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BREMEN -- If ever there was an important tradition in safe hands, it is Bremen's Junior Miss.
The 50th Distinguished Young Women's program took place Saturday night in a very welcoming Bowen Auditorium on the high school campus.
Brooke Bahr took the 2015 title with ease. Her vocal solo and guitar playing alone, her commanding stage presence, the bounce in her routine separating her from the pack in the fitness competition . . . there was little doubt the best competitor this night won it all.
She also won scholarships for interview, talent and self-expression. As those were awarded and as the second and first-runnersup were announced, it was easy for her parents, Jackie and Tim, to exhale and realize what their daughter had accomplished, though mom said she was not completely relieved until her daughter's name was announced.
Brooke herself thanked, "God, for all He has given me," in a comment while still on stage accepting congratulations and hugs.
She has performed on the auditorium's stage many times in school events, she said, and that had a calming effect as she projected into a comfort zone there. That her sisters Courtney (2008) and Kelly (2011) has also won the title shows Jackie and Tim have some pretty nifty genes.
Second runner-up Nicole Hueni -- one of Brooke's many cousins who have been in and won this competition -- also won the fitness award. Sarah Hawkins is first runner-up. Emma Gettinger took the scholarship award. Brooke Tolle won for spirit. All award-winner won monetary scholarships as well.
All, of course, are students at Bremen High School.
It is important in this hometown community, to keep traditions alive, to celebrate their renewals every year.
So much history has been imbedded in what used to known solely as the Junior Miss pageant. Now, as part of the national Distinguished Young Women competition, next up is the state competition and then maybe the nationals. There are 700,000 contestants nationwide.
But on this quiet little night in a quiet little town, It was all about Bremen and its traditions.
Present were past title holders, from 1966, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1992, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2011 and 2012 all introduced, all performing various parts of the ceremony, to solidify the the tradition.
Even the legendary voices of Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, among others, were woven into the presentations. It's that kind of town, Bremen is.
Kristin Bien of WSBT, the master of ceremonies, kept the program moving along without seeming rushed at all.
The judges were all from out of town, so no bias could be claimed. They were Patricia Kuntz of south Bend, Gail Jansen of Goshen, Larry and Jan Hill of Elkhart and Cynthia Stitcher of Etna Green.
All have long associations as talent coordinators, or scholarship show promoters and as judges of all kinds of talent,m from music to presentation to stage presence.
The judge chairman was Kristi Monesmith; Lisa Lemler, Bien, and Pam Gunterman the production team; Joyce Reed, Courtney Reed, Marilyn Reed and Linda Coffel handled the tickets; Denbie O'Keefe and Lora Peifer served as backstage moms; and Kathy Overmyer brought along a great student crew to do the sound, lighting and recording.
There are too many sponsors to list, a whole program full. But it is obvious almost every business in town is behind this staging.
Lemler cannot be undervalued. She is a former Junior Miss (2003) as Lisa Reed.
The videotape she put together, black and white pictures with the Sinatra, Armstrong and others as musical overlay, is itself required viewing for anyone who doubts the sincerity and historic impact of this program.
All the smiling faces therein underline the fun that goes into this. The fellowship is evident, even though it is a competition. It leaves such a warm feeling upon viewing. It should be shown to every class, every year.
The idea, of course, is to get a representative of Bremen to showcase, one with Bremen's values and heart
This competition is a forever love affair between the generations. Bremen Junior Miss winners are scattered throughout the United States and into Europe and Africa. It is a link to the heritage that defines the town.