The fifth time was a charm for 13-year-old Helen Grewe of Secaucus when she was selected the 47th Little Miss Schuetzen Park in the ballroom of the park’s social hall in North Bergen on Aug. 18.
Nine vied for the crown in the contest, which was part of the Oktoberfest in August celebration in Schuetzen Park the weekend of Aug. 17 to 18. The pageant is open to girls ages 7 to 13, of German-American lineage, and with an interest in German heritage.
As the honoree, Grewe will serve in her post for one year, crowning the next winner in the August 2014 pageant. She received a sash, crown, nail set, and flowers, for her victory.
“It felt amazing,” said Grewe. “I’ve been doing it for five years. I was ‘1st Princess’ (first runner-up) last year.”
Rosie Guenther, 12, of Chicago, Ill., formerly of Hoboken, was named 1st Princess this year and Emily Pfeifer, 12, of Glen Ridge was tabbed 2nd Princess.
“It felt amazing.” – Helen Grewe
Entrants were judged on their style of dress, poise, and responses to a personal interview. The girls’ looks are not really a strong consideration in the evaluation process, pageant officials said.
“An important purpose of the contest is to encourage the girls to become aware of their German heritage,” said Ellen Gloistein, pageant co-chair. So the participants’ interest in their culture is given extra weight.
The interviews are not long, but provide the judges with a good assessment of the contestants.
“We briefly meet with the girls. We ask them about German words,” Gloistein said. “They talk about their ‘omas’ (grandmothers’) good German food that they enjoy.”
“It’s basically about themselves; about what they like to do,” she said. “It’s a very casual interview to get to know the girls.”
Grewe also won the essay contest associated with the pageant. Her writing was about Margarethe Meyer Schurz, a prominent German-American of her time and founder of the first kindergarten in the United States.
“I was looking through the Internet and I thought she was really interesting,” said Grewe, who also won the essay contest last year.
Float of honor
Grewe and the other six top placers will ride on a float during the Steuben Day Parade in New York City on Sept. 21.
“I’m excited about the parade coming,” she said. “It’s going to be thrilling going down Fifth Avenue and hearing everyone calling my name.”
In addition, they will visit the patients of the Fritz Reuter Life Care Center on the grounds of Schuetzen Park.
As any mother would be, Anne Grewe was beaming after her daughter’s achievement.
“We’re very proud of her,” she said after the event. “She’s a very good girl. It’s so nice to see her in the spotlight and recognized.”
But more importantly, she has seen her daughter grow because of the competition.
“It gives her a sense of pride also,” the elder Grewe said. “The pageant has taught her so many amazing things. Helen wasn’t as good a writer in the lower grades. This has helped her writing. The pageant has been so good to her.”
It is not unusual for competitors to return to try and win the title after not winning the first time around, according to Gloistein.
“The girls come back year after year to try to become Little Miss Schuetzen Park,” she said. “We are always hoping to provide them with an enjoyable experience.”
“I like doing this pageant a lot because it has a lot to do with my German heritage,” Grewe said. “I meet other girls who have the same interests as me. It’s a family-like atmosphere. It’s like going home for the holidays.”
Several winners from previous years were in attendance to help this year’s contestants.
John Lawrora was the senior chair of the pageant, and Gloistein and Kathleen Youngclaus Solorzano were co-chairs. Solorzano and Gloistein were also contest judges, and they were assisted this year by judge Dana Ficke.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.