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BAY VIEW - In a historical moment, Kayla Knuth was named Miss St. Francis for 2017, and cash scholarships totaling $7,000 were awarded to the five participants at the 53rd annual Miss St. Francis Scholarship Pageant, held on Saturday, Feb. 4, at St. Thomas More High School auditorium.

History was made as Kayla and her mother MaryEllen (George) Knuth are the first mother/daughter titleholders for Miss St. Francis.  MaryEllen (George) Knuth was Miss St. Francis in 1982.  Kayla succeeds Miss St. Francis 2016 Gina Miliacca.

New Miss

Kayla Knuth, sponsored by the Allied Industries, captured the judges scores and audience attention with her gymnastics performance to “Try Everything” during the talent competition. She was awarded a $3,000 scholarship to the school of her choice. Knuth also receives a services package from From Hair On salon, $600 wardrobe allowance, and a Wild Workouts and Wellness gift package from owner Amber Budahn (Miss St. Francis 1999).

Knuth received the $100 pageant promotion award for selling the most tickets and was selected by the Miss St. Francis support staff to receive the $100 Memorial award scholarship.

After finishing as first runner-up to Miss St. Francis last year, Knuth this year will represent the St. Francis and surrounding communities at the Miss Wisconsin Pageant June 11-18, in Oshkosh and at area public events throughout the year as the St. Francis City Ambassador.  Her chosen personal platform is “Create your own reason. Pay it Forward, Volunteer Style.”

Other scholarships

Sarah Bittner from St. Francis was named first-runner up and winner of a $1,500 scholarship. Bittner was sponsored by sponsored by St. Francis Civic Association and was Second Runner-up in 2016.

All other contestants were each awarded a $500 scholarship, they were Morgan Ellis (Milwaukee) sponsored by PDQ Tooling, Natalie Haberman (St. Francis), sponsored by Advance Products Co. and Erin Krueger (St. Francis) sponsored by St. Francis Dental Center.

Erin Krueger was presented with two additional $100 scholarships for most ad sales and the George P. George Miss Congeniality award voted on by her fellow contestants.

Duplicate $200 Robert R. Freimuth Non-Finalist Talent Award scholarships were awarded for the tie in the highest talent score among non-finalists to Morgan Ellis for her tap dance and to Natalie Haberman for her comedic monologue.

Morgan Ellis also was awarded a $200 scholarship as the Alyce L. Freimuth Non-Finalist Interview winner.

Pageant helpers

Emcee and vocalist for the program was Elyse (Wojciechowski) Scheeler, Miss St. Francis 2008.  Pinch hitting as emcee when Michelle (Smukowski) Beck fell ill was Andrea (Berndt) Bender, Miss St. Francis 2006.  Special guest vocalists also helped to fill the void: St. Francis Mayor CoryAnn St. Marie-Carls (Miss St. Francis 1986) and Tris Withington, Miss St. Francis 1984.

The 2017 program included a special princess program for young girls 5 to 12 years old.  Cathy Berndt (mother of Andrea Bender) hosted the event with assistance from Cecilia Margraff, Miss St. Francis 2013. The four girls were treated to games, special back stage access, crowned on stage and accompanied the Miss contestants in their final introduction prior to the awards presentations.

Miss St. Francis is available to participate in community events and activities by contacting the Miss St. Francis Scholarship Pageant Co-Executive Directors, David Goltz or Steve Hecker.

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