Just 13 hours after their crowns were placed, Miss Litchfield Brianna Larson and Princess Laura Shoutz had a difficult time explaining their gratitude, and growing excitement.

Suspense turned to shock; jitters to jubilation.

“You can’t really put it into words,” said Shoutz, the daughter of Jon and Crisi Shoutz.

“It hasn’t fully sunk in,” added Larson, the daughter of Nicole and Brad Larson.

What they didn’t have trouble with, however, was smiling.

“I’m so excited,” Larson said. “Honored.”

“I’m honored, too,” Shoutz said. “ ... and blessed to have this opportunity to represent Litchfield.”

Before their families, community members and a sparkling section of visiting royalty, Larson and Shoutz were crowned the 2018-’19 Watercade queen and princess Sunday evening in Bernie Aaker Auditorium. They will represent Litchfield as ambassadors in the coming year. Their reign will include appearances in several parades as well as community events.

Succeeding 2017-’18 queen Maddy Larson and princesses Hannah Schacherer and Courtney Smith, the new town royalty said they have big shoes to fill. But the confidence they developed as candidates radiates as brightly as the July sun on their sparkling headdresses.

“I believe Laura and I will do an amazing job,” Larson said.

The royal duo was selected from four candidates. Their pageant sisters accepted two additional community accolades. Kristina-Marie Christopherson, the daughter of Ann and Brad Cyrus, was awarded the title of Miss Congeniality. Shelby Nelson, the daughter of Steve and Mandy Nelson and Jamie and Teresa Brekke, received the formal gown award.

Larson looks forward to representing Litchfield and making a positive difference. “I’ve always wanted to be a change-maker, since a young age,” she said. “I’m going to make the most of it.”

“I’m excited to represent Litchfield,” Shoutz said. She especially looks forward to representing her strong roots in agriculture. “It’s a big part of Litchfield and its economy,” she said.

CROWNS FOR CAUSES

Larson’s platform will involve her passion for saving lives. She plans to raise awareness for blood donation by promoting local blood drives, volunteering at them and coordinating two or three new blood drives in the Litchfield area.

As student council president, Larson hosted three blood drives at Litchfield High School. The 2018 LHS graduate has already informed a Red Cross coordinator of her plan.

“Medicine is something I’m passionate for,” Larson said. This fall, she will begin studies for fulfilling her nursing major at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.

Homelessness in the Meeker County area, specifically that experienced by teens, will be Shoutz’s area of focus. The 2018 LHS graduate said she plans to raise funds to combat homelessness. Her project will likely include supply drives, assembling personal care packages, a partnership with the county food shelf, and possibly church, service groups or youth involvement.

Shoutz hopes to shatter the stigma that homelessness is experienced only in urban areas. “It is a rural issue, too,” she said.

Shoutz participated in “Box City,” a church event through which participants spend the night outside in cardboard boxes to raise awareness and funds for homelessness. Through local events involving youth from FFA, 4-H, scouting programs and church groups, she hopes to make a greater impact.

OUT OF THEIR COMFORT ZONE

Shoutz admitted that she wasn’t the “typical” queen candidate. Prior to pageant preparations, she didn’t wear makeup, nor did she “fit the role of a princess.” For this born-and-raised country girl, pageantry – now royalty – is all about stepping out of her comfort zone.

“I’m going from boots to heels ... dirt to makeup,” Shoutz said.

While primping and pumps may become part of her routine, Shoutz remains confident in her ability to represent her community, and to stay true to her roots in agriculture. “I want people to know that I can,” she said of her new adventure in town royalty.

Shoutz plans to begin her education at Ridgewater College in Willmar, then transfer to the University of Minnesota-Crookston to study agriculture education with an emphasis in animal science.

For Larson, the pageant was a familiar experience. Larson ran for Miss Litchfield last year, so she knew what to expect and was “calmer.”

Larson’s mentality before the pageant was true to her faith. “‘If I don’t get a crown tonight, it’s God’s plan.’”

Shoutz, too, had been on stage before. As an active member of the Meeker County 4-H program, she’d been to Bernie Aaker Auditorium dozens of times.

“I was confident in the space, and it really wasn’t that bad,” Shoutz said.

UP NEXT: ‘AMAZING’ THINGS

They’re excited to begin this journey together. As for what they can accomplish, the opportunities are endless.

“We’re both looking forward to an amazing year,” Larson said.

They thanked their parents, pageant judges, sponsors, Watercade board members and the community as a whole.

“We really appreciate all their efforts and support as we go through our year,” Shoutz said.

“We’re hoping they open up their arms and give us a big welcome,” Larson said.

Just 13 hours into a reign that will span approximately 8,760 hours, Larson had not a single doubt they’d make the most of each one – together.

“Laura and I already make a great team.”

Ellarry Prentice is editor of the Independent Review.

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