sm AO logo

Annandale Ambassador Program
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
August 3, 2015
Wendy Storkamp

Wendy Storkamp has been associated with the Annandale Ambassador program for eight years and has been on the Annandale Ambassador Committee for two years.  She has been a “royal mom” twice with daughters crowned Annandale princesses – Paige in 2008 and Skylar in 2012.  Wendy said she has been “in the trenches” with the family obligation to be with their daughters in this adventure.  Wendy brought to the meeting many display boards with photos of Annandale’s past royalty.

2014 was the 125th anniversary of Annandale’s Fourth of July celebration.  2016 will be the 60th anniversary of the organization of Annandale’s Royalty Program and 45th year of Annandale’s affiliation with the Aquatennial Ambassador Program.  The Annandale Royalty Program was started by the Annandale Commercial Club (forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) and has been part of the city’s Fourth of July celebration since 1956.  In 1956 the first royalty crowned were Queen Juliann Aronson (Dehnel), Princess Eleanor Houbolt (Wadman) and Princess Barbara Schmidt (Brose).   According to research by Tom Westman (Annandale Advocate, August 9, 2014), Ruth Tausta was Miss Annandale in 1947, and runners up were Betty Erickson and Al Jean Lemke.   The Ambassador’s Committee is working on getting early history documented.  A list of Annandale royalty is at under History.

The Ambassador program is a tradition rich program.  Mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, aunts and nieces, and sisters have been crowned Miss Annandale.  The Annandale community has been successful in promoting the candidates.  Annandale royalty are well respected and have represented themselves as ladies throughout history.  Annandale crowns a queen and two princesses.  Some communities now have three equal ambassadors and later choose one of the three to go the Aquatennial.

Annandale has been part of the the Aquatennial Ambassador Program since 1971.  Jane Schmidt (Zweber), Miss Annandale 1971-1972, was the first to participate in the Aquatennial.  Miss Annandale was crowned Queen of the Lakes twice:  Jody Hempel (Nyenhyuis) in1984 and Riley Bruns in 2014.  Miss Annandale was Aquatennial Princess three times:  Sandra Lies (Hawkinson) in1974, Jennifer Peterson (Hallock) in1995, and Jill Starkey (Gruys) in 2006.  Note:  The Aquatennial Ambassador Program uses the year their ambassadors give up their crowns.  For example, Miss Annandale 2012-2013 was crowned Queen of the Lakes in July 2013 and is the 2014 Queen of the Lakes.

2015 is the 75th anniversary of the Aquatennial.  Communities apply to have a spot in the Aquatennial Program, and there is a waiting list.  There are 50 Queen of Lakes candidates, and the bar is set high. 

Wendy Storkamp is the liaison between the candidates and the community.  She told of the 2012-2014 journey of Riley Bruns.  To be eligible to run for Miss Annandale girls must be between the ages of 17 and 22, single, and a resident of the Annandale School District.  In January every senior girl receives a letter inviting them to be a part of the Ambassador program.   Riley and others were initially reluctant to be candidates because of the time commitment.   In 2010 there was initially one candidate and eventually seven candidates.  The program was in jeopardy.  Megan (Reichel) Czycalla of the Ambassador Committee suggested that time commitments be cut back rather than lose the program.  There are now 20 events royalty must attend, with 80 percent attendance expected.  In 2011 the momentum picked up again.  The 2012-2013 royalty (Riley Bruns, Skylar Storkamp and Brianna Tvedt) added a lot back into the program, including a Princess Party.  For $10 little girls interact with the candidates, have their hair, nails, and makeup done, make themselves a crown, and have photos taken.  134 little girls took part, exceeding all expectations.    

In 2012 there were eight candidates attending the parent meeting where the basic rules and time commitments were explained.   Parents are an integral part of the program.  They get the candidates where they need to be, help with bad hair days, lost shoes, wardrobe mishaps, and food. 

At the Business Expo in the spring, the candidates meet their sponsors, traditionally Chamber of Commerce members.  Some of the girls already have sponsors. The financial commitment to sponsor a candidate and cover the expenses of the program used to be $500.  Now half sponsorships are allowed, so two businesses can sponsor a candidate.  The 2012 Annandale royalty and sponsors were Riley Bruns, Annandale State Bank; Skylar Storkamp, Hitching Post; and Brianna Tvedt, Back Yard Reflections.   There were 12 candidates in 2015, and businesses stepped up to sponsor them. 

