Shoshana Anderson, at right, was Greenwood's Queen in 2016-2017. Joy Newgard, bottom left, founded and directs the Lake Minnetonka Area Ambassadors Program.
Although Minnesota isn’t a monarchy, as a Lake Minnetonka Area ambassador, you could be queen for an entire year. The newly established program is seeking applicants for queen, junior queen, princess and prince positions, who will represent their communities at an array of local events. The program aims to celebrate the small towns around Lake Minnetonka and highlight all that makes this part of our state so unique.
Joy Newgard is the Lake Minnetonka Area Ambassador Program’s founder and director. A little over a year ago, she started the program as a way to highlight the many communities within the Lake Minnetonka area and the people who help make these towns such great places to live. The program is, in part, a resurrection of the Chaska Sugar Days Beauty Pageant, which was popular in the early and mid 20th century, but the program is no longer focused on “beauty.” “It’s not a beauty pageant or a talent competition,” Newgard says. Rather, candidates are selected based on their character, volunteer experience and ability to serve as a positive role model to others.
The program is open to residents of Chaska, Deephaven, Excelsior, Greenwood, Shorewood, Tonka Bay, Hopkins, Mound, Orono, Wayzata, Long Lake, Chanhassen, Spring Park, Minnetonka, Minnetrista, Navarre and Victoria. Women ages 19 to 30 can apply for queen positions; girls 11 to 18 for junior queen; and children 6 to 10 for prince or princess. Applicants must fill out an application, write an essay about a positive aspect of their community and complete an interview. Since volunteering is a central part of the ambassador program, candidates are also evaluated on their community service experience.
The program also strives to be accessible for anyone who wants to participate. The American Legion pays for tiaras and sashes, and sponsorships from local businesses or community members help cover the cost of the gowns and alterations, so there ends up being no cost to being a Lake Minnetonka Area ambassador. Unlike some other similar programs, participants do not receive a scholarship or any sort of monetary compensation. Rather, the focus is on volunteering and building community. “It’s kind of like a Girl Scout program in that way,” Newgard says.
Once selected, ambassadors serve as representatives for their communities. Throughout the year, they participate in a wide range of activities, including parades, festivals and coronations, in addition to community service projects. Newgard says that in the program’s inaugural year, ambassadors have volunteered with organizations like Feed My Starving Children, the Salvation Army and Relay for Life.
Shoshana Anderson served as the 2016–2017 Greenwood Queen. Newgard says that during the application process, Anderson stood out because of her extensive volunteer experience and her commitment to serving others. “Shoshana is just a really great gal, somebody who I really wanted in the program,” Newgard says. This year, Anderson will join Newgard as co-director and help select the next round of ambassadors.
Anderson says her experience as a Lake Minnetonka Area ambassador has been nothing but positive. “It’s been amazing,” she says. “I have met so many different people from so many different walks of life.”
Anderson is a lifelong Minnesotan with deep Lake Minnetonka roots. She graduated from Minnetonka High School in 2004, and her family has lived in the area for the past four generations. She says she’s grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community she and her family have long called home. “Whether it’s through [the] winter carnival or volunteering or just hanging out at parades, we meet so many different people from so many different communities, and it’s nice to bring that back,” she says. “It’s amazing to be a part of this program and hopefully be a good role model for ladies and gentlemen, too.”
For more information about the program, contact director Joy Newgard at firstname.lastname@example.org.