Tag Archive | miss kearney crane festival

Wonder Woman

I have a confession to make.. I am a JUNK FOOD JUNKIE.  Some days I run, stay focused, and feel like Superman.. and then my Kryptonite, peanut butter, takes me down. (mmm.. peanut butter..)

With the help of my friend and coworker, KETV First News Anchor John Oakey, I lost about 8 pounds this winter.  My husband and I spent a few GORGEOUS days in sunny Cancun, and I felt like a new woman!

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I came home.. and within a few weeks I not only fell off the wagon.. the wagon ran over me a few times.  Easter baskets, Girl Scout Cookies.. and NUTTY BUDDIES. (Be still my heart..) I kept saying ‘I’ll start again tomorrow.. I’ll start again Sunday..’ and before you knew it, I got on the scale and had gained several pounds back. Even THAT didn’t push me back on the wagon…

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..but Gal Gadot did!  Gal is the new Wonder Woman in the DC Comics movie franchise.. and SHE. IS. AWESOME.  I left Batman Vs. Superman (which isn’t terrible, by the way!)  DETERMINED to rediscover the self-discipline and drive to become the physically fit, healthy woman I know I can be.  Sometimes you just need a little motivation.. and sometimes change is forced upon you whether you want it or not.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Lianna Prill altered nearly every facet of her diet and lifestyle because of a debilitating medical condition.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I suffered for a decade without answers,” Lianna told me recently.  “After finding I had Celiac Disease my sophomore year of high school, a strict, gluten-free lifestyle was needed.  I was a new woman within days.”

Lianna does a GREAT job explaining what Celiac Disease is (CLICK HERE to read my interview with her in 2014).  The skinny of it is that certain foods cause Lianna INTENSE pain including migraines and abdominal issues.  She says once she eliminated those foods from her diet, namely gluten, her health was restored.  Still, Lianna was not content improving just her own life; she set out on a personal crusade to help others.

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Photo courtesy Corbey Dorsey for the North Platte Telegraph

Lianna, who also loves to sing and perform, was crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and later competed at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.  The following year, Lianna was chosen as a recipient of the prestigious DJ’s Hero Award for her work with Celiac Disease, including her time as an intern with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.  Despite double majoring in broadcast journalism and advertising/public relations, Lianna competed for and won the title of Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2014, giving her another venue to spread her message.  She’s a titleholder again this year, crowned last summer as the first Miss Queen City of the Plains.

“Competing in the [Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Nebraska Organizations] revealed the beauty of Celiac,” said Lianna.  “It’s a blessing, a motivation to always carry out a healthy lifestyle.”

That is because not only will Lianna compete once again for the title of Miss Nebraska, she is a very public representation of her cause, ‘#EatWellBeWell’.

“I understand that not everyone has Celiac, but I want people to realize the crucial link between diet and wellness.  In other words, what you put into your body directly affects how you feel,” said Lianna.  “Some do not know what it is like to truly feel well, because it’s their ‘normal’.  I challenge everyone to evaluate his or her lifestyle.  if you are constantly sick, ill after eating a certain food, tired after you eat (you should not be, because food is your fuel!) or don’t feel as healthy as you think you could be, find the root of the problem and do not cover your symptoms up with some kind of bandage!”

Lianna not only makes appearances across the state spreading her message, she also fills her Facebook page with information and tips on how to be healthier.  With childhood obesity forever on the rise, many of the groups Lianna talks to include kids.

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For anyone doubting the power of Lianna’s story, there’s this… instead of lying on her bathroom floor in pain, this future journalist is also the Engagement Editor at UNL’s newspaper The Daily Nebraskan, she hosts a radio show on campus every week, she volunteers with her sorority, Children’s Hospital and the Miss Amazing Organization, and she works here at KETV two days a week as one of our news interns.

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Now working with Lianna, I see her drive and ENERGY.  I see the water blueberries on her desk instead of Mountain Dew and chips from the vending machine.  I see Associated Press and Daily Nebraskan articles on her computer instead of TMZ or Candy Crush.  Lianna credits much of this to her years of participitation with the Miss America system.

“The Miss Nebraska Organization also gave me the drive, poise and work ethic to fulfill my dream of becoming a news anchor,” said Lianna.

This girl is on the right track.. and she’s pulling my new wagon onto that path with her.  Gal Gadot may be my screen saver, but Lianna Prill is the Wonder Woman hoping to promote health and wellness across all of America.. as the new Miss Nebraska.

