Monday, June 22nd, 2009
By Betty Lawrence
Crowning achievement
St. Henry woman wins Miss Ohio title
  Nearly 200 residents lined the Main Street of St. Henry on Sunday evening to welcome home the newly crowned 2009 Miss Ohio, Erica Gelhaus.
Gelhaus, Celina's Miss Lake Festival 2006, won the state crown Saturday in Mansfield following several days of competition.
"I'm floating, I have been floating since I was named Miss Ohio," a beaming Gelhaus said after the hometown parade.
She doesn't remember her name actually being announced as the winner, she said, since the crowd in Mansfield's Renaissance Theatre became very loud as the crowning moment neared.
"I could just hear people screaming. It was so overwhelming," said Gelhaus, 21, the daughter of Ron and Judy Gelhaus. "It has been absolutely incredulous. I feel so blessed by my community."
A welcome home sign in the crowd read "one Reds player, four NFL players and one Miss Ohio."
Mercer County was well represented at the state contest as Miss Lake Festival 2008 Ellen Bryan competed and placed as fourth runner-up. Heather Waterman, Miss Lake Festival 2007, won the swimsuit competition in the event's preliminary competition.
This was Gelhaus's third attempt for the state crown. In 2007, she was named first runner-up, and the following year, she earned the second runner-up position.
"Work hard and strive for your dreams. It takes perseverance," she advised the young people in the crowd on Sunday.
As Miss Ohio, Gelhaus won a total of $12,700 in scholarship awards.
Gelhaus, 21, will be taking off one year of school at Otterbein College to take on the full-time role of Miss Ohio. Headquartered in Mansfield, she will be traveling the state in a vehicle provided by the Miss Ohio Association.
"We already have her booked to be at our Miss Lake Festival fundraiser at Bella's in July and at this year's Miss Lake Festival pageant," Celina Lake Festival Chairperson Michelle Emerine said, pointing out the local contestants in the state pageant took home at least a third of the scholarship monies offered this year.
After her journey as Miss Ohio, Gelhaus plans to return to college where she is pursuing a bachelor of music in vocal performance.
At Mansfield, Gelhaus won the talent portion of the preliminaries with the operatic number "So Anchio La Virtu Magic." For the swimsuit portion of the pageant, she chose a pink two-piece suit and her evening gown was a corseted taupe and black gown. Her platform is "Turning the Page for Children's Literacy."
"I really think the hardest part on the road to Miss Ohio for me was deciding what I wanted to sing for the talent portion," she said.
Gelhaus now will compete in the Miss America Pageant, slated for Jan. 30 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Assisting Gelhaus and the other local contestants at Mansfield throughout the days of competition were Lake Festival Scholarship Pageant Directors Melissa Hoying and Jerry Deitsch, with the help of Jeff Hoying.
A large contingent of family members of the contestants also attended the pageant to cheer on their hometown competitors.
"It was just electric when Erica was crowned. Everyone was screaming, just chaos," Melissa Hoying said, noting the competition was tough as there were several previous competitors.
During the pageant, Deitsch and Melissa Hoying also received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Miss Ohio organization.
Organizations wishing to book Miss Ohio are invited to go to missohio2009@gmail.org or info@missohio.org. The number is 419-522-6677.
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