After an extended hiatus, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a key part of the Sleigh and Cutter Festival returned to an even bigger stage in Waseca this weekend.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, the annual Sleigh and Cutter Pageant, where they crown the new Miss Sleigh and Cutter and Miss South Central, along with the Outstanding Teens for each of those categories, was held. In previous years, the event has taken place on the stage in the Waseca Central Building. However, this year, it was held in the Performing Arts Center in Waseca High School.
“… which is a nice upgrade,” Jennifer Burt, the director of the pageant, said.
In the end, Maura Erickson won the Miss South Central Outstanding Teen crown, while Kloe Wadd won the Miss Sleigh and Cutter Outstanding Teen crown. In the Miss South Central competition, the winter was Jasmine Kotek, with Bailie Thom winning the Miss Sleigh and Cutter crown.
The event kicked off shortly after 6:30 p.m., with the emcees, Shelly Copper and Elle Mark, coming out to introduce what the pageant is and who the contestants are. Copper is part of the Miss Sleigh and Cutter Pageant, while Mark is a former Miss Minnesota from 2021. First up, for the Outstanding Teen competition, was the Lifestyle and Fitness Challenge.
Following that portion of the night, the Miss Sleigh and Cutter and Miss South Central candidates took part in an onstage interview. Along with the interview, each candidate came with a “social impact initiative” statement — a statement of how they felt they were going to impact their community should they win the pageant.
Jadyn White, one of the candidates for Miss Sleigh and Cutter, chose to focus on agricultural support, pointing out that “suicide rates for farmers are five times higher than the national average” and that “rates are still up 15% from where they were in 1980.”
Lydia Jaodzinski decided to support youth mentorship programs for her initiative, saying, “89% of young adults will set more ambitious goals with a mentor in their life, yet only 33% actually have one.”
Following the onstage interviews was the talent portions for both the Outstanding Teen competitors and the Miss Sleigh and Cutter and Miss South Central candidates.Those presentations were surrounded by talent presentations from Olivia Odenbrett, the current Miss South Dakota Outstanding Teen, and Rachel Evangelisto, the current Miss Minnesota and first indigenous Miss Minnesota.
After a brief intermission period, there was another talent presentation from Miss Minnesota Outstanding Teen Julia Schumacher, before the evening gown portion of the night for each of the Outstanding Teen, Miss Sleigh and Cutter and Miss South Central competitions. Before that, however, Burt addressed the crowd and thanked their only $1,000+ sponsor: The Waseca Sleigh and Cutter Festival.
“I think we joined the festival in 2002 and have been with them ever since until 2020, when we had to stop for COVID,” Burt said. “Since then, our titleholders haven’t had much to do, so we’re so glad to be back here and glad to be back a part of Sleigh and Cutter.”