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“I am so grateful to have an opportunity to share this message,” said Lianna.  “Listen to your body, because your health and life is so worth it.  #EatWellBeWell.”

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Queen City of the Plains 2016 Lianna Prill

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT LIANNA?

CLICK HERE * 2014 * Fueling The Journey

For more information about the Miss Queen City of the Plains Scholarship Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITE or  FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Angie Trausch at (402) 984-2690 or angie.trausch@gmail.com, or contact Director Angela Keiser at (402) 578-8621 or angelakeiser@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Adella Smolsky!

NEXT.. Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shelbe Stroh!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

ROAR

Well, HELLO!!!!! Long time no post! As always, THANK YOU for reading the blog!

I have been ‘off the grid’ for most of the month of June.  Vacation, time with family, heaven at home.

IT HAS BEEN FABULOUS!

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step back, close your eyes and BE.  I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and reminded of who I am.  GO OFF THE GRID! IT’S GREAT!  Even if just for a few days.

Before my amazing time at home with the three men in my life (four, if you count our dog, Mack), my hiatus began with a long awaited trip to North Platte, Nebraska.

MISS NEBRASKA 2015.

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Photo courtesy of Corbey Dorsey for the North Platte Telegraph; click here to read the NPT’s wonderful article on Alyssa by reporter Kamie Stephen!

After seven days of rehearsals and events, four days of nerve-wracking competition, a lot of laughs and some tears, too.. Miss Douglas County Alyssa Howell was crowned Miss Nebraska 2015.  What an INCREDIBLE moment to cap off a wonderful week for this caring, young woman.  Alyssa has dedicated so much of her time to others.  She is sweet, kind, hard working and focused.  For five years, she also watched her big sister compete at both the Miss Iowa and Miss Nebraska pageant, finishing as a finalist multiple times.

THIS MOMENT WAS ALL ALYSSA.  SHE WILL NOW FOREVER BE MISS NEBRASKA.

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So many cool moments; the kids who just LOVED Alyssa, including her Little Sisters who took part in all of the Miss Nebraska events at her side, and the little boy who not only wanted one kiss, he circled around for a second.  Alyssa’s real boyfriend, Grady, and his excitement and sheer pride every moment leading up to his girl’s crowning moment.  Shrieks of joy between Alyssa and the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien; the two have been Miss Douglas County sisters for months, now they are going to Miss America together.  And the heartwarming friendship and bond between Alyssa and her sister queen Miss Omaha Megan Gould, supporting each other from Omaha to North Platte and still to this day.

But.. I’m going to throw this out there.. was Alyssa ‘the best’?

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How do you choose which flower is ‘the best’ in the garden?  Which city is ‘the best’ in our state?  Which art, whether it be singing or dancing or playing piano, is ‘the best’?  Alyssa will be a FANTASTIC Miss Nebraska and I cannot WAIT to see how far she’ll go at Miss America.  This is Alyssa’s time; this is the result of her hard work; this recognizes an exceptional young woman, helping her to inspire so many more; and five smart, talented, and critical judges determined Alyssa Howell was the best candidate for this job as Miss Nebraska 2015.

The best of the best, you might say.. because HOLY CRAP, did this event showcase some absolutely incredible women in our state.

4th Runner Up, Miss Northwest LaRissa McKean

JOYFUL.  LaRissa McKean radiated happiness, and made everyone in the Miss Nebraska audience feel it.  She also shared that positivity with her fellow contestants, voted Miss Congeniality by the majority of the other titleholders.  LaRissa CAPTIVATED the audience Thursday night, winning the Preliminary Talent Award with an energetic and dazzling dance (another Kitty Lee Dance graduate!)  As I told one of my friends during finals night, she JUST MAKES ME SMILE.  What a better role model than that?

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3rd Runner Up, Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux

BREATHTAKING.  I love watching dance, but don’t know much about it (and hurt myself trying.) I know even less about ballet, but I LOVE the costumes, the makeup, the SHOW.  And boy, oh boy, did Steffani Jiroux deliver.

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Just stop and look at this picture for a second.. (and thanks to Kamie Stephen and the North Platte Telegraph for sharing it!)

It was like watching a scene from a movie. Steffani also seemed to enjoy herself every moment; smiling nonstop, walking across that stage like she OWNED it, twirling around her Little Sisters like they were just dancing in the living room and not competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.  What’s next for Steffani? Continuing LAW SCHOOL at Creighton University.

