The 2019 Minneapolis Aquatennial came and went, but in the span of five days, 2018 Miss Lonsdale Grace Grant made the kind of memories that happen once in a lifetime.
“I went into it open minded; I think that’s the best way to explain it,” said Grant, who along with 52 other candidates ran for the Queen of the Lakes title. “I knew if I was worrying about the outcome, I would get disappointed about it. Instead I decided I would appreciate every moment.”
Grant’s Aquatennial experience lasted from July 23-27. The days leading up to the Queen of the Lakes Coronation were packed with interviews, group outings and social events.
The interviews pushed Grant out of her comfort zone by forcing her to come up with answers on the spot, work within time constraints and try not to repeat what any of the other candidates already said. She met with a judge one-on-one for an interview, but other times she spoke in front of the whole group.
“It was hard questions, and it made you think, which was good,” said Grant.
For one of the most challenging interviews, Grant received a description of a particular situation on a clipboard. Although she’s been involved in theater for many years, acting out her response to the given situation was more difficult than Grant expected.
What came more naturally for Grant was talking about Lonsdale during the Meet the Candidates forum the second day. She dressed up as a railroad conductor and blew a conductors’ whistle during her 45-second speech, which focused on Lonsdale’s history with the railroad, close proximity to the freeway and Community Days.
Other highlights for Grant included the Commodore’s Dinner, where each candidate wore a colorful formal dress, and her visit to the Women’s Club of Minneapolis. Interested in interior design, she enjoyed studying the building’s intricate structures and architectural layout.
When it came time for the pageant itself, Grant said “there were a lot of nerves going around.”
“At the end, everyone was so supportive,” said Grant. “That’s what I loved about it. We had all grown really close throughout the week.”
Grant was excited to see Elise Toussaint, of North Branch, crowned the 2020 Queen of the Lakes since they met at Winter Carnival and spent most of the Aquatennial week together. She also grew close with Aquatennial Princesses Erin Westlund, of Hutchinson, and Jennifer Anderson, of Lakeville.
Looking back, looking ahead
Back in Lonsdale, Grant’s reign as Miss Lonsdale ended when Brittany Williams was crowned the 2019 Miss Lonsdale Aug. 4. As Grant reflects on her year as Miss Lonsdale, she said the sacrifices she made were "100% worth it, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything."
Grant didn’t know anything about the Lonsdale Ambassadors program until her sister, Sarah, was crowned Miss Lonsdale 2014. She was still skeptical when her mom encouraged her to give it a try, but Grant took a chance.
“I went to the meetings and fell in love [with the program],” said Grant. “I thought it would be like pageants, but there’s so much more. It’s about community service, being a role model, being able to showcase community and what it’s about. I decided to go for it.”
Grant became a Miss Ambassador before she ran for Miss Lonsdale in 2018. She struggled with the decision of whether or not to run as she considered the year ahead but ultimately took the leap and left the final decision up to the judges.
As the 2018 Miss Lonsdale, Grant took her responsibilities seriously but steered away from making the title her main identity. She enjoyed the service opportunities the program presented, like helping out at the Lions Club Pancake Breakfast and distributing fliers on behalf of the Lonsdale Area Food Shelf, as well as the chance to form new relationships.
“I think it was cool, too, that I had my group as a Miss Ambassador but also had a new group as Miss Lonsdale,” said Grant. “Having connections with both I think was really special.”
More life changes are ahead for Grant, who recently got engaged to fiancé, Lucas Velarde. After they marry next June, Grant plans to move to North Carolina, where Velarde is stationed in the Army. For now, she loves her job as a teller at the Wings Financial Credit Union in Apple Valley.
“I think my biggest takeaway [of being Miss Lonsdale] was that sometimes you have to jump feet first into something even if you don’t know all about it,” said Grant. “I know if I hadn’t been in the Lonsdale Ambassadors program, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.”