Scholarship pageant at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24 at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks features four contestants and director from Crookston.

A Miss America-affiliated scholarship pageant taking place in Grand Forks this weekend has Crookston connections – five, to be exact – between contestants and the pageant director, Caroline Brost. While competitions for the three titles of Miss Grand Forks, Miss Empire and Miss Grand Cities will be run side by side on the stage of the Empire Arts Center Saturday evening, only the Miss Grand Cities pageant is open to Minnesotans without North Dakota or Grand Forks connections.

"We added the Miss Grand Cities pageant this year for another option," said Brost, who took over as pageant director in 2009 from Crookston native Joyce Hagen Eickhof. "We've found that many of our contestants, especially UND students, have Minnesota connections, so we wanted to give these women the option of competing for the chance to go on to the Miss North Dakota or Miss Minnesota Scholarship Pageants.

"Grand Forks is only one of two or three cities in the U.S. where the Miss America organization currently allows a dual pageant," she added. "We are an official local preliminary pageant to the Miss Minnesota and Miss North Dakota Scholarship Pageants, which are both preliminary competitions to the Miss America Pageant. The 2013 titleholders from these pageants will be eligible to compete in those next year."

Miss Grand Forks contestants must be students or residents of Grand Forks County, but those competing for the Miss Empire title can have the same connections to anywhere in the state of North Dakota. Miss Grand Cities competitors can be from anywhere in Minnesota. The women must be a least high school seniors, ages 17 to 24. Also being crowned on Saturday are Miss Grand Forks Outstanding Teen and Miss Grand Cities Outstanding Teen, girls ages 13 to 17.

A total of 21 young women are competing for one of the three titles, with seven vying for Miss Grand Forks, five for Miss Empire and nine for Miss Grand Cities. Contestants from Crookston are McKaela Larson, Cyrina Ostgaard, Whitney Schmidt and Michelle Stahlecker. All four were also Miss Crookston participants.

Following is contestant information provided by the Miss Grand Forks Scholarship Organization and other sources:

McKaela Larson, daughter of Wendy Sturm, is a senior at Crookston High School. Her platform is "Let's Move!" and she will perform a vocal solo for her talent.

Cyrina Ostgaard, daughter of Kent and Natalie Ostgaard, is also a CHS senior. Her platform is "Self-Esteem &Volunteering" and she will perform a comedic monologue.

Whitney Schmidt, daughter of Mark and Mary Schmidt, graduated in 2007 from CHS and from Northland Community & Technical College. Her platform is "Read Across America" and she will perform a comedic monologue.

Michelle Stahlecker, daughter of Trent and Kathy Stahlecker, is a 2011 CHS graduate and attends UND. Her platform is "Suicide Awareness" and she will perform a vocal solo. She was Miss Crookston 2010, Miss Thief River Falls 2011 and competed in the Miss Minnesota Scholarship Pageant in June.

The pageant begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24 at the Empire Arts Center, 415 Demers Ave. in Grand Forks. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Admission is $10.

About Miss America Organization
The Miss America Organization is founded on the following four principles: Service, Scholarship, Style, and Success. Contestants are therefore some of the nation's most multifaceted and accomplished young women.

In addition to its emphasis on community service and speaking, the Miss America Organization sets itself apart from any other"pageant"system with the inclusion of the talent portion as well as its commitment to scholarship assistance for its participants. The Miss America Organization is the world's largest scholarship provider for young women, granting over $45 million annually on the local, state, and nation levels of competition.