2nd Runner Up, Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann

SENSATIONAL.  Miss Nebraska and Miss America challenge a woman to become the best version of herself in all areas, and Brooke Ludemann pushed herself to the max in every. single. test.  Her gown made me gasp (in a good way!); her answers showed evidence of a woman with a business plan as Miss Nebraska; her physical self was a demonstration of what our bodies can become with hard work and discipline, and her talent.. I have no words.  On the final night of competition, with everything on the line, Brooke’s performance singing ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables game me CHILLS.  Brooke won 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, and she will be Nebraska’s representative at the National Sweetheart Pageant this summer.

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1st Runner Up, Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen

JAW DROPPING.  Every time Allison Tietjen walked on stage, my eyes were just DRAWN to her.  (In a completely uncreepy way, regardless of how that sounds…) She is the model of poise, grace, and beauty.  Allison could’ve walked right off the Miss Nebraska stage onto Hollywood’s red carpet and fit right in. BUT, what I love is that Allison knows, and SHOWS, this program’s power and purpose extends long beyond Miss Nebraska week.  Allison’s work promoting awareness of our veterans earned her the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award and the Miss America Community Service Award; she also earned the Miracle Maker Award for raising more than $1300 for the Children’s Miracle Network, helping hospitals like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  Oh yea, and Allison JUST TURNED 19 in April.  Truly exceptional.

I would argue not one of these women is ‘better’ than the other; each is SENSATIONAL.  They each prepared, volunteered, practiced.. hoping THIS was their year, and their time.  It was only destiny for one–and Alyssa is FABULOUS.  But this is why you see so many girls try again for the crown.. and thank the Lord for that, because they are all deserving, INCREDIBLE women, and bringing them together to recognize them and their accomplishments is uplifting and inspiring to everyone who can be part of it.  WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US ROAR!!!!

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Now to the moment I know you all have been waiting for…

The 2nd Annual Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards!

( ahem… I’ll wait for your laughter to die down before I proceed..)

The ‘My Life Goal Is To Look Like Carrie Underwood’ Awards…

Again.. the work and service that take place the other 364 days of the year are arguably the most important part of the Miss America Organization.. but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the gowns!!  C’mon.. from dreaming of your wedding gown, to picking out prom dresses, to playing dress up as a little girl, who DOESN’T love beautiful dresses?!? 2015 was simply a RAINBOW of color on the Miss Nebraska stage, and THAT alone made it awesome.  So much diversity; different colors, styles, fits.. and so much elegance!

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Remember how I said Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann’s gown made me gasp?  GASP!!!  OHHH.. this dress.. this moment.. absolutely INCREDIBLE. (Details: Tarik Ediz gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln)

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Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen.. ANOTHER gown that stole my breath.  Just STUNNING.  (Details: custom Sherri Hill gown from the Winning Crown Boutique in Omaha)

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And boy, those Kearney Crane Festival Directors KNOW THEIR STYLE.. because Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen was possibly MY FAVORITE gown of the weekend!  There was just something so very special about Merrilee Prill when she walked on stage in this dress.  The color, the style, HOW she wore it.  I LOVED IT. ( Details: Jovani Fashions gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln–thanks to owner Joe Bohac for the photo!)

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Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Cherokee Purviance.. what a GORGEOUS choice for her gown!  On stage, this color and the sparkle were just RADIANT.  (Details: a Mac Duggal gown from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe in North Platte–thanks to them for the photo!)

The ‘Holy Crap, Petersen, Put Down That Blizzard’ Awards..

I’d like to show you my reaction to this year’s Miss contestants competing in swimsuit.

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My thanks to Taylor Swift for the assist.

ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL.  This year EXEMPLIFIED that Lifestyle and Fitness is just that–this competition is intended to encourage women to treat their bodies like temples and reach their full physical potential.  AND THESE WOMEN DID.  Abs, biceps, quads for days. This wasn’t about starving, or being the skinniest.  You could SEE their work; the time they spent in the gym and the time they DIDN’T spend at their local fast food spot.

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Miss Omaha Megan Gould was my winner for swimsuit.  I know this girl puts in countless hours of dance and practice as a Nebraska Cornhusker cheerleader, and WOW-did that hard work show!!  Plus Megan was just SOO confident, not conceited in the least, just wonderfully comfortable in her own skin.  You go, Megan!

