Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
By Betty Lawrence
Opera talent helps bring crown to St. Henry teen
  Erica Gelhaus' enthusiastic performance of the operatic aria, "Saper Vorreste" helped her win the title of Miss Lake Festival 2006 before a large crowd at the Celina Fieldhouse on Monday evening.
The 18-year-old from St. Henry also captured the Outstanding Talent award, Outstanding Fred Thees Interview award and the Jim Zellner Memorial Fund award.
Music filled the air most of the evening as a large number of the 14 contestants sang before the panel of judges in the talent portion of the annual scholarship pageant.
First runner-up was Kaela Gardner, 18, a graduate of Parkway High School, Rockford; second runner-up, Brigitte Hart, 18, a 2006 graduate of Coldwater High School and third runner-up, Heather Waterman, 19, a 2005 Celina High School graduate.
In an unusual and surprising move, the young ladies, who already had walked across the stage and down the gangplank in their swimsuits, donned their suits again after intermission to replay that portion of the contest.
A computer glitch had failed to tally the judges' score, requiring the deja vu moment. The evening wear portion of the contest concluded the long evening of pageantry.  
Gelhaus wore a turquoise two-piece swimsuit for the lifestyle and fitness division of the pageant and her long green gown gracefully swept across the stage in the evening wear portion and as she bowed to accept the queen's crown from the 2005 Miss Lake Festival queen, Sarah Garman. Gelhaus is the daughter of Ron and Judy Gelhaus, St. Henry.
First runner-up Kaela Gardner is the daughter of John and Kim Gardner, Rockford. She wore a long orange gown as she sang the number, "Gold," and her two-piece swimsuit was red.
Brigitte Ann Hart, second runner-up, wore a long red gown as she sang in the talent portion of the pageant. Her gown for the evening wear division was orange and she chose a two-piece black swimsuit for the fitness section. She is the daughter of Paul and Joyce Hart, Coldwater.
Third runner-up Heather Waterman rounded out the queen's court of vocalists. She selected a two-piece turquoise swimsuit and her long pink evening gown glittered as she walked across the stage. She is the daughter of Robert and Judy Waterman, Celina.
The pageant kicked off with an on-stage interview. Capturing that award was Kaela Gardner who responded to the interview question by describing the benefits of volunteerism. The interview accounted for 5 percent of the judges' score with a private interview accounting for 25 percent; lifestyle and fitness, 15 percent; talent, 35 percent and evening wear, 20 percent.
More than $12,000 in scholarships will be awarded to the contestants, reported Miss Lake Festival Scholarship board of trustee member Fred Wiswell. In addition, the Western Ohio Educational Foundation is contributing $4,000 in scholarships to participants to attend the Wright State University-Lake Campus.
Gelhaus will receive more than $4,000 in scholarship money for her winning effort.
The People's Choice award was won by Heather Waterman and Tina Hogan received the Commitment to Excellence award.
In a post-pageant party held at Bella's Restaurant, contestant Alicia Sneddon was awarded the Barbara Wagner scholarship award.
Taking home $350 each are non-finalist contestants Jessica Bettinger, Lisa Canary, Elizabeth Giere, Martina Hogan, Jodi Moorman, Jessica Rosengarten, Gwen Scott, Alicia Sneddon, Sarah Stalder and Katie Westgerdes.
Gelhaus and her court will reign over this weekend's Celina Lake Festival.
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