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2015 Pepper Festival royalty crowned in North Hudson

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.1 / 11
New Pepper Festival King Ken Merchak receives his royal cape.2 / 11
Jordan Loken celebrates being crowned 2015 Pepper Festival queen. Devon Krumrei, left, shares in her joy.3 / 11
Members of the Pepper Festival board of directors are recognized for their work. From left are President Ryan Copeland, Vice President Gina Gross, Holly Steele, Treasurer Dan Ortner, Don Bouzard, Dianne Sparstad, Eric Anderson, Anita Stilwell and Secretary Vicki Sippel. Board member Tim Zais isn’t in the photo.4 / 11
Julia Pettee reacts to being crowned a 2015 Pepper Festival princess by 2014 Princess BZ Germain. 5 / 11
Hunter Thompson receives her 2015 princess crown from 2014 Princess Margaret Koehler.6 / 11
:Emma Thole, center, hugs fellow candidate Brianna Manke after having a princess crown placed on her head by 2014 Princess Samantha Miller.7 / 11
Kasondra McKenzie is acknowledged for selling the most Pepper Fest buttons. Brittany Germain, right, received the prize for designing the best Pepper Fest banner.8 / 11
A light shower brought out the umbrellas for part of the program and sent the queen candidates under the protective canopy of the stage. 9 / 11
Seated front and center are pageant judges Steve Casalenda of Bloomington, Minn., Jennifer Tamburo of Afton, Minn., and Sarah Collings of Somerset.10 / 11
The St. Paul Winter Carnival royalty leads the 2014 North Hudson Pepper Fest royalty in an ooh-la-la dance. The North Hudson royalty, from left, are Princess Samantha Miller, Princess Margaret Koehler, Queen Lizz Denning, Princess BZ Germain and King Ron Ruettimann, far right.11 / 11

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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