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Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux.  This is her profile picture now on Facebook (taken by Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph), and to me, that’s using restraint.  If I looked like this, I’d make a cardboard cutout of myself to greet people at my front door.  THIS is what happens with 20 years of ballet training and several more as a member of the Creighton University dance team!

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Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen was the Overall Swimsuit Winner at Miss Nebraska this year, and here’s why!  Another absolutely radiant moment in red for the UNL sophomore, and in case you’re wondering, she’s a piano player.. so what you see is the result of sheer hours in the gym and dedication to nutrition!

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And Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann.  Just.. WOW.  MUSCLE ON MUSCLE WITH MUSCLE.  When I messaged Brooke about using this photo, she responded ‘I’m darn proud of those photos!’  AS SHE SHOULD BE!! AH-MAZ-ING!!

STRENGTH, POWER, HEALTH. Are you listening, America? I just read this morning there are more clinically obese people in our country than simply overweight Americans.  Heart disease remains a leading killer.  These women exercised and ate healthy with consistency and self discipline for months, and likely formed a foundation to continue to do so to some extent.  Long after that 10 second walk across stage in a swimsuit, their health is improved, their confidence is boosted, and they’ve empowered and inspired many others. (I’M AT THE TOP OF THAT LIST!) Ladies, you should be so very proud of yourselves.

The Nebraska’s Got Talent Awards..

MY WINNERS FOR TALENT: THIS YEAR’S MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN CONTESTANTS.

BLOWN AWAY.

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to the other young woman who wrapped up this weekend in North Platte with a state title..

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Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien is now Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015!  (A 3-peat for Omaha titleholders!)  While Steffany shined all night at the competition, SHE OWNED talent.  America, watch out; when this girl competes for the national title in Orlando this July, she will STUN YOU!

CLICK HERE to see a preview, showing Steffany competing at the World Championships in Italy in April, winning her SIXTH world title.

Steffany does things with a baton that challenge the Laws of Gravity and Physics.  Not only have I never seen her drop a baton in competition, I’ve never seen the girl even ‘almost’ drop one in rehearsal.  She is SENSATIONAL!

Nebraska’s 10th Outstanding Teen was one of several incredibly talented young teenagers who competed in North Platte this year.  Piano players, singers, dancers.. these girls are so young they can’t vote, but they knocked the socks off everyone in the audience Friday night.

Among my favorites (along with Steffany, of course!)..

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..singer Emma Kate Brown, Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen.  There’s a reason why little girls love her.. because someday she will be the voice of a princess in a Disney movie.  That’s how I described her voice to my husband.  Emma Kate sang ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story and her innate vocal talent is just BEAUTIFUL.  I’m calling it now.. the next animated blockbuster you take your kids to, you will likely hear Emma Kate in the soundtrack! (And a huge CONGRATULATIONS to this beauty as well!  Less than two weeks after being named 2nd Runner Up at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, the Elkhorn South student was also named Nebraska’s Best High School Actress, winning an all-expenses paid trip to New York to compete for the National Award!!)

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Grace Heggem, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen, was dazzling from start to finish.  She played Tarantella on the piano, her fingers dancing across the keys at the speed of light, and she NAILED it.  Much like ballet, I know nothing about piano, but I can hear a bad note… and I didn’t hear one off-key when Grace performed.  Incredible!

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Emma Keifer, Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen, was just a joy to watch.  I felt like I was watching an act from So You Think You Can Dance (and you all know what a freak I am about that show!!) Emma tapped.. up and down STAIRS.  Her energy was just OFF THE CHARTS.  Emma, you would’ve made Nigel proud!

And finally, though she wasn’t competing for a title, this performance was MY FAVORITE TALENT PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK..

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THE WATER CUPS DANCE.  Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen, performing the same dance her mother Jodi did as Miss Nebraska 1988 at the Miss America pageant that year.  Balancing three cups of water on her hands and forehead, Morgan bent backward, forward, down into splits, up from splits… all without spilling a drop.  You could’ve heard a PIN drop in the auditorium, as hundreds of us collectively held our breath through this performance.  ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE..  just like Morgan.  Many of us shed tears as she took her final walk as our state titleholder.. mine started to fall as her proud daddy, Brad, handed her a bouquet of flowers at the bottom of the Miss Nebraska stage.  The sky is the limit for this young woman–you WILL see her again.

