I really enjoy doing this as it keeps me very busy after school and on game days and is also a great learning experience! I also partake in my school’s homecoming and prom committees by helping take photos and create decorations. It's truly a blast! It's a great way to help out the school and give back to them.
The most important things in my life are my friends and family. You can catch me out and about with my friends at sporting events or at the mall on the weekends! On weekdays, I appreciate relaxing with my family and watching movies! My favorite movie of all time is “The Outsiders”, but I definitely enjoyed the book a bit more!
This year I will be graduating from Simley High School. I have committed to the University of Minnesota to further my education! I am so grateful for this because it has always been my dream school! I cannot wait for this following year!

Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Meet Mrs. Minnesota 2016"

(picture by Donna Bergh)

It is absolutely a dream that I am sitting here and introducing myself as the 2016 Mrs. Minnesota International! Knowing that this year will fly by, I wanted to take a few moments to tell you a bit about me and my family.


I was born a California girl through and through, but my mother moved us from sunny southern California to freezing Minnesota…in January…with no knowledge of what winter coats were and why they were needed. Boy did we learn! Over the course of my childhood and on through my adult life, I fell into a deep love with Minnesota and cannot express my excitement on once again representing it for an entire year.


I attended the University of Missouri-Columbia (M-I-Z!) for theatre and fashion merchandising. I loved my time there as I was heavily involved on campus with everything from Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity to providing safe rides through a free-ride program dedicated to improving campus security. I found that my heart was outside of Missouri, so I applied and was 1 of 20 applicants selected to intern with Walt Disney World’s “Merchentainment” program out of 65,000+ applicants. While hundreds of thousands of families travel to a Disney park every year for its magic—I can honestly say that for me, my dreams came true much like they would in a fairytale.


I met my husband Kim Erik while shopping for my favorite thing—groceries! As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a tad clumsy and anything that could go wrong, will. Naturally, I rammed into him with my shopping cart and was so worried I had injured him that I gave him my phone number (like you would with a car accident…). He called me and asked me to dinner instead and the rest is history!

(Photo by Brittany Link Photography)

We now are the parents of two perfect little boys: Beau (1) and Blayre (pronounced ‘Blair’, 3 months). They are exactly 369 days apart and we wouldn’t have our “Irish Twins” any other way! They are truly little miracle babies as I have suffered from Endometriosis since age 15. We can be found singing any and all songs from “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and speaking baby-talk fluently.

(Beau (L) Blayre (R))

Having competed in pageants for 12 years now, I am excited and ready to represent the greatest (sorry, California!) state in the nation at Mrs. International in just a little over 10 weeks! I hope you’ll join me throughout my reign and continue to support women of all ages and walks of life who are making a difference through pageantry.


With love,

Morgan Bredde

Mrs. Minnesota International 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Farewell & Thank you" By Kate Howe

For my final blog post, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite memories and parts of my thank you letter.  I have so many memories from this past year that will always hold a special place in my heart.  I also had a huge team that made this year possible.   

Some of the sweetest memories I have start back to the night of being crowned Mrs. Minnesota International.  They way my family and friends reacted was priceless.  They have given me so much love and support throughout this year.  When you win, you don’t just bring home the crown for yourself.  You bring it home to your family, friends, “sisters’ and platform.  I absolutely loved that my Grandma got to tell all of her friends at her community living center about the pageant and showed off pictures.  Hearing about that melted my heart as much as seeing the smiles on my niece’s faces when they rode in a parade with me or the time my little two year old said how beautiful I looked in a pageant dress.  Life doesn’t get much sweeter than that. 

Delivering books with Reada the Reading Frog and realizing my actions were creating change in children living in poverty created a lasting impression.  Visiting my non-profit, First Book, in Washington D.C. and giving their executive staff my fundraising money along with my corporate sponsorships really put my year in perspective and sealed it with a bow.  I could go on and on about all the incredible people I met or the amazing organizations I was able to support, but I have so many people to thank for this year. 

Thank you Allison and Richard Stavrakis for this incredible opportunity.  To Cheri Kennedy and Donnell Rank, thank you for being my pageant coaches and helping make my dream come true.  Thank you to Suzy Bootz for showing me the beautiful side of pageantry.  Thank you mock interview judges, Sarah Moses for picking my winning dress, Penny Wells for making me feel beautiful, Paula Preston for capturing the perfect pictures, Laura Werk for my incredible page layouts and thank you James Peterson for my making my hair look fabulous all year long.  These people can never be thanked enough for their incredible support to the International Pageant System. 


