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The last two Miss Minnesotas were both Miss Northwests; Siri Freeh and Rebecca Yeh. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE

Miss Minnesota looks familar

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For the second year in a row, Miss Northwest has been crowned Miss Minnesota.

Representing the region as Miss Northwest 2012, Rebecca Yeh claimed the state crown at the pageant, which was held June 12-15 in Eden Prairie.

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The Miss Northwest Scholarship Pageant has been an annual event in the area since 1935. In its history the pageant has crowned three women that advanced to win Miss Minnesota. The first was Paula Knoll in 1995, and the other two were Siri Freeh and Yeh, the two most recent Miss Northwests.

Of Yeh’s involvement in the pageant circuit, Cindy Moore, director of the Miss Northwest Pageant said, “she’s been in for a short time, but she’s accomplished a lot.”

“I just got hooked on it,” Yeh said of her initial experience with pageants. After being approached by a director in Brainerd about competing based on her musical talent, as well as her athletic and academic success in high school, she chose to enter, and emerged as Miss Brainerd Lakes 2011.

Progressing to the Miss Minnesota Pageant in 2012 as one of the youngest contestants, Yeh said, “I was really new to it, and still figuring out who I was.

Last year, Freeh, a Lake Park native and Miss Northwest 2011, rose above 21 other finalists to claim the crown. Yeh finished just behind her as first runner-up, an experience she said was really about “getting her feet wet” in the atmosphere of the bigger pageant.

Entering the Miss Minnesota Pageant for a second time as Miss Northwest 2012, Yeh said, “this year I was able to come back with so much more confidence.”

“It’s amazing,” Moore said of the back-to-back state titles for Miss Northwest. “I would have to credit the Jaycees for being the financial support for this pageant, and for giving the girls the opportunity to compete locally and move on to Miss Minnesota.”

Though it's held in Detroit Lakes, women who live anywhere in northwestern Minnesota are eligible to participate in the Miss Northwest Pageant.

As Miss Northwest, Yeh enjoyed her participation in the Water Carnival parade last summer and the opportunity to connect with people in the Detroit Lakes Community. In agreement with Moore, Yeh said, “The Jaycees were really great about including me in a lot of their events.”

She also thanks Moore and the committee for their support during her time as Miss Northwest in preparation for Miss Minnesota.

In those last seconds before the announcement that Yeh was officially crowned Miss Minnesota, she said “I was really at peace at that point,” with the knowledge that the decision rested with the judges.

“I felt so ready for the job and so ready to step into that position,” Yeh said of the role of Miss Minnesota after years of preparation as Miss Brainerd Lakes and Miss Northwest.

Yeh said she experienced a rush of emotion when the judges announced their decision.

“I’m so thankful for the opportunity,” she said. “It’s life-changing.”

Inspired by Phil, her older brother who has autism, Yeh established her pageant platform as “A Voice for Autism.”

Her passion for the cause leads her to volunteer at the Center for Autism and Dyslexia in Lima, Ohio.

As Miss Minnesota, Yeh will continue to share her platform of Autism awareness and education throughout the state and she will serve as the official spokesperson for Children’s Miracle Network and their work in Minnesota.

Yeh said that the most important element of her pageant involvement is the opportunity for “really serving the community through those organizations.”

She also credited the Miss Minnesota Scholarship Pageant as being one of the largest service and scholarship programs in the world, and she’s excited to reach out to families affected by autism in her role in Miss Minnesota.

Yeh is a native of Nisswa and a 2011 graduate of Brainerd High School. She is the daughter of Timothy and Kathleen Yeh, and credits her success as being a “family effort,” with the support of her parents and three siblings.

The 20-year-old recently completed her sophomore year at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, where she is enrolled in the pharmacy program and has appeared on the Dean’s List for the past two semesters. She will be taking a year off from her studies to devote her full attention to the role of Miss Minnesota.

Her talent as a violinist helped her to win the preliminary talent award at Miss Minnesota. She also won the preliminary swimsuit award, as well as the overall interview award at the pageant.

Though she’s only held the title since June 15, Yeh said, “they keep me very busy, and it’s already been a really great experience” as she’s already made several public appearances.

Yeh will travel to Atlantic City, New Jersey in September to compete for the title of Miss America 2014.

With less than three months before the national pageant, Yeh said most of her preparation will simply involve embracing the public speaking and appearances that naturally come with the role of Miss Minnesota.

“I’m really excited to represent Minnesota and Detroit Lakes as Miss Northwest in Miss America,” she said. “It’s an honor.”

Among the 22 contestants at the Miss Minnesota Pageant last week, fourth runner-up was Miss Heart of the Lakes Lauren Johnson, third runner-up was Miss Coon Rapids Emily Kallis, second runner-up was Miss Minneapolis Samantha Phillippi, and first runner-up was Miss City of Lakes Savannah Cole.

If you’re interested in competing for the title of Miss Northwest 2013 on July 12 at the Holmes Theatre during the Northwest Water Carnival, check out the website at missnorthwestpageant.com.

Article written by Libby Larson of Detroit Lakes Newspapers

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