The Brittany Jeffers Awards for Super Awesomeness

We all have someone we just ADMIRE.. their style, their confidence, just because THEY ARE AWESOME.  Some of mine: one of my best friends Jenni Rohacik who always looks so good she could host E!, my neighbor Brittni Madden who can take a picture off Pinterest and make a project look like it cost thousands of dollars.. and my fellow anchor/reporter/forever Miss Omaha Brittany Jeffers-Hannema, who I swear is fabulous, in every way possible, 24/7.  (And now that I’ve declared my obsession with these ladies.. they may all be working on protection orders..) THESE GIRLS ARE JUST AWESOME!  Brittany gets the award named after her because she had to work rather than attend the Miss Nebraska pageant this year.. she may have been on air in Oklahoma, but her heart was in North Platte!

Two young ladies made a huge impression on me this year.. two teens who I didn’t know prior to this year’s pageant.

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Shelby Blundell, Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, was the youngest and tiniest of ALL of this year’s contestants, Miss and Teen.  She was also Contestant #1 in the competition, a tough draw; you set the bar for the judges, you are the first contestant both that panel and the audience will see.  Shelby rose to the challenge, nailing her song in talent, and impressing the hell out of me during her on stage question.  Shelby was asked a very tough question, whether LGBTQ issues should be discussed at school in the classroom or in group/activity settings, or if those topics are best left for family and group discussion outside of school.  Without hesitation, tiny Shelby answered confidently and quickly, sharing her opinions without pause.  That’s a tough issue for politicians and public leaders to address, and often we see adults avoiding giving a clear answer.  This young woman tackled the issue head on, and agree with her or not, it was refreshing to see such a young person stand tall and share her opinion.

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I was also SO very impressed with Allison Baird, Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  For the second year in a row, Allison was named 1st Runner Up in the teen competition.  I’ve touched on this before.. as exhilarating as it is to hear your name called as a new titleholder.. it is incredibly disappointing when all of that work does not result in that win.  Allison’s now been through that twice.. coming ever so close both times.  BUT.. the moment that curtain closed after Steffany was crowned, when the spotlights were off and no one was watching her (except me, the nosy emcee/reporter backstage), Allison was the first one to smile and hug Steffany.  She was also the first to hug Morgan last year–and not just the cordial ‘arm around her, pat pat pat’ hug.. but a genuine embrace, wishing a friend well.  It’s the moments you think no one is looking when your true character is revealed.  Allison Baird is an exceptional young lady.  A gorgeous voice.  Mature and smart.  Beautiful.  And in those moments, when I can only imagine how her heart was breaking, she showed class and selflessness, to celebrate Steffany’s moment.  That’s something you don’t often see in adults, let alone a young woman just entering her senior year of high school.  Again, these competitions are not about choosing ‘who is the best’, but who is right for the position at that exact moment in time.  YOU ARE A WINNER, ALLISON.. your future is so very bright.

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So did you pick up on that ’emcee/reporter’ note?  I had the GREAT honor of co-emceeing this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant with this beauty, my final Awesomeness Award Winner, Jessica States!  A) She can sing REALLY well  B) She’s a born leader, holding a respected position with Junior Achievement of Lincoln  C) She was THE FIRST Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2005!

AND, she was SUCH A GREAT co-host!!!  We had such a terrific time, and I hope the audience did, too!  (And thank you to Joe Bohac and the Black Swan Dress Boutique for providing our gorgeous gowns for the evening!)

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#MNOT2015.  Trending.

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What a terrific, empowering week of incredible women and the people who support them.

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I enjoyed every single moment, and CAN’T WAIT until next year to do it all over again!  AND, I NEED to mention what these girls took away from Miss Nebraska (in addition to their own memories..)

MORE THAN $42,800 IN CASH AWARDS

AND MORE THAN $400,455 IN OFFERED COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS.

But hey, it’s just a silly scholarship pageant, right?

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One final message to wrap up this post, and this year’s 2015 Miss Nebraska series..

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I was SO very honored and humbled to receive this year’s Miss Nebraska Volunteer of the Year Award.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you who have read these blogs and offered your congratulations.  I’m still mystified and elated that so many people check in to read my work, and to receive such an incredible honor for it is just a thrill.  THANK YOU.

To all 24 of the young ladies who competed in North Platte, YOU EMPOWER ME. You are the future of our state, and our country, and that makes me so very proud.  CONGRATULATIONS Alyssa, Steffany, and every young woman taking a chance to set an example, be a role model, and to just SPARKLE.

No matter what you do next, crown or not, go out into the world and continue to ROAR.

