The local royal: Eagle Bend's Kalie Wright crowned Miss Minnesota USA

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Just 20 miles south of Wadena, Kalie Wright says she's "still coming down from Cloud Nine" after being named the new Miss Minnesota USA on Sunday.

The Eagle Bend contestant was crowned at the culmination of the 2018 pageant, held at the Ames Center in Burnsville Nov. 25 and 26. During that big moment—literally the 'crowning moment' of the competition—Wright was "shouting and screaming with excitement," she recalls. "I just lost it."

She still sounded a little hoarse days later.

"My voice is still coming back," she said during a phone interview on Wednesday. "When I was called as the new Miss Minnesota USA...it was just such a high—a high of adrenaline."

Wright was selected by a panel of judges in front of a capacity crowd at the theater. She will now advance and compete next year at the Miss USA national pageant. The winner of that goes on to compete at Miss Universe.

"I was grateful to be called," said Wright of how she felt during the finals. "When you're standing up there amongst so many women who could easily do the job of Miss Minnesota USA, you just really feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude, because you realize that you are among those women."

The 51 contestants in this year's Miss Minnesota USA pageant were a diverse group, representing women from many different career fields, religions and walks of life. Of particular note was Mikayla Holmgren, the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant. She took home the Spirit of Miss USA Award and Director's Award.

"One of the coolest parts about the pageant is the wide range of women that get to compete," said Wright. "This year, something that was so special to me was competing with Mikayla. (Her inclusion) solidifies to me the values that the Miss Minnesota USA organization holds. They valued and embraced her. They really made her feel like the star of the show, and I loved that. It was an honor to get to meet her and get to know her and how incredible she is."

The pageant, held annually, consists of three proportional segments: evening gown, swimwear and interview. Women between the ages of 14 and 27 who are unmarried and are residents of Minnesota are eligible to compete.

Wright, a native of Idaho, now lives in Eagle Bend, Minn. with her fiance, country singer Jeremiah James Korfe. The two live on a farm, raising beef cattle and growing crops of corn and soybeans. They're also working on opening a new wedding venue.

Wright said she enjoys life on the farm, and is especially fond of her companion animals—a dog, horse and fainting goat that she describes as "small and chubby and just so cute!"

"I love living in a small town," said Wright. "Not everybody knows about (Eagle Bend), but my town is definitely worth being put on the map. I was really proud to represent them (at the pageant)."

Eagle Bend is a town of roughly 500 people located about 20 miles south of Wadena in Todd County. Wright moved there to be closer to Korfe.

Previously active in pageants in her home state (she was Miss Idaho in 2015), Wright first competed in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant last year, receiving first runner up to 2017 winner Meridith Gould. She then spent the past year trying to better herself as a titleholder and potential representative of Minnesota, knowing she would want to compete again this year.

"I was excited to come back, because I had such a great experience last year," she said. As the new titleholder, "I know I have big shoes to fill, but I'm really excited about it."

Wright has been competing in pageants since the age of eight. In addition to the Miss Idaho title, she already had several other titles under her belt before becoming Miss Minnesota USA. In 2012, she won the Miss Magic Valley title. In 2013, she was crowned Miss Gate City, and the following year, she was the first woman from Idaho to be named Miss National Sweetheart.

As Miss Minnesota USA, Wright will make appearances at schools, community centers and other venues across the state over the next year. She's looking forward to acting as an advocate for education for young women, and also plans to spread the word about one of her favorite charities, Eagle's Healing Nest, in Sauk Centre, Minn., which provides crucial support services to military veterans and their families.

For more information on Miss Minnesota USA, visit www.missminnesotausa.com.