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New Pepper Festival Queen Jordan Loken, second from left, and princesses Julia Pettee, Emma Thole and Hunter Thompson, from left, laugh with joy shortly after receiving their crowns.

2015 Pepper Festival royalty crowned in North Hudson

Life River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
Hudson Star Observer
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2015 Pepper Festival royalty crowned in North Hudson
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The 60th-annual coronation of North Hudson Pepper Festival royalty took place before a large crowd on the festival grounds late Sunday afternoon.

Ken Merchak was introduced as the 2015 king and Jordan Loken was chosen by the judges to serve as queen for the coming year.

The 2015 princesses are Hunter Thompson, Emma Thole and Julia Pettee.

An overcast sky threatened rain and kept the temperature more comfortable than in past years. About a half-hour into the program, a light rain did begin to fall, bringing out umbrellas and sending the 15 queen candidates onto the covered stage.

The rain quit after about 20 minutes, however, and the coronation went on with little interruption.

Skip Ballard, the 2002 Pepper Fest king, and Shannon O’Brien, a 2002 princess, served as emcees.

Giving their farewells were 2014 princesses Margaret Koehler, Samantha Miller and BZ Germain, 2014 Queen Lizz Denning and 2014 Ron Ruettimann.

Denning’s father, Scott Denning, spoke on behalf of the parents of all the 2014 royalty.

A special tribute was paid to three long-time Pepper Fest volunteers who passed away in the past year -- Hattie Wagner, Wally Gregerson and Stanley Dahm.

Wagner was a Pepper Fest cook for many years. Gregerson, a former North Hudson village president, was a big supporter of the festival, as was Dahm, the Pepper Fest king for 2001.

“Pepper Fest played a large role in the hearts and lives of Wally, Hattie and Stan through their volunteerism with physical facilities, food and royalty,” said Pepper Fest board member Holly Steele, Dahm’s daughter. “We are thankful for their love and legacies, and they have certainly been the spirit and inspiration here as we all celebrate our 60th anniversary.”

The 2015 Pepper Fest king is a lifelong Hudson-area resident, and has lived North Hudson for the past 24 year.

Merchak started volunteering at Pepper Fest in 1980 when the king was Sam Ricci and the queen was Michelle Ortner.

The 2015 queen is the daughter of Danny and Lori Loken. She’ll be a junior this fall at Hudson High School, where she is a member of the National Honor Society, SPARK and the golf team.

The parents of the 2015 princesses are Dan and Jessica Thompson, Alan and Theresa Thole, and Shawn and Maureen Pettee.

Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
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