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 Click here to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Organization, and the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.  You can also visit Miss Nebraska on Facebook, follow the pageant on Twitter, and follow the pageant on Instagram.

To read more about the Miss Nebraska, and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Sister, Sister

I am the oldest of three, with two ‘little’ brothers.  ‘Little’, because now they could crush me if they wanted to, but in a way, I’ll still always be their big sister.

I’ve never longed for a sister, in part, because I am blessed to have such dear friends who have always filled that role for me beautifully.

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But to be a woman and have a sister must be a beautiful thing; sharing secrets, dreams, frustrations, CLOTHES.  To have their support when you need them most, and to help you fly even higher when you soar.

The young woman you’re about to meet has shared a bond with her twin sister since the moment they arrived in the world, a journey now inspiring her individually as one of the state’s most outstanding teenagers.

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MISS KEARNEY CRANE FESTIVAL’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 MERRILEE PRILL

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I was born at Children’s Hospital in Omaha as a micro preemie weighing in at 1 pound 7 ounces and I had a 10-percent chance of survival!”  Merrilee told me recently.  “At 2 years old, [my twin sister and I] were featured on the Children’s Miracle Network telethon.  So, I am Children’s Miracle Network!”

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Merrilee and her sister, Mariclaire, spent four months in the hospital as newborns.  Many deemed them miracle babies since they later only underwent surgery for ear tubes and had no other developmental problems.  This personal story inspired Merrilee’s platform of service ‘Believe the Impossible: Miracles Happen.’

“Because I have experienced this miracle in my own life, I want to inspire others to believe that miracles can happen in their own lives no matter what the circumstances,” said Merrilee.  “This piece of the Miss Nebraska system holds a very special place in my heart!”

One piece of many for not just Merrilee, but the entire Prill family.

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Merrilee’s big sister, Lianna, was Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and just last year, competed for the title of Miss Nebraska (click here to read my profile of Lianna during her time as Miss Crane Festival 2014).  Merrilee’s twin, Mariclaire, was Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen 2013.

“I first got involved in the Miss Nebraska program because my sisters were titleholders,” said Merrilee.  “I experienced challenges while competing for [local titles].  Consequently, winning did not come as quickly for me as it did for my sisters.  Now as I come to the close of my reign as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen, I have been able to sharpen my public speaking and stage presence skills.  These parts of the competition used to terrify me.  Now, I comfortably speak to a crowd of insurance professionals as a keynote speaker, address a crowd of community members at an outdoor festival and convey encouragements to patients at Children’s Hospital.”

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And those visits to Children’s are among Merrilee’s favorite moments as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s OT.

“My signature project for this program has been decorating over 400 colorful place mats for patient meal trays,” said Merrilee.  “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces during craft hours just makes my job as a titleholder so gratifying because that makes me feel like I am making an impact by encouraging them that miracles can happen in their lives as it did in mine.”

Among Merrilee’s other top memories this past year include signing nearly 400 autographs for the annual Daddy-Daughter Banquet in Kearney and spending time with her sister queen Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen (click here to to learn more about Allison!).

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“I know the importance of being a positive local role model for young girls,” said Merrilee.  “It was a bonus during my year to share this event and many others with Allison!”

Merrilee is also looking forward to connecting with a few other ‘sisters’.. her fellow outstanding teens from across the state.  She sent me this picture, taken the last time many of these girls were together, at the Crowns and Gowns weekend in North Platte.

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Merrilee striking a pose with Miss Douglas County’s OT 2015 Steffany Lien and Miss Scotts Bluff County’s OT Grace Heggem.

A year’s worth of moments and memories, all leading up to one amazing night.  So many ‘sisters’, biological or otherwise, that will no doubt be in Merrilee Prill’s mind and heart during those moments she takes the stage alone in North Platte.

“I have to say that walking in my evening gown is the most fulfilling part of the competition for me, because that’s the point when I feel the most confident and I feel like I’m on top of the world,” said Merilee.  “Very few teenagers get to do this on such an awesome stage!”

Only 11, in fact, this year.  And of those outstanding girls, one will be crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Will it be Merrilee Prill?  Just ask the once 1.5 pound miracle who defied all odds at birth; ANYTHING is possible.

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Follow Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill on Instagram.

 To contact Merrilee for appearances and events, visit the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Cities Pageant on Facebook.

Click here for a special feature on Merrilee on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page!

