No one really loses at Monticello Riverfest. But that doesn’t stop more than a handful of people from walking away as winners in one of the numerous events held throughout the four-day festival.
The most recognized and memorable winner will certainly be Miss Monticello Mylissa Sauser and the two Monticello princesses Kayla Pribyl and Taylor Emberton.
The biggest monetary winner was Margaret Smith, the long-time Monticelloan who had the fastest duck in the river on Sunday.
And the winner who regretted it most was likely Tim Ingle of the Monticello Fire Department, who downed his pie in impressive fashion to become the champion of the second annual Riverfest pie-eating contest.
Throughout the weekend, each and every winner left his or her imprint on the 2012 Riverfest.
Ingle was the first big winner, as the pie-eating contest was held at Thursday nights opening events at Pioneer Park.
In what was billed as a battle between the defending champ Clint Herbst and Sheriff Joe Hagerty, Ingle came in as a bit of an unknown. He left as a champion.
“Tim did a fantastic job,” said Dan Anselment, chair of Riverfest, and fellow competitor.
The defending champion Herbst admitted that Ingle ate a good pie, but wasn’t sure he won on a level playing field. Herbst was given a pie that was twice the size of the others and contained an assortment of raisins, banana, cinnamon and other snacks.
“If I had a normal pie, it would have been all over,” said the mayor.
But, the bravado aside, Herbst, and everyone else, was happy to lead a good time for all those involved. The good-sized crowd (a large improvement over last year’s showing) seemed to enjoy watching many of their community leaders and royalty members go all out in the competition.
“I think everyone had a good time,” said Herbst. “Its kind of fun to watch [the community leaders] take a pie in the face. Especially by their own doing.”
Friday night at the talent show didn’t present an actual winner, as one is not picked from Monticello’s collection of talent. But it did showcase many talents, young and old alike, who are more than capable of winning such an event.
Highlights from the night belonged to a diverse group of performers. As always, the Huschka sisters turned in an impressive performance, led by the dynamite 14-year old Paige, as they serenaded the crowd with a Glee version of Don’t Stop Believing. Paige also came back out later to turn in an equally great solo performance.
Another group kept it in the family as Dan Gruhlke and his son Noah sang and played guitar as they covered Walk with Me, a song by Elizabeth Hunnicut.
That song was followed by two performances that really got the energy up going into intermission. Kaitlin Starkey, Emmalee Woods and Mackenzie Weis tap-danced impressively to When the Saints Go Marching In. Then Janice Shovelain got on the accordian for her third straight year (a theme in a talent show full of returning acts) and got the crowd involved with her old-time ballads and toe-tapping ways. By the time she came around for the final verse of You are my Sunshine, she had turned the talent show into not only a sing along, but a good time for all.
On Sunday, the winning resumed.
Margaret Smith of Monticello earned the top monetary prize, when her duck was the first one to cross the finish line in the Mississippi as hundreds looked on under the warm afternoon sunshine.
Dan Olson was recognized with one of the biggest honors, as he was officially presented as the Monticello Citizen of the Year.
Anselment, who was much too busy as the chair of Riverfest to think about awards, was also surprised with an award, as he picked up a commodore award from the Minnesota Aquatennial committee, after he was nominated by the local chamber for all of the volunteering work Anselment does around town.
And of course the day, and the weekend, was capped with the screams of four of the biggest winners of the weekend – and maybe even the year.
Kara Begin was tabbed as Miss Congeniality, and then outgoing princesses Nicole Atzl and Ashley Walz crowned the new princesses Emberton and Pribyl, before setting the stage for Hannah Palmer to crown the new Miss Monticello.
Sauser told the Times on Tuesday that with 14 candidates (a record), no one really expected to win.
“Eleven people walk off that stage,” said Sauser. “Everyone really deserved [the crown], so it was hard to think I’m going to get it.”
Which probably explains the shock, screams and even tears of joy that came from Sauser as Palmer first placed the crown on her head.
“It was crazy,” she said. “I just sobbed. I was so excited.”
Before Sauser even had time to gather herself, she was sworn in as the new Miss Monticello. Quickly, the new and old royalty were whisked off the stage together where they were met with smiles, hugs and plenty of new fans. After taking photos down by the river, Sauser had an encounter with a couple of those new fans.
“As we were leaving two little girls walked up to me like ‘oh my gosh you’re a queen’, and I was like ‘oh my gosh I know!!’” she said. “It kind of hit me a little bit more at that moment.”
The dust is settling on another memorable celebration in this beautiful river town. But while some moments are still setting in and hitting home for those who were involved, it’s already becoming clear that Riverfest 2012 gave us a weekend full of very special winners.