Kuecker is state Snow Queen, Webster girls make history

For the first time ever in the event’s 77-year history, both South Dakota Snow Queens are from the same community and that community is Webster.

A pair of Webster Area High School teens will go on to represent not only their home community but the state of South Dakota across the region as queens for the upcoming year. Senior student Miss Webster Addison Kuecker was crowned the 2023 South Dakota Snow Queen Jan. 14 in Aberdeen just one week after underclassman freshman Junior Miss Webster Willa Stern was crowned the 2023 South Dakota Junior Snow Queen. Never before have both age category queens come from the same town.

While 17-year-old Kuecker said she felt confident in her ability to earn the crown, her jaw still dropped when they announced her name as the winner. While she immediately made eye contact with Stern in the audience, it didn’t sink in what a momentous occasion it was until later.

Kuecker said she wanted to go out for Webster Snow Queen in November because she had done Junior Snow Queen as a freshman where she received first runner-up.

“I felt I owed it to myself to try again,” Kuecker said.

For the senior-level contest, Kuecker arrived Thursday morning in Aberdeen to attend the welcoming event. She then spent the next three days participating in various activities related to the State Snow Queen Festival, including visiting sponsors, attending rehearsals and workshops. Interviewing with judges was another part of the process.

For the Friday night banquet, Kuecker and all other contestants were asked the same question: “How would you promote South Dakota to other states?” Kuecker, who is recovering from a sport-related concussion, said she didn’t remember exactly how she answered, but said it was along the lines of: Communicating the message to other states that South Dakota is a community of love and warmth, from the big cities to the small towns, everyone is in it together.

At the coronation event on Saturday night, Kuecker’s “fish bowl” question was, “What quality should a good leader possess?” Kuecker said her answer was to the effect of, they should be generally approachable and their opinion should be valued.

“I wasn’t that nervous. I went into it as an experience, not a competition... I would have been happy if any of them (the other girls) had the crown on their head,” she said. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Kuecker said she began to suspect she may be crowned on account of how well she perceived her one-on-one interview with the judges went.

“I think I interviewed pretty well,” she said. “I thought I had a chance. They were cool judges, just nice people.”

As the various girls were called upon as runners up, Kuecker said the thought that kept running through her head was, “Maybe I won... maybe...”

At the moment her name was announced, however, she said she looked at Stern and just felt shock that it was actually her.

Almost immediately after the crown was placed on her head, Kuecker said the reality of what this achievement meant for the record books began to sink in. She said there was a buzz that started going around the room amongst the organizers about this having never happened before.

“It’s just crazy,” she remarked. “It is really exciting.”

The two queen’s first official event is the Minnesota St. Paul Winter Festival in a couple weeks. After that, Kuecker said they’ll have a bit of a break until the summer season hits, and they’re already planning to attend many local events such as Webster’s Pumpkin Fest in the fall. It’s also not uncommon, Kuecker said, for other members of the 2023 state Snow Queen court to ask the queens to attend events in their respective communities. This year’s court includes Miss Congeniality Miss Britton Area Regan Ringkob, Princess of Autumn Miss Clark Area Avery Miles, Princess of Summer Miss Ipswich Jailey Hutson, Princess of Spring Miss North Central Jasmin Garcia and Princess of Winter Miss Sully County Lydia Hill. According to Kuecker, any organization which wants the girls to appear will need to follow the proper channels through the state Snow Queen organization. Wherever they go together for travels, the girls will have an entourage of escorts and chaperones.

While all the details are not set, the Webster Snow Queen organization is planning to host a public reception for the girls, possibly in February.

Kuecker is the daughter of John and Laura Kuecker. Stern is the daughter of Clay and JuliAnna Thompson and the late Jim Stern. Kuecker’s future educational plans are to attend Augustana and major in biology pre-med. The scholarship opportunity is one of many reasons to participate in Snow Queen. At the end of their reign, Kuecker will receive a $3,500 scholarship and Stern a $2,000 scholarship, plus each received smaller ones at the local level.

As part of their personal goals, Kuecker said she and Stern both hope to help promote participation in Snow Queen, both across the state and at the local level.

“Any girl should give themselves a chance to grow, even on the local level,” Kuecker said, encouraging others to consider participating in Snow Queen. “They will learn how to present themselves and meet a bunch of new girls plus get to represent your community. Just be yourself. Don’t be somebody else. Just be yourself.”