Something special has been cooked up for this year’s Minne“Soda” Hotdish Challenge and Dinner: An appearance by Miss Minnesota.

Kathryn Kueppers, Miss Minnesota 2019, is from the Twin Cities area and was last in Detroit Lakes in July, for the crowning of Miss Northwest and Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen. This will be her first visit in cold weather, and she said she’s looking forward to it.

“I’m certainly excited to come to Detroit Lakes and experience it in the winter,” Kueppers said. “I’m just expecting some good old-fashioned Minnesota Nice company.”

After the judges for the Minne"Soda" Hotdish Challenge and Dinner receive their hotdish samples, community members are welcome to taste the hotdishes, too. But, "When it's gone, it's gone," said Jim Brogren, the event's coordinator. (Tribune File Photo)
After the judges for the Minne"Soda" Hotdish Challenge and Dinner receive their hotdish samples, community members are welcome to taste the hotdishes, too. But, "When it's gone, it's gone," said Jim Brogren, the event's coordinator. (Tribune File Photo)

She’ll be in Detroit Lakes on Sunday, Feb. 9 and Monday, Feb. 10, specifically for the hotdish challenge. She’s attending not only as a special guest, but also as a competitor.

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“I am actually making a hotdish, so I’m very excited,” she said.





“A true Minnesotan”

Kathryn Kueppers, Miss Minnesota 2019, will be at Polar Fest events on Sunday, Feb. 9 and Monday, Feb. 10, namely the hotdish challenge, which she is competing in. (Submitted Photo)
Kathryn Kueppers, Miss Minnesota 2019, will be at Polar Fest events on Sunday, Feb. 9 and Monday, Feb. 10, namely the hotdish challenge, which she is competing in. (Submitted Photo)

This will be Kuepper’s first hotdish competition, but not her first time making the classic Minnesota comfort food, as she is “a true Minnesotan,” she said. At the time of the interview, Kueppers was still deciding between two possible hotdishes to make.

She said the hotdish challenge is what drew her attention to Polar Fest, causing her to reach out about attending. She was quickly welcomed.

“Having Miss Minnesota will be a big boost for it (the challenge),” said Jim Brogren, coordinator of the event.

This will be the third year of the challenge, and it’ll once again be held at Grace Lutheran Church. The event began, and is always held at the church, for the same reason — because “Minnesota is so Scandinavian; hotdish country and church socials,” Brogren said.

Each hotdish is tasted and graded by three or four celebrity judges, whose identities remain a mystery until the competition. Judges also taste and grade each dessert bar, a secondary challenge that was added to the event last year.

After tabulating the results, trophies, supplied by Trophy House, are awarded for the best hotdish and best dessert bar.

“We also do kind of a bragging rights for People’s Choice Award,” Brogren said, explaining that community members get to come and taste the hotdishes and dessert bars, voting on their favorites.

To go with the hotdishes and bars, community members are also served a dinner roll and Pepsi product. The event is a free-will donation, with profits benefiting Grace Lutheran Church and the Becker County Food Pantry.



Miss Minnesota: A full-time job

Miss Minnesota 2019, Kathryn Kueppers, visited Detroit Lakes in July, shortly after winning the Miss Minnesota title. This will be her first time in DL in the winter. (Submitted Photo)
Miss Minnesota 2019, Kathryn Kueppers, visited Detroit Lakes in July, shortly after winning the Miss Minnesota title. This will be her first time in DL in the winter. (Submitted Photo)

Before becoming Miss Minnesota, Kueppers was studying Family Consumer Science Education at Minnesota State University in Mankato. She has a two-year Culinary Arts degree from Saint Paul College.

“They really need teachers in that field,” Kueppers said of Family Consumer Science. “I realized it would be more fulfilling to me to teach a man to fish versus give a man a fish.”

Kueppers had to take a year off from school after winning Miss Minnesota in June 2019. It’s a full-time job, going to three or four pageant-related events per week on average, she said. The summer months are even busier, sometimes with events every day, or twice a day.

“Even if I’m not out in the public appearing, I’m always doing things behind the scenes and at home,” Kueppers said.

Part of Kuepper’s job is to support her Social Impact Initiative, a cause that candidates choose to support when running in a competition associated with the Miss America Organization.

“I call it The Invisible Crown,” Kueppers said, explaining what her initiative is all about. “It’s essentially a way of remarketing and rebranding the Miss America organization at the local and state level.”

She’s created informational videos about the organization and the changes Miss America 2.0 brought, works on recruiting candidates and scholarships, and has held multiple talks/speeches.

“I always wanted my legacy to be having grown this legacy (Miss America) because I’m so passionate about it,” she said. Through her initiative, she feels she’s accomplished that.



A long-time dream

Being crowned Miss Minnesota. (Photo by Paula Preston Photography)
Being crowned Miss Minnesota. (Photo by Paula Preston Photography)

Kueppers’ passion for Miss America started at a young age, as her mother, Vicki (Plaster) Kueppers, was also involved in the organization. She followed in her mother’s shoes all the way to winning Miss Minnesota, as Vicki also won the title, in 1983. They are the first mother-daughter pair to win Miss Minnesota.

“When I won, she was just so relieved that I completed my dream,” Kueppers said of her mom. “She’s very proud, to say the least.”

Even though she grew up knowing all about the Miss America Organization, Kueppers said being Miss Minnesota has not been what she expected. She started competing in the organization before it was rebranded as Miss America 2.0, but won after the rebrand, which created a whole different experience.

“It was actually perfect for me because I was able to really put in all of my knowledge from the previous era,” she said.

Now that she’s accomplished her long-time goal of being Miss Minnesota, Kueppers is trying to prepare herself to “put my pageant days behind me and just do my volunteer work,” she said.



If You Go

WHAT: Minne“Soda” Hotdish Challenge and Dinner

WHERE: Grace Lutheran Church, 213 Roosevelt Avenue

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 9, 4-6 p.m., Awards announced at 5:30

TO COMPETE: Register by Sunday, Feb. 2 by contacting Jim Brogren at 218-841-2986



For more stories about 2020 Polar Fest, CLICK HERE.