BY GABE LICHT
MINNEAPOLIS, MN Isabelle Hokanson’s reign as a Delano Ambassador may have ended during the June 29 coronation for new royalty, but that doesn’t mean she is done representing Delano.
She did just that while participating in the Minneapolis Aquatennial Ambassador Candidate Program July 18-21.
“There were 50 other candidates, 50 other towns being represented from all over Minnesota,” Hokanson said. “I grew up here and have so much family here, so it meant a lot to be able to represent our little town in the big city of Minneapolis.”
There, she found herself among many acquaintances.
“About half of them I had known coming into the week from my ambassador year,” Hokanson said of the fellow candidates. “I didn’t know any of them super well. I think I talked to all of them at least once. They are the best group of girls and the best candidate group I could’ve hoped to be with.”
Five of those acquaintances, from cities ranging as far southwest as Hutchinson to as far northeast as Chisago Lakes, turned into friends.
“We have our own group chat and we’re planning to hang out soon,” Hokanson said.
One of those friends, Mandy Rochel from Chisago Lakes, was crowned an Aquatennial Princess, alongside fellow Princess Courtney Engholm, of Sleepy Eye; and Queen of the Lakes Haley Rogers, of Albertville.
“I was so happy for her,” Hokanson said of Rochel. “She deserves this opportunity immensely, and I know she’s going to do an amazing job. It helped to have girls that I know will have an amazing year. I’m really proud of them.”
That doesn’t mean Hokanson wasn’t at least a little disappointed that the crown wasn’t placed on her head.
“It was something I really wanted to be a part of, but with 50 amazing girls, I have no idea how the judges could have narrowed it down to three,” she said. “ . . . It stinks I don’t have the same opportunity as the girls who got crowned to learn about volunteerism and community, and travel, but the same opportunities are still out there. I just have to work a bit harder for them.”
During Meet the Candidates, Hokanson had an opportunity to introduce herself and the community of Delano to others with a speech and attire that represented both.
That attire was a Puerto Rican flag; a red, white, and blue sweater with stars on it; and USA-themed necklaces.
“My speech was about how I went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico last year, and that really showed me my passion for giving back to those in need and my love for Spanish,” Hokanson said. “I talked about how Delano is a growing small town like the one I stayed in, in Puerto Rico. I talked about how our population has nearly doubled in my lifetime, and how we celebrate Minnesota’s oldest and largest 4th of July celebration.”
Her family, “crown sisters” Alyssa Trautman and Macie Hanka, “littles” Thora Binsfeld and Sadie Rosenow, and their families supported her there and during the torchlight parade.
A highlight of the Aquatennial experience was visiting the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.
“My favorite part is, in one of the corners when you walk in, there’s a huge wall of all the pictures of the female presidents they’ve had,” Hokanson said. “They started in 1907, when women basically had nothing and no rights. It was inspiring for me to go there and see how they’ve paved the way for us as women so we could be where we are today.”
Hokanson also witnessed history at the commodore’s dinner, where the 2019 commodore and captains were announced.
“It’s the first year they’ve had an all female crew,” Hokanson said of Commodore Ann Bailey and captains Marjorie Weinhagen and Jackie Paul. “That was really neat to see.”
She met past royalty during the alumni boat cruise, as well.
“Some of them had just been celebrating the 30th year since they were royalty,” Hokanson said. “That was really neat because they shared how it has impacted them. Even though it was only a year or two of being royalty, it had such a life-changing impact on them.”
She believes being a Delano Ambassador and Aquatennial candidate has positively affected her life in similar ways.
“I wasn’t super outgoing, at least not in the way I am today,” she said of life before becoming an ambassador. “I was kind of afraid to get up and talk to people. I would’ve never really pictured myself being able to talk about myself this much or interact with people I’ve met. Public speaking is a big part of what I’ve learned . . . It’s given me a great opportunity to be a role model, and really appreciate the values of volunteering and community.
“Without being an ambassador, I would’ve never experienced being able to make a little kid happy by just waving to them or being able to hear stories from the elderly at the senior center,” Hokanson continued. “It’s been amazing.”
In the fall, Hokanson will begin attending the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where she will major in psychology on the pre-med track, while working toward minors in Spanish and leadership. She hopes to stay active as a volunteer at the same time, with hopes to help at the Ronald McDonald House, which she called her favorite place to visit as an ambassador.
“That is right there at the U, so I really hope to do that and continue giving back,” Hokanson said.
She added that she would also like to volunteer with the Delano Royalty Organization and perhaps even the Aquatennial in the future.