Queen Westlund

Miss Hutchinson Erin Westlund was all smiles after receiving the crown, even if she had a hard time keeping it on her head at first.

Before the fireworks flew over Hutchinson to close out the final evening of the 76th annual Hutchinson Jaycee Water Carnival Sunday, a new Miss Hutchinson and princess were crowned at Maplewood Academy.

First, upcoming commodore Tess Heikes announced Jon Beach and his wife, Laura, are next year’s vice commodore and second mate, respectively.

Finally, it was time to crown the candidates.

Olivia Watzke, who was named the winner of the talent competition with her rendition of “Whom Shall I Fear” Friday evening, was crowned princess while Erin Westlund, who was also voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow candidates, was named the 2018 Miss Hutchinson.

Westlund comes from a family of Water Carnival commodores. Her grandfather, Ralph, served in 1965. Her dad, Rich, was commodore in 1990, and her uncle, Dave, was commodore in 1992.


While the rain held off Sunday, it was a wet week for this year’s celebration.

The rain started on June 9, the first day of the festival, with the cancellation of the H-Town Tennis Tournament.

Sunday dawned clear for the Hutchinson Rotary’s Luce Line Loops bike rides. More than 100 cyclists saddled up to participate in four distances: 12 miles, 25 miles, 50 miles and the 75K Gravel Grinder.

Monday was wet again prompting the move of the Music in the Park festivities from Library Square to the Commercial Building at the McLeod County Fairgrounds. New this year was the addition of wine, beer and cocktails served by Main Street Sports Bar.

Although there weren’t any events scheduled for Tuesday, it proved to be a rich day for Neil Branstad. He solved this year’s medallion hunt and earned $500.

According to medallion hunt founder Christy Christensen, the medallion had been found on the second day of the hunt years ago, but it was later in the day. So for now, Branstad holds the record for the fastest find. It was his birthday, so it made the day that much sweeter.

While Wednesday was reserved for pageant rehearsal, Thursday was the kickoff to four days packed with activities. Again, rain threatened but it held off to allow evening festivities to take place along the riverfront.

People turned out with lawn chairs and blankets to watch the boat parade, listen to Andy Austin on the RiverSong Stage and watch the first of two nights of fireworks.

Friday brought families to Library Square for the popular return of the Teddy Bear Band. Children enjoyed free ice cream and dancing with their teddies.

The Miss Hutchinson Pageant, which took place at Maplewood Academy gymnasium, hosted a huge crowd of well-wishers. Highlights of the evening included the announcement of Mr. Hutchinson John Hassinger and Hutchinson Woman of the Year Val Elder.

The candidates displayed their talents, which ranged from dance to vocal performance. They also answered questions for the judges.

The evening ended on a musical note with live music by Bill Litzau and Open Highway at the first of two street dances at Main Street Sports Bar.

Saturday brought showers, which resulted in the Kiddy Day activities being moved to the Hutchinson Recreation Center. Highlights were the crowning of the new Junior Royalty — Junior Commodore Jack Hantge and Junior Queen Hayden Fink. Both have ties to Hutchinson Water Carnival Royalty.

Hantge’s grandfather, Everett, served as Mr. Hutchinson in 2013, and his dad, Robert, was commodore in 1997.

Fink’s dad, Adam, served as commodore at the 75th annual Water Carnival in 2017.


The time and temperature clock on Citizens Bank said it was 94 degrees Sunday for the Grande Day Parade. This year, 119 units participated.

Hutchinson’s Marching Tigers displayed their new uniforms and their new program.

Joining them in the parade were the Dassel-Cokato Marching Chargers, Litchfield Marching Dragons, Albany High School Marching Band, Maple Lake Marching Irish and the Hibbing Marching Blue Jackets.

In the “A” section, Litchfield took first place, followed by Albany in second and Maple Lake in third. In the “AA” section, Hibbing earned first place. The overall Grand Champion was the Dassel-Cokato Marching Chargers.

The Miss Hutchinson Coronation is a time of transition where the outgoing Royal Family says its good-byes and a new Royal Family is formed.

With the last burst of fireworks, Commodore Jacob Sanken and his First Mate, Melissa, passed into history as the new Commodore Tess Heikes and her First Mate, Keith, stepped up to create a new Royal Family and a new Water Carnival celebration.

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