Linaya Hass just second queen from Cassopolis

Published 5:10 am Monday, August 14, 2006

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
Former Miss Cassopolis Linaya Hass, 19, a sophomore at the University of South Carolina, won the 2007 Miss Cass/St. Joseph County crown and a $1,350 scholarship Saturday night from eight contestants at Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center.
Linaya, Miss Cassopolis 2004, finished first runner-up to Dowagiac's Marisa Viestenz in last summer's pageant for the 2006 title and an opportunity to appear in the June Miss Michigan pageant in Muskegon.
Linaya is the second Cassopolis queen since the contest originated in 1983 and the first since Johnelle Ryan's extended 1992-93 reign.
Contestant 7, daughter of Dean and Glenda Hass, is studying for a career in marine biology.
She danced to "Gotta Be."
Her platform was "Opportunities 101 – The Importance of Involvement in Extra-Curricular Activities."
Linaya was Student Senate president, junior class president, senior class president, National Honor Society president and treasurer, Spanish Honor Society president and treasurer, Spanish Club treasurer and SADD vice president in high school.
First runner-up was Keera Morton, 19, a Central Michigan University sophomore and second runner-up and Miss Congeniality in the 2005 Miss Dowagiac pageant.
Keera won a $500 scholarship after singing "Not for the Life of Me" from "Thoroughly Modern Millie," which starred Julie Andrews in a 1967 film.
Keera is the daughter of Robert and Catherine Morton.
Keera wants to obtain a bachelor's degree in child development, then teach in an early childhood program in a public school system.
Second runner-up, and a $300 scholarship, went to dancer Mekayla Diehl, 17, of Union, a senior at White Pigeon High School. She is the daughter of Katie and Ted Sautter.
Mekayla plans to obtain a master's degree in pediatric nursing.
Her platform was "4-H: Making the Best Better."
Third runner-up was 2003 Miss Niles-Brandywine Merrilee Wuthnow, the 21-year-old daughter of Mark and Stephani Wuthnow.
The senior at Kansas State University hopes to obtain a master's degree, become a physician's assistant and work in a foreign mission.
She won a $200 scholarship.
Talent counts for 35 percent of the score, plus 25 percent for private interviews with the five judges, 20 percent for evening wear, 15 percent for lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit and 5 percent for on-stage questioning.
Also competing were Miss Dowagiac 2005 Courtney Dufour, 19, a sophomore at Southwestern Michigan College who did a cheer dance to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way"; Elizabeth Grady, 20, first runner-up to Miss Dowagiac 2004 and a junior at Western Michigan University who sang "Give Me One Reason"; Rose Marie Middleton, 19, a sophomore at SMC who performed a tuba solo; and Amber Webb, 18, of Sturgis, a freshman at Cornerstone University who performed a gymnastics dance.
In other awards, Courtney Dufour was the ad sales winner, Linaya Hass was the ticket sales winner, Amber Webb was the People's Choice and Merrilee Wuthnow won the Four Points Award for embodying the true meaning of the Miss America organization in such areas as attendance and punctuality.
Entertaining between segments as a vocalist was Miss Lighthouse Coast Christina Hudson, who grew up in Grand Rapids. She won a $4,000 scholarship at the state pageant.
Marisa, a junior at Oklahoma City University, returned to display her "River Deep Mountain High" dance routine from the state pageant. She hopes to dance on Broadway or in Celine Dion's show in Las Vegas.
For the opening dance number, contestants appeared in red tops and blue jeans to Huey Lewis and the News' "The Heart of Rock and Roll."
Judges included:
Summer Anne Hallwood Minnick, the 1997 queen from Niles. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she earned her master's degree in public administration from Michigan State University. She is chief lobbyist for the Michigan Municipal League and its 534 cities and villages. Summer was Miss Apple Festival 1993, Miss Niles-Brandywine 1994 and Miss Greater Central Michigan 1998.
She lives in East Lansing with her husband, Dr. Brandon Minnick, and their year-old daughter, Maisie Katherine.
David Carew was Dowagiac vocal music director for three years, then taught at Edwardsburg for four years. He is currently director of choral activities at Southwestern Michigan College. A graduate of Western Michigan University, David is co-founder, director and singer in the newly-formed professional ensemble, Dogwood Chorale, under the umbrella of the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival. He and his wife Debbie and son Jacob, 4, live in Buchanan.
Lori Baushke, Miss Decatur 1990, in 1991 was a Miss Cass/St. Joseph County talent winner and runner-up. She graduated from Grand Valley State University and has been employed by AAA in Kalamazoo for the past eight years. Dance was a big part of her youth. As a member of Encore Dance Company, Lori competed across the United States and traveled to Russia and Spain to perform. She was a dance instructor at Miss Kathy's School of Dance during high school and eventually attended Oklahoma City University to study dance. Lori still lives in Decatur with her husband, Jon, and two children, Leah, 2, and Jesse, 11 months.
Kelly Kowalczyk, a graduate of Grand Valley State University, is a communication professional for Williams Group, a strategic communication firm in Grand Rapids. Kelly has studied dance for almost 30 years. She studied dance in Chicago and New York and was a guest performer with Plano, Texas, Dance Theater for the past two years. Kelly has 17 years experience teaching ballet, jazz, lyrical and tap dance and has also judged several dance competitions. She has been a board member for the Miss Greater Grand Rapids Scholarship Program for three years and has provided training and choreography for its state representatives.
Leonard LaFleur, a Boston University graduate who, as an exchange student in Vienna, Austria, was the only American invited to sing at the Salsburg Music Festival. He worked for 35 years as a motivational speaker, trainer and accessory expert for Jacobson's. While serving in the military he was a member of the All Soldiers Chorus and the Military Rolling Along Show, touring the world. He has appeared in more than 200 theater shows since age 11. His pageant experience encompasses Michigan, California, Oregon, Washington and several New England States.
Keith Carter, a broadcast journalist, an associate minister at a South Bend Baptist church and a former Northwestern football player, again served as master of ceremonies.