Madeline Van Ert, of Rochester, was crowned Miss Minnesotaon June 18 and since then life has been a whirlwind, getting ready for Miss America Pageant coming up on Sept. 11 in Atlantic City, N.J.

"I don't think people realize how much of a holistic challenge this is," Van Ert said. "What you see on TV is the walking around on stage, the smiling and waving in the pretty dresses, but there is so much besides that going on behind the scenes.

"First of all, the service; that's already taking a lot out of you, but also giving a lot back," she said. "That exchange happens totally behind the scenes, unbeknownst to people, and then you have the interviews, which challenge your mental capacity and how aware you are with issues — you have to be much more aware of global and national issues because you are vying to be the face of a nation. … It really is about who you are as a whole person."

All in all, it's a matter of "stepping up my game," Van Ert said. "These are things I've already been doing. My platform (the Arts Project, which promotes arts exposure to children.) is based on things that I started in high school and have worked on since then. Music has always been such a huge part of my life, so this is just a natural progression, which feels so cool to just walk in and say — this is totally me. If they like that, that's awesome, but if not, I know there is nothing that I could have done differently and I won't have any regrets, which is just a good place for me to be in mentally."

Music is not only Van Ert's interest, it's her talent. She performed Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" in the Miss Minnesota pageant and will be doing so again on the Miss America stage.

There is a big send off Van Ert at 4 p.m. Sunday at Christ United Methodist Church, and you can attend. that everyone is welcome to. Van Ert will be showing off her entire Miss America wardrobe, will be performing, and will be discussing what the program is like, what Miss America is like and what people can do to support her.

Here's one way to support her: Vote! America's Choice voting is going on right now, so go vote for Madeline! The person who wins that automatically gets into the top 15 at Miss America, so they will compete on TV. You can vote once a day at missamerica.org/vote.

You can also like her Miss Minnesota Madeline Van Ert Facebook pageto follow along and see what she is doing as Miss Minnesota and at the Miss America Pageant.

Two for one

Twin sisters Melissa and Kaitlyn Webb, of Stillwater, just graduated (they were homeschooled) this year, and instead of traditional graduation gifts, the girls asked guests at their graduation party to donate to the Rochester Ronald McDonald House.

"We just wanted to make a difference in a good way," Melissa said. "We were able to donate lots of products, and also raised over $600 to donate to the Ronald McDonald House."

The sisters got the word out about their quest for donations in their graduation invitations, and their generosity......(some of this sentence seems to be missing)

Now that they've graduated, the girls plan on pursuing performing arts, focusing on acting and singing, and are both currently learning to play the guitar.