For more information about how to become a contestant, email Director Megan Goeke at megan@hellobeautifulbridal.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Cherokee Purviance

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Cap And (Evening) Gown

We are deep into graduation season!! My dayplanner is jam-packed with party invites, cards for graduates, and gift cards. Every spare spot on my calendar is covered in scribbles with names, dates and places.  I’m really not that popular.. just have lots of awesome cousins and my husband is blessed to coach some great graduating seniors. (Go Mustangs!)

High school came easy to me.  I kept my head down, got good grades, and stayed CRAZY busy. (Emphasis on the crazy.)  College was a completely different ball game.  I flatter myself to think I’m pretty smart; doesn’t matter at that next level.  You WORK for what you want.  At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I experienced my first all-nighter (several of them) studying and completing projects.  I spent lots of quality alone time in the basement of UNL’s Pound Hall cramming for finals all day.  To this day, I still have nightmares about getting notices from university officials that there was an error and I’m short a few science credits.  In reality, the day came when I donned a cap and gown and walked across the stage, feeling TRULY accomplished and proud of what I’d achieved, a college degree.

Imagine the pride you’d feel, and that of your parents, if you were the FIRST in your family to experience all of this; that is what fuels this young woman.

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MISS CHADRON 2015 TOSHA SKINNER

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“In August, I will be the first college graduate in my family,” said Tosha, a senior Management major, minoring in Marketing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  “I could not have done [this] without the support of my parents and the Miss America System!”

I first met Tosha last year when she was competing for Miss Nebraska as Miss Sugar Valley.  (Click here to see her 2014 profile!)  She was EXTREMELY busy then, and still is today as a member of Delta Delta Delta (previously serving as Vice-President of Public Relations), President of Students for St. Jude, a family representative for Dance Marathon (raising money for Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center), and a member of Phi Beta Lambda.

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Still, Tosha made time between classes, studying, volunteering and activities to be part of our KETV Chronicle special showcasing the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014.  She was down-to-earth, conversational and well spoken. (CLICK HERE to see for yourself!)  While arguably all of those contestants and the women competing this year want to show their inner beauty, Tosha also wants to affect change on outer beauty, or at least how we all define it.

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“I am very fortunate to be able to promote my platform, ‘BEAUTY: Redefining the Ideal’, which focuses on the importance of a healthy body image,” said Tosha.  “My goal is to never have someone struggle the way I have struggled all my life.”

Reading this caught me off guard for a moment, to think there was such sadness hiding behind this gorgeous smile. Little did I know, Tosha says her battle with depression began around the same time we met last Spring, leading to the first stages of an eating disorder.

“At the time I was preparing for Miss Nebraska, which is a terrible combination,” Tosha told me recently.  “Lucky for me, my platform gave me an outlet to learn more about body image disorder and it helped with the recovery process.”

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Tosha with Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen and Miss Gering 2015 Kaylee Carlberg & Tosha with Allison and Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen Merrilee Prill

Tosha, a vocal supporter of the Miss America Organization, has also been active in all facets of the program, including raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network and earning her Duke of Edinburg Award by trading her crown for camping gear and a fishing pole.

“I can truly say I am a better person today because of competing in the Miss America system,” said Tosha.  “I feel that as young women especially, it is hard to find your voice, and the Miss America system has given me mine.  It gives all of us opportunities to work towards things we are passionate about and tell our stories to others.”

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Tosha on Facebook:  “These are the moments that make it all worth it. I remember being that little girl and wanting one day to be exactly like the “princesses”. I hope I can inspire at least one little girl, the way they inspired me.#misschadron #mao

Tosha’s story: role model, fighter, trail blazer.

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We all take different paths in life. Every now and then, those roads converge at places like graduation.  In just months, Tosha Skinner will stand side by side with thousands of other UNL students receiving their diplomas, but no story is quite like hers.  Similarly, when this beauty walks across the Miss Nebraska stage, she may be next to 12 other incredible young women, yet they’ll all be independent and unique.

Neither journey is easy, and in the end, neither marks the end of the road.  They call graduation ceremonies ‘commencement’ for a reason.. these moments mark the beginning of new paths, and new journeys out into the world.  Tosha Skinner is keeping her eyes open for two signs, hopefully marking her one new journey; the college graduate embarking on her new adventure as Miss Nebraska.

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Follow Miss Chadron 2015 Tosha Skinner

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

and contact her for appearances and events on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and 

on her blog: ‘BEAUTY: Redefining The Ideal’.

