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'Crown sisters'

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Candidates Courtney Bolduc, front left, Belen Benway, Mackenzie Irwin, middle left, Elizabeth Illg, Diana Machado, Hannah Lidahl, Kallie Hamlin, back left, Ashley Knowlton and Josie Lappegaard performed a dance to Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up" to kick off the pageant. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 8
Crowning moments for Josie Lappegaard. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 8
2016 Red Wing Royal Ambassadors Kailee Siefert, left, Olivia Gonsior and Sara Kelly performed a dance number to Elvis Presley's "Burning Love." Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia 4 / 8
Courtney Bolduc was named Miss Congeniality, voted on by the candidates. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia 5 / 8
Crowning moments for Mackenzie Irwin. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 8
Crowning moments for Ashley Knowlton. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 8
Mackenzie Irwin, left, Ashley Knowlton and Josie Lappegaard give their first wave after being crowned the 2017 Red Wing Royal Ambassadors at the annual pageant on Aug. 6. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia 8 / 8

Surrounded with cheers and loud applause, Josie Lappegaard, Mackenzie Irwin and Ashley Knowlton stood in awe and disbelief on the Sheldon Theatre stage Sunday evening. The three young women were crowned the 2017 Red Wing Royal Ambassadors at the Aug. 6 pageant.

"I never thought this would happen to me in a million years," Lappegaard said moments after being crowned. "I am so grateful for this opportunity."

Lappegaard, Irwin, Knowlton and fellow candidates Belen Benway, Courtney Bolduc, Kallie Hamlin, Elizabeth Illg, Hannah Lidahl and Diana Machado had a summer schedule full of events for the royal ambassador program. Bolduc was named Miss Congeniality.

The candidates delivered volunteer platform speeches and answered a question on-stage to a three-women judging panel. Prior to the pageant, the judges interviewed candidates and attended several events.

Fond farewells

Outgoing 2016 Ambassadors Olivia Gonsior, Sara Kelly and Kailee Siefert reflected on the year in their farewell addresses and offered advice to the newly crowned royalty.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Kelly said. "You're being selected for a reason."

Siefert, who also represented Red Wing at the Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes pageant in July, said she is proud to call the city home.

"You will touch more people than you know with a simple hello or a smile," she said.

Gonsior thanked community members for their support during her year of service.

"I realized I, too, could be a role model like ambassadors before me," she said.

Gonsior, Kelly and Seifert will each receive a $2,000 educational scholarship for their year as Red Wing ambassadors.

The 2017 pageant's theme "All Shook Up" paid homage to Elvis Presley. Gonsior, Kelly, Seifert and the candidates performed several dance numbers to some of Elvis' biggest hits. Lappegaard was awarded best costume for her poodle skirt ensemble.

The winners

Lappegaard is the daughter of Jennifer and Scott Lappegaard. She will attend Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, this fall to study chemistry. Lappegaard was sponsored by Red Cottage Montessori.

Irwin is the daughter of Melissa and Paul Irwin. She will attend the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to study elementary education and special education. Irwin was sponsored by TNT Gymnastics.

Knowlton is the daughter Debbie and Rick Knowlton. She will attend St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., to study nursing. Knowlton was sponsored by First Farmers and Merchants Bank.

Knowlton was left nearly speechless after she was crowned.

"It's just so amazing," she managed to say.

Irwin said she is excited to have two new crown sisters in Lappegaard and Knowlton.

"I am so thankful this opportunity," she said.

The pageant concluded the River City Days festival weekend.

Lappegaard, Irwin and Knowlton will represent Red Wing around the state at community celebrations and festivals over the next year. The ambassadors also will work on volunteer projects throughout their reign.