I will forever be your 2015 Mrs. Minnesota International

Kate Howe


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What to Expect (as the Husband)

Hello all!    I am sure Kate has mentioned that we are not a pageant family; she had never been in a pageant before the competition last year, and I certainly had no idea what to expect.  That is why I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the husband's perspective regarding the big weekend coming up in just over a week.  Here are a few tips for the guys when the big weekend finally arrives...


·  Be as supportive as possible.  I'm not advocating that you stay up to the wee hours of the night practicing interview questions with your wives; however, getting her some flowers or a cup of coffee on the big day goes a long way.  You have to keep in mind regardless of how seasoned your wife is at pageants, she is doing some things that are outside of most people's normal comfort zone:  Public speaking, interviewing with judges, and consistently updating their appearance as they have to be "on" all weekend.  I didn't realize the amount of effort and energy involved in a pageant before we got to St Cloud last year, but while we were there, it was an eye opening experience.  You will also notice they get up in the middle of the night to start preparing for the next day; it is a big commitment on that weekend.  Just being a little more supportive than normal will go a long way in St Paul.  


·  Prepare a little.  Yes, I get it, this pageant is 99% about your wives.  It should be.  But, we have one "job" that is graded.  We walk our wives in front of the audience in their evening gown.  There is a practice session before the event where you are given tips on the right places and pace to walk.  It reminds a little of being told how to walk when you are in a wedding, except during the pageant, you are together the whole time.  It feels uncomfortable and robotic in some places (like lifting her hand up and holding it a certain way before she walks in front of the crowd).  My advice is to just show that you are enjoying yourself, and that you are comfortable walking with your wife.  I tried to tell a joke to get Kate to laugh to show that we actually do like each other.  There is also a part of the program where we answer interview questions.  The questions are mostly silly, and the moderator is really good at getting a chuckle out of the audience--but, I would suggest reading the practice questions (I think there are ten) before the rehearsal.  I hadn't because I speak in front of people quite a bit and just thought I would "wing it."  I looked awkward/uncomfortable in the practice round.  


·  Last and certainly not least, have fun with this. On Friday night the guys are done with our part relatively early, so we'll head out together and grab a frosty beverage.  Use this time to discuss the experience so far, and just relax and have fun.  Yes, you are out with some strangers, but hanging out over a few cold ones can't be that terrible of an experience. The husbands last year were a great group of guys, and I am sure it will be the same this year.  Also, have fun with the interview questions--make a joke or two--the crowd wants you to succeed, so have fun with it.


Finally, if you are lucky enough to have your wife be the winner, you need to learn how to hold a camera.  Don't be alarmed that most people you meet will want a picture with your wife.  That is normal, and something that should make you proud!  


I do want to say congratulations to my wife Kate for being the best advocate possible for the Mrs. Minnesota International Program over the last year.  All of your hard work and dedication has been noticed, and I couldn't be more proud of you! 


Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Pageant Weekend Tips" By Kate Howe

The pageant is right around the corner!!  I wish everyone the best of luck and wanted to pass along some tips for the weekend. 


1)      Dress to impress – all weekend long.  I am sure you have spent ample time picking out your interview suit/dress and evening gown, but ensure you spend time picking out all of your outfits for the entire weekend.  If you want the title, you represent it 24/7.  Make sure they are outfits that you feel comfortable in.  When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good you will shine!  Make sure to organize everything right away including accessories. 


2)      Professional hair and makeup – if you can afford it, I would highly recommend pursuing a professional (unless you are amazing at all!)  You want to feel beautiful all weekend and the last thing you want to worry about is your hair and makeup.  You are there to win the judges over with your personality, platform and grace.  Push the details to someone else if you can!  Also, cover your tattoos please…just trust me.


3)      Don’t stress about the interview questions.  I downloaded hundreds of questions and of course none of them were asked – ha!  Be yourself, know what is on your bio, tie everything back to your platform and have a game plan if you were to win.  Be passionate and charming – like you always are!  Just relax, be yourself and pretend you are talking to a friend. 


4)      Listen to the director and other staff members.  They are here 100% to support you and the pageant.  I ensure you they have your best interest in mind and are only trying to help.  Ask questions if you are confused or not sure.  I will be available all weekend for anything!


5)      Don’t worry about the other women competing.  This is about you and your platform, period.  There will always be someone prettier or better-spoken.  Who cares…be the best you and that is truly all that matters.  This is about your experience and having fun.  All the women there are truly unique and have a platform close to their heart.  Don’t get caught up in the competition element that you lose focus on why you are there.  Also, stay away from copying the other women’s poses…do what feels natural to you and what you think looks the best on you!