For more information about the Miss Chadron pageant, click here to visit their Facebook page.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Marleta Hastings at 308-432-3847 or Director Renae Noble at 308-432-5129.  You can also email misscnwdirectors@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2015 Marie Allison

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Emma Keifer

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

All-American Girl

If you’ve been reading about each of this year’s Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants, THANK YOU!! And perhaps you’ve noticed, even questioned why, many of these local titleholders do not live in or have ties to the areas they are representing.  How does that work??

Today’s featured titleholder is a PERFECT example.  Her hometown of Chester, Nebraska, sitting right on the Nebraska/Kansas border, had an estimated 232 people at the time of the 2010 census.  2.1% of those were between the ages of 18-24.  Half of those, young ladies.  That’s two and a half women eligible to compete for Miss America.  Kinda hard to have a local pageant with 2.5 contestants.. leaving talented, driven young women with dreams of Miss America looking outside of town.

This young lady looked north.

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MISS KEARNEY CRANE FESTIVAL 2015 ALLISON TIETJEN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I joke that since there is no Miss Chester, Miss Kearney is for sure the next best thing,” Allison told me recently.  “I have tried to make the trip to Kearney for appearances as often as I can.”

Veterans Day

And Allison has traveled much farther than that now very familiar 2-hour road trip.  Click here: last year as Miss Heartland 2014, Allison told me about her trip to Washington DC with a plane of Vietnam War veterans as part of a Nebraska honor flight.  Supporting and spreading awareness of American veterans is important to Allison, the focus of her personal platform ‘United We Stand: Remembering Our Veteran Heroes’.

“It really is the reason why I am competing today, knowing that I can truly help students understand and appreciate the service and commitment of our US military,” said Allison.  “I want to help kids have an overall sense of gratitude towards our military.”

Flags  Mrs. Simpsons

Allison has visited a number of schools, each time ready with a ‘lesson plan’ to give kids a hands-on experience that will also benefit veterans.  Allison calls it the Miss Crane Festival Flag Challenge.

“First, I have an open discussion with students over the military branches,” said Allison.  “Then, while we are making flags, I ask them what they think the American flag represents and what our flag means to them.  On the back of their flag I ask all the students to write a thank you note to a veteran, and this is where I challenge them to give it to a veteran.  I always ask the students to share with me if they deliver a flag and I have been amazed by the responses I have received back.”

Daddy Daughter Date  Girl Scouts

Allison, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student active with Alpha Phi, also earned the Gold Award with Girl Scouts, the highest rank a female scout can achieve (comparable to the elite Eagle Scout ranking for male scouts.) She continues to volunteer with and advocate for the organization.

“Girl Scouts has been such a huge part of my life growing up that I want to encourage as many young girls I can to not only join, but to stay involved with it even when they get older,” said Allison.  “Girl Scouts and the Miss America Organization truly have the same goals in mind: creating great female leaders and community service.”

Pipe Cleaner Crowns  Dance Marathon CMD

Allison considers all of this community service a privilege, not a chore.  In her interview with me, she talked about raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network, and playing piano for the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home using phrases like ‘I get to.’  While you can see in these pictures and feel from Allison’s stories the impact she’s likely having, she describes her own growth as a person as immeasurable.

“Competing for Miss Nebraska has been one of the best decisions I have ever made,” said Allison.  “Miss Nebraska and the Miss America Organization are relevant because [they] truly change young women’s lives in a positive way.  Overall, our year of service and experiences outweigh any scholarship that we will receive, although those are really amazing as well!”

Hockey Game

Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen (R) with Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen Merrilee Prill

Allison’s advice to anyone following her journey is find what you love and put it to good use.  When her small town of 232 didn’t have a road to Miss America, she found one that did.  But make no mistake; Allison will always find her path back the ‘Village of Quilts’, the ‘Gateway to Nebraska’.  I think it’s a safe bet no matter what title is on her sash, Chester, Nebraska will always call Miss Kearney Crane Festival, Girl Scout, champion for veterans, Allison Tietjen, THEIR Miss America.

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(Photo courtesy Russtanna Photography)

Follow Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen

on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Facebook.

To contact Allison about appearances and events, and for more information on the Miss Kearney Crane Festival Pageant click here to visit the organization on Facebook.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Directors Megan Goeke and Jenna Lukasiewitz at 308-708-0678 or by email at megan@hellobeautifulbridal.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould

NEXT.. Miss Sandhills 2015 Kate Lynne Duncan

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.