Next were a “meet and greet” and a fun night for the candidates to get to know each other better.  There are many social activities such as bowling and swimming to allow the girls to bond.  There is an Image Clinic at the Annandale Community Room with general tips about etiquette and how to eat (everyone is watching), sitting with feet crossed at the ankles, presenting oneself in an interview with the Aquatennial Committee judges, manners, public speaking, and social issues such as social media, cell phone usage, and boyfriends.  There is a presentation by “Ann Noying,” who dresses inappropriately and makes every mistake, which is funny and very effective.  

Zahler Photography has been very generous to the program.  The photographs of the candidates are very beautiful.  Steve Prinsen, Paul Downer, and Tom Westman of the Annandale Advocate, ensure that the program is shown in the best light in the newspaper.  St. John’s Lutheran Church opens their facility for events with welcoming arms.

The candidates are matched with a convertible for the Fourth of July parade.   Steve Eiden’s red Mustang, has carried six or seven candidates; five have been crowned.  There is flexibility, and sometimes golf carts have been used.

The royals decorate crown boxes.  They get to keep their crowns, long white gloves, sashes and crown boxes.  Miller Jewelry has generously donated crowns and crown care (fittings and repairs).  They also make pins, red for the queen and blue for the princesses.  The queen receives a ruby ring, compliments of Miller Jewelry.  There is a scholarship award.  A new tradition is for the queen to wear red and the princess blue dresses in their official portraits.  Not everyone gets a crown, but there are no losers.  The experience gained in public speaking, leadership skills, networking and friendships are invaluable. 

Judging is by independent people associated with the Aquatennial.  The candidates present themselves in business attire based on what they plan to do in the future, as though they are interviewing for a job.  Questions may be, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  “In ten years?”  “What flavor of cookie would you be, and why?”  “If you could give your parents a piece of advice, what would you tell them and why?”  

The panel of three judges have past ties with the Minneapolis Aquatennial that are years deep.  They are passionate about choosing young ladies that will represent their communities in the best possible light.  Team building is important, and they try to choose three girls that will make a good team during their year spent as Annandale royalty.  Every girl has her own style and strengths, and they complement one another.   

They judge how the candidates interact with the crowd on the Fourth of July.  There is a luncheon after the parade.   The judges may ask one last question.  Often the judges make their decision early, and sometimes they are still deliberating until shortly before the coronation.  Names of their choices are written in three separate envelopes. 

There is down time for the candidates after the luncheon and parade.  The coronation ceremony starts at 7:00 p.m.   Boy Scouts escort the candidates.  It’s a wonderful tradition.  The scouts make sure the candidates keep upright on the grass and stage in their high heels and see that they have water.  It was 110 degrees on stage the night of the 2012 coronation.  Each girl crowns her successor.  It was special for Princess Paige Storkamp to crown her best friend in 2009.

Other events added by Annandale’s new royalty that promote goodwill in the community include Christmas cards and teas at the Annandale Care Center, and visits to St. Cloud and Buffalo Hospitals for face painting in the pediatrics ward.   One of the fun events is the Anoka Halloween parade where they ride on a float dressed in costumes.  The girls build a network and life-long friendships with royalty in other communities.  The Delano and Annandale royalty helped each other with their Princess Parties.  The young ladies are “forever royalty,” and when asked to come back to talk about their experiences they say, “That was the best time.”

The Aquatennial Ambassadors Organization started in 1940, and 2015 was the 75th annual Aquatennial.

Aquatennial Ambassadors Organization Mission Statement:  The mission of the Aquatennial Ambassadors Organization is to inspire women in Minnesota to achieve extraordinary futures by providing professional development opportunities through networking and mentorship.

The candidate development and scholarship programs allow participation in volunteer activities, interview sessions, professional development opportunities with local organizations and more.  At the end of the week long program, three ambassadors are selected to represent AAO for the year.

The 2013 Aquatennial was an exhausting week with four or five different interviews, six social events,   including the Commodore’s dance, boating on Lake Minnetonka, dinners at fancy restaurants and the Women’s Club, the parade and coronation.  The Captains, Commodores and chaperones take good care of the young ladies.  There is a five to seven member judging team, and the candidates have no idea who they are.  The connection among the candidates is great.  After the coronation, the queen and princesses were whisked away to the Marriott Hotel.  Clothes were in their hotel rooms that fit them, so they were ready for appearances the next day.  During her year reign as Queen of Lakes, Riley had 185 appearances.

Wendy said that she gained insight into what makes the program run, and it was cool to be a small part of that, especially the excitement when Miss Annandale, Riley Bruns, was crowned 2014 Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes.


Notes by Annandale History Club Secretary