Detroit Lakes woman wins Miss Minnesota crown
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - Kathryn Knuttila used to be shy.
"I was terrified of doing interviews," she said.
Luckily, she's since grown out of it, which will be helpful this week as her phone rings itself off the hook with questions for the new Miss Minnesota.
Last Saturday, Knuttila, previously known as Miss Twin Cities, was crowned into her new title.
How did that feel?
"I don't remember," Knuttila admitted with a laugh.
Although she recalls crying and feeling "pure joy," the night was a blur.
"I kind of want to watch the video to see what happened," she said.
Right now, Knuttila only has time to look forward. The 23-year-old daughter of Steve and JoAnne Knuttila of Detroit Lakes was chosen to receive over $20,000 in awards and scholarship money, travel Minnesota over the next year to complete her duties, and vie for Miss America in January.
"That's crazy to me," Knuttila said of the competition to come. "It's been a dream since I can remember."
Next year's Miss America pageant won't be the first for the Knuttilas. Sister Kari was Miss Minnesota in 2001, making her a mentor for the youngest Knuttila on her similar journey.
"I've always looked up to my sister," Knuttila said, adding that the growth she witnessed in Kari over her year as Miss Minnesota is something she's experiencing herself.
Although Knuttila has often asked her sister for advice as she worked toward her dream, she said that Kari always emphasized that her choices were her own.
Along with Kari, sister Kim has been continually supportive.
"Both of my sisters have been great," Knuttila said.
Her pageant days began as Princess Altona at age 12, when all she wanted was to play the piano for an audience.
"I loved any opportunity to perform," Knuttila said.
That love of music continues, and was evident last weekend when she performed her original composition of Gershwin's "I've Got Music."
A student at St. Paul's McNally Smith College of Music, Knuttila has recently begun composing orchestra music, as well.
"My dream is to write music for movies," she said.
Currently, Knuttila spends her weekends working as the music director at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Frazee and a piano teacher for 14 Detroit Lakes students.
Although being Miss Minnesota is "pretty much a full-time job," Knuttila will continue lessons through the year.
"(My students) said they wouldn't mind having Miss Minnesota as their teacher," she said with a smile.
Along with music, Knuttila is passionate about service. Her platform, Inspiring America: Crowning the Good in Your Neighborhood, brings her to talk to community leaders, teachers, schools, and parents about how everyday people can become inspiration for others.
Her inspiration for the project itself began at home, where she appeared on TV3's "Inspiring People." Last July, Knuttila organized her first Night of Inspiration concert in town to inspire through music.
"I'd like to do these Night of Inspiration concerts all around Minnesota," she said.
Her platform also works well with the Children's Miracle Network, allowing her to raise money for hospitals.
Knuttila's willingness to serve won her the Tracy Joy McBride Quality of Life Award, given to the contestant who has done the most service work and exhibits honor and integrity, all areas in which she has proven herself.
"I feel so honored to be representing the great state of Minnesota," she said, adding that the northwest had an impressive showing at the competition.
Other contestants from the area included Perham's Jennifer Strege; Frazee's Tiffany Schulstad-Peterson, who won the Community Service Award; Detroit Lakes' Lexy Okeson, who was a semi-finalist and won the Swimsuit and "Miracle Maker" awards; Lake Park's Siri Freeh, who won the Talent Award; and Pelican Rapids' Lacey Erickson, who won the Spirit Award.
For Knuttila and her fellow candidates, making it to the Miss Minnesota competition has been a long road, a lot of work, and an ultimately rewarding experience.
"As clichéd as it sounds, I've become this confident young woman and I owe it all to the Miss Minnesota Scholarship Program," Knuttila said.
From a shy Princess Altona to reigning as Miss Minnesota, Knuttila is an inspiration and has done her hometown proud.
The DL-Online of Detroit Lakes, Minn., and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.