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Ms. Melissa Gratzl Crowned Miss German America!
German-American Steuben Parade Names Royalty for 2008
A "whirlwind of amazingness" is getting an encore
Her sash is flying wildly as she jumps forward and back, shaking her arms in circles to the music of "Anton from Tyrol", a wildly popular German song from Austria. "It's the Queen and Princesses dance, we love to do it and are often even asked to do it at events" explains a breathless but visibly happy Melissa Gratzl afterwards. She is happy and proud to do what is now her dance. On Sunday, May 4 she was crowned the new Miss German-America 2008 in Franklin Square and will now represent the German-American Steuben Parade of New York for the upcoming year.
Melissa is a 19-year-old student from Glenwood, NJ, who was born into the German-American community. Her parents are members of the German-American club Edelweiß Passaic, where her grandparents were founding members, and she became a member herself as soon as she was old enough, at the age of 5. There she has been dancing Schuhplattler, the famous and traditional German dance ever since. But although Schuhplattler is her favourite dance, she also likes Polka and Waltz.
"I love to dance and when I sell the Cornflowers, [the symbols of the Steuben Parade that are sold at every event that the Queen and her court attend-A.N.] I sometimes promise a Polka or Waltz to a young man who does not want to buy any flowers right away. It always works." she smiles. Melissa knows this little trick because it is not her first year working with the parade committee. Last year she was a Princess of the Parade and accompanied the former Queen Christina Rom, to the events. "It was a whirlwind of amazingness and I made so many great friends. I can not wait to repeat the great last summer and make even more friends. I am so proud of my heritage and that I am able to live the German culture of my ancestors and I am looking forward to representing the Parade and foster a friendship between my two countries, Germany and the USA."
Last year she was part of the court, but for the Parade on September 20, 2008 on 5th Avenue she will have her own court: 19-year-old Kathryn Pando from Glendale, NY and 22-year-old Andrea Kruzynski from Middle Village, NY will be the Princesses.
Kathryn from Glendale, NY was taught to do German dances like Polka by her aunt and grandmother. It was them who encouraged Kathryn's connection to her roots and helped her with her German when she learned it during her Grammar school time and later in High School and College. That is why she dedicated her title to her aunt Enda Yonke who recently passed away.
While working for the parade, Kathryn wants to continue the work she was doing as the President of the German-American Club at St. Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadows. "I want to be a role model to the younger generation so that they keep the traditions of our ancestors alive and become active members in the German-American community." She is especially looking forward to the Steuben Parade as it will be the first time she will be going down 5th Avenue as an active member of the parade.
Andrea from Middle Village, NY last went down 5th Avenue when she was 12 and was part of the German Squad of the Ridgewood German-American School. She continued to learn German during High School and College and takes great pride in being a German-American and loves to attend events of the community. But she does not only want to be an ambassador for the Steuben Parade and the German-American community of the United States. She wants to spread the German spirit as she experienced it during her visit to Germany last summer. "The people over there are so friendly, more than in any other place I have ever visited. They made me feel fit in right away, and that's what I want to be an ambassador for-the incredible hospitality of the Germans."
The court is completed by the Junior Princesses Sydney Schaefer Froehlich from Mahopac, NY, Ava Starace from Mahopac, NY, and Michelle Mattern from Greenlawn, NY. Both Sydney and Ava are members of the Kindergruppe of the Bavarian Club Edelweiß, a Schuhplattler-group from Westchester. Michelle is a member of the G.E.T.V. Schlierachtaler Stamm.
Pictures by Robert Radske