Your 2015 Mrs. Minnesota International

Kate Howe



"Junior League of Minneapolis " By Lillie Imm

I had SO much fun volunteering with the amazing women of The Junior League of Minneapolis as well as all of the girls modeling and emceeing at the American Girl Fashion Show!  I have volunteered with the fashion show for 7 years and look forward to it every year!  It has been my privilege to model, emcee, style doll hair and help with repackaging.  Thank you to the Junior League of Minneapolis for having such a wonderful event that includes girls and young women and encourages volunteerism.


This year, I modeled a Maryellen Doll outfit.  Maryellen is the newest historical American Girl from the 1950’s and I even got to do the hand jive!   I have modeled many of the American Girl character clothing over the years including Bitty Babies, Julie, Elizabeth, Grace, Caroline, just like me dolls and more!  I would love to encourage other young girls to participate in the fashion show in the future.

 I also emceed again this year.  I had a blast having the best ‘seat’ in the house.  As a bonus, my partner at one of the shows was my good friend Maggie and my little cousin Maisie modeled too!  We had so much fun together! 

The Junior League of Minneapolis is such a great organization.  Did you know they started the Children’s Theater?  They currently have many programs that are crucial to Minnesota’s communities.  Please use the following links to learn more about their programs or to donate to the Junior League of Minneapolis:

Backpack Buddies which provides healthy meals to children living in food-insecure homes living in the twin cities.

Between the Lines provides books to children read by their caregivers while they are away from each other.

Helping Hands provides one day volunteers to organizations in the community.

H.O.M.E. is a program that equips parents to use STEM activities at home.

Leagueaires brings the joy of music to those that need it the most.

Wallin Scholarship is a scholarship for an outstanding young lady who excels academically, shows commitment to her community and is a first generation college student.


I hope to see you on the runway, volunteering or watching the show next year!



Lillie Imm, Miss Pre-teen Minnesota International 2015

Saturday, April 9, 2016

" Reada the Reading Frog" By kate Howe

You may wonder from time to time…who and what is that big green big frog with me on occasion!  Reada the Reading Frog was one element of my strategic marketing plan supporting my platform: Ignite the Imagination with Books.  The foundation of my platform is children, specifically children in low income areas.  These are children who don’t get the opportunity to go places where there are animated characters that interact and play with them.  I wanted to create a lasting impression in the minds of these children and tie a positive experience to reading. 

Mascots are one of the most effective advertising tools.  For years, mascots have been able to help children learn about even the most serious subjects, life forest fires (Smokey the Bear), because kids relate to simple characters.  Adults are no different.  When we see someone relatable on television – with a familiar personality or problem – we become engaged.  In addition, animal mascots are effective because most people, regardless of age, find animals cute or endearing. 

Reada has been instrumental in helping me promote my platform.  She has traveled with me to numerous schools across the state, attended all of my fundraisers and story times.  The children absolutely love her.  They run and hug her immediately.  Half the time they are more excited to see her than me

The best part about Reada is that she is my husband – ha!  Every time I tell people that they just giggle.  I’m not sure how you could get a more supportive Mr. Minnesota.  He is absolutely perfect for the job.  He is extremely outgoing, funny and entertaining.  I’m not sure I will ever be able to repay him for this experience!


Hugs from Reada and I,

Your 2015 Mrs. Minnesota International

Kate Howe











Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"First Book’s Impact" by Kate Howe

Learning to read is critical to a child’s success – both in school and in life.  Literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future success.  But a child without access to books won’t have the chance to become an engaged and capable reader.  This is the reality for children who are growing up in poverty; books are scarce.  In some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country there is only one book available for every 300 children. 

At First Book, our innovative approaches tackle the single biggest barrier to the development of literacy – access to books.  To date, First Book has provided more than 135 million books to children in need, increasing access to needed materials for educators and administrators, and helping to elevate educational opportunities for our nation’s most disadvantaged youth. 

Through two innovative distribution engines – the First Book National Book Bank and the First Book Marketplace – educators are empowered to influence and select the educational materials their students need most. 

The National Book Bank is the first centralized distribution system for large-scale donations of children’s books from publishers to schools and programs serving kids in need.  Today, the First Book National Book Bank distributes over 8 million books annually.  The Marketplace is an online site offering high-quality children’s books and educational materials at deeply discounted prices exclusively to programs registered with First Book. 

First Book is extremely efficient and frugal.  97% of our revenue goes directly to providing new books to kids in need.  We are also expanding resources by providing high-quality books on college preparation, healthy eating and exercise, anti-bulling, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), diversity and many other topics as well as bilingual titles and resources.

Sharing my love for First Book,

Your 2015 Mrs. Minnesota International

Kate Howe