Five beauties competed for title
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Brooklyn-born beauty who charmed the judges by confessing that she rooted like mad for Norway to win gold medals in the recent Winter Olympics was crowned Miss Norway of Greater New York in a contest held Saturday afternoon in Dyker Heights.
Jillian McDonald, who is half-Norwegian, won the 59th Annual Miss Norway of Greater New York Contest, beating out four other contestants for the title. Sponsored by the Norwegian Immigration Association, the contest took place in front of a crowd of 200 spectators at the Norwegian Christian Home and Health Center at 1250 67th St.
McDonald won the contest’s grand prize – a trip to Norway. She will also be invited to take part in the 62nd Annual 17th of May Parade next month in Bay Ridge. The parade, which will actually take place on Sunday, May 18 (It is traditionally held on the Sunday closest to May 17), celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814. As Miss Norway, McDonald will ride the parade route in a convertible so she can wave to spectators.
The Miss Norway contest is open to young women between the ages of 17 and 22 who live in the tri-state area and who are of Norwegian descent.
It’s more than a beauty pageant, according to master of ceremonies Rolf Kristian Stang. The contestants are expected to not only exhibit beauty and poise, but be well versed in Norwegian customs and traditions. Each contestant is put on the spot by being required to answer questions from Stang and then from a panel of the judges. “It transitioned from being a beauty contest to what it is now,” Stang said. The contest features “young women who reflect a wonderful family heritage,” he said.
There was plenty of talk about fjords and lutefisk from the contestants as each sought a way to connect with the judges. The women also tried to impress the panel by saying a few words in Norwegian.
“I was very excited for the Olympics. I watched it every night! I wanted to see Norway win even though we live in the U.S. I was rooting for Norway secretly,” McDonald, wearing a sparkly blue gown, told the judges during the question and answer session.
McDonald, who lives in New Jersey, plays the clarinet and told judges she hopes to become a therapist.
The first runner-up was Nadine Snyder, a nursing student at Liberty University, who said she would love to travel to Norway to visit family members, see the fjords and hike in the countryside. She also told the judges she has a Norwegian flag posted on the wall of her college dorm room.
The other contestants were Skylar Davenport, Julia Miller and Kierstyn Power.
The judges were Pastor Margareth Glad of the Norwegian Seaman’s Church; Kjell Tore Egge, senior vice president of DNB Bank; John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden; Brian Andersson, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Records; and Lois Berseth, president of the Faerder Lodge.
Prior to the contest, the audience enjoyed a lively question and answer session Stang had with children serving as Little Miss Norways and cadets. Dressed in native costumes and wearing Viking helmets, the kids answered questions about Norway tried to say a few words in Norwegian.
The contest remains a longstanding tradition in the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights area, despite the fact that very few Norwegians actually live in Brooklyn anymore.
Up until the 1960s, Brooklyn was home to 60,000 Norwegian-Americans. A Village Voice article from 2008 noted that Norwegians first started arriving in Bay Ridge in the late 19th century, loving the community’s waterfront views, which reminded them of the fjords in the old country.
The Norwegians started drifting away from New York in the 1960s. But the small community of Norwegians that remains holds firm to traditions, including the Miss Norway contest and the 17th of May Parade.