Luck of the Irish follows Queen Jen

Despite a summer of record rainfalls, it never rained on the parade of the 25th Miss Maple Lake.

Somehow Queen Jen Pribyl and her princesses, Nichole Haegele and Amanda Rigenhagen, got through 18 parades and appearances without a drop of water falling on their sparkling tiaras. But the devestating downpour of June 24 left an impression on the royal court because they picked that day to select matching outfits in St. Cloud and drove home in the rainstorm of the century.

“We went back to Amanda’s house and her basement was flooded so we helped her out with that,” Jen said. “But she lives near the golf course and the roads there were all flooded when we were trying to get home.”

That was just one of the memorable events that followed last year’s remarkable coronation. A record 21 girls competed for the crown in the 25th year of Maple Lake’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Amanda was only the second winner of both the Miss Congeniality and princess titles, and Jen became the first reigning MLHS Homecoming Queen to receive the crown of Miss Maple Lake.

“I was surprised,” Jen laughed. “I wasn’t expecting to be queen. I was hoping to get a princess crown and was more nervous for that.  “When Amanda and Nichole got crowned, I was thinking it’s going to be a fun year for whoever is Miss Maple Lake, and it turned out to be me.”

And Jen was right. What followed was a year of fun and making a float full of new friends.  “We became good friends with the royalty from neighboring towns like Buffalo, Albertville and Annandale,” Jen said. “When the summer started, we really didn’t know what to expect and it was fun to become friends with all of these girls.”

However, the parade season started out on a frustrating note for Miss Maple Lake when Jen had to miss the season’s first parade in Buffalo because her graduation party fell on that day. And with Amanda holding two titles, featuring just two girls on a float built for four made it obvious someone was missing.

“Amanda and Nichole said people were asking the whole time, ‘Where’s your queen?’” Jen laughed.   But even when Jen was in her spot at the top of the float, the questions kept coming. “Amanda would sit in her princess spot and people would ask, ‘Where’s Miss Congeniality?’”

Cheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun” became one of their parade anthems for the summer.   “When we were waiting for the parades to start,” Jen said, “we’d have a little dance party by Albertville’s float because they had that song recorded to play during the parade.”

It also seemed like the luck of the Irish followed Maple Lake’s royal court wherever they went.  “We’d always sit with another town’s candidates,” Jen said. “And a lot of the time, the girls we sat with got crowned. Good luck charm. . . that’s what we called ourselves.”

But Maple Lake’s three lucky charms did more than ride floats and have fun. They took it upon themselves to enter the Relay for Life cancer fund-raiser held in Albertville in August. Jen said it gave the members of the royal court an opportunity to meet business people and community leaders as the trio worked to collect pledges for a very worthwhile cause.

“We were able to show how our community supported us in the Relay for Life and I thought that was really special,” Jen said. “We would like to see if the girls who are crowned after us would like to continue to do this. It’s a great way to interact with the people you’re representing.”

Jen is now attending the University of Wisconsin/River Falls, Nichole is at Bethel College and Amanda is at the Model College of Hair Design. All three will be smiling and waving during the 26th edition of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at 2:30 p.m. on March 15 and will pass their crowns on to another excited group of young ladies during the 4:30 p.m. coronation at the high school gym.

“It was fun and now that it’s almost over, I’m excited to have someone else experience it too,” Jen said.

But Queen Jen won’t be done with her royal duties because in July comes her participation in the Minneapolis Aquatennial.  “I’m kind of nervous about that because I’m not really a dressy, make-up kind of person,” Jen laughed. “I don’t have a problem with talking to the judges, just the little primping stuff you have to do.”

Jen expressed her gratitude for the support from her home town and how proud she was to have served as its number one ambassador.  “When someone drives through Maple Lake,” Jen said, “maybe they’ll remember us from a parade, on our float smiling and waving and having fun. And maybe they’ll connect that with Maple Lake.”