Miss North Shore winner deemed ineligibleCaitlyn Thompson said she thought she was eligible for Saturday’s Miss North Shore pageant in Two Harbors because her parents, who live in the Twin Cities area, have a vacation home in Holyoke, south of Duluth on Highway 23.
By Mike Creger
It’s a case of mistaken geography that ended up with a queen reluctantly giving up her crown this week.
Caitlyn Thompson said she thought she was eligible for Saturday’s Miss North Shore pageant in Two Harbors because her parents, who live in the Twin Cities area, have a vacation home in Holyoke, south of Duluth on Highway 23.
Yes, that may be within 30 miles of Lake Superior – which Thompson believed was the requirement – but it doesn’t fit into written bylaws of the pageant that calls for girls who live along the North Shore or 30 miles inland from where Scenic Highway 61 begins just north of Duluth and to Canada.
“I wanted to know if this would work,” Thompson said about emails she sent to pageant director Vicki Louks detailing where the family property was. She never said it would be a problem, Thompson said.
It became one on pageant night as audience members heard that the polished Thompson was from Vadnais Heights. In an area where everyone knows everyone, many wondered about Thompson, Louks said.
The director called it “all of my responsibility” Wednesday when officials who run Miss Minnesota events deemed that Thompson did not meet requirements for the pageant.
Thompson said she made it clear where she was from and that Louks said it was OK. “She should have said she couldn’t run,” Deborah Thompson, Caitlyn’s mother, said Wednesday. “She said it was fine.”
She said she read the odometer on her car coming home from Two Harbors last weekend and Holyoke is within 30 miles of Lake Superior.
The mother said there is “no way” her daughter would try to cheat her way into a competition. “That’s not her.”
Louks said she will have to offer the crown to first runner-up Kimberly Jacobson of Two Harbors, who said she would accept it.
Louks said she was told by the state director of Miss Minnesota pageants that Thompson did not meet “residential requirements” for the program. Miss North Shore is in its first year and is affiliated with the Miss Minnesota organization.
Caitlyn Thompson said she was told that the official bylaws didn’t allow her entry and she would have to give up the title. “It hasn’t been the best of days,” she said.
Louks had been receiving inquiries all week about the residency requirement for the pageant and took those concerns to the state office. While the three other contestants Saturday listed hometowns of Silver Bay or Two Harbors, Thompson’s was listed as “Scenic Highway 61.”
Pageant residency requirements not only state where an entrant can live, it says that person needs to establish residency for six months before the pageant.
Louks said she may have slackened the rules a bit to allow Thompson to fill out a small field. She said she didn’t know where the Thompson’s had property.
Louks and Thompson said they communicated extensively and Louks said she found out Thompson spends “tons of time up here.”
Louks said the other girls in the pageant were told Saturday night about Thompson’s tenuous ties to the North Shore and the pageant program mentioned her Twin Cities tie. She said there was no effort to conceal the information and she and Miss Minnesota officials have determined there was “no dishonesty on anyone’s part.”
First runner-up Jacobson said she was told Thompson’s family had a summer home on Highway 61 and says she really didn’t think much about it. Before the decision had been made, she said she would feel bad if Thompson was ruled ineligible but “of course, I would love it” if she was asked to take her place.
Louks said Thompson is a “real nice, honest girl. I have no doubt she will someday be at Miss America with the Miss Minnesota crown on her head.”
Thompson was a candidate in at least one other pageant the past year, for the title of 2011 Miss Twin Cities. That pageant’s web site states that she was a first-runner up in that contest in 2009 and 2010. That pageant is defined as “open” under Miss Minnesota guidelines, meaning anyone from Minnesota can enter. To that point, the Miss Twin Cities for 2011 is Lauren Johnson, a College of St. Scholastica student in Duluth who is from Brainerd.
Thompson is also listed on the Miss Minnesota USA web site as a candidate in 2009. She said she enters pageants for the scholarship money as she continues to study nursing full time at the University of St. Thomas and holds two jobs. She said the money from Saturday’s pageant would have paid for the rest of her current semester.
Miss North Shore receives a $1,000 scholarship and is available for more through the Miss Minnesota contest in June. That winner would go on to the Miss America pageant.
Louks said most girls who end up at the Miss Minnesota level have entered a few pageants already. Jacobson and the other competitors said she they enjoyed Thompson’s company and expertise when it came to the pageant.
Louks set up Miss North Shore as a “closed” competition, meaning contestants would need to fulfill residency requirements. Louks said she made the move because the program is about getting scholarships to local girls to further their educations.
Louks said Thompson was clearly the winner at a “lovely” event Saturday night at Two Harbors High School. She received praise for the quality of the event from participants and audience members.
She said Thompson was well-prepared for the pageant. She said the judges were impressed by her answers about how she would represent the North Shore. She’ll be at the Winter Frolic parade in February, Louks said, and all the other area events.
Relatives of the other girls in the pageant, who would not go on the record, had only compliments for Thompson. They said they were merely concerned about what the rules were starting out.
Deborah Thompson said she understood that Louks was organizing her first pageant and there may have been a rush to get enough girls into it. “It’s a learning curve,” she said. “It’s too bad this happened.”
Louks said she would certainly scrutinize girls more closely in the future about rules for the pageant, saying she could be faulted for her “eagerness” to get quality candidates. Louks said it was important not only to get at least four girls to sign up for the pageant but she wanted “someone who could hold her own” and could be a “great role model” for girls along the North Shore.
She said instead of making plans to ask local businesses to support next year’s pageant, she feels she has to go around and offer apologies. “I made a bad choice,” she said.
Deadlines for applying for the pageant were missed by some of the other contestants, Louks said, and she also let that slide in order to get as many contestants as possible.
“I don’t feel that I was duped,” she said, but is sorry that the residency question created a “horrible mess.”
Caitlyn Thompson says she harbors no ill feelings and hopes none are directed toward her. “I love the North Shore,” she said. She plans to enter another pageant in February.
“This doesn’t change who I am and I’m going forward,” she said.