28 July 2023

Miss Wagga Wagga titleholders to head from the Murrumbidgee to the Missouri River in Kansas

| Chris Roe
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Community Princess Haylee Berkinshaw and Miss Wagga Wagga Kate Pevere are preparing to head to the US

Community Princess Haylee Berkinshaw and Miss Wagga Wagga Kate Pevere are preparing to head to the US. Photo: Chris Roe.

Nine months into their roles representing their city, Miss Wagga Wagga Kate Pevere and Community Princess Haylee Berkinshaw are packing up to board a plane for a 14 thousand-kilometre journey.

“It’s pretty exciting for Kate and I, because we’re heading over to our sister city of Leavenworth in Kansas, USA for a week,” said Haylee with a grin.

“We’ll be going from the Murrumbidgee to the Missouri River,” added Kate, explaining that there was a happy coincidence with the timing of the trip.

“It was 60 years ago to the year when Miss Leavenworth first came over to Wagga Wagga as part of the sister city relationship.”

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Wagga’s sister city program was established almost by accident when the commanding officer of Kapooka Military Area journeyed to the iconic Fort Leavenworth for training in 1961.

As the mayors of the two cities exchanged correspondence, Wagga was invited to join the program established in 1956 by President Eisenhower to promote peace and cultural exchange after World War II.

Miss Wagga Wagga 1963, Jeanette McGarry, travelled to Leavenworth in May of that year and her counterpart, Miss Leavenworth, Vera Lee McGinnis, flew Down Under in September.

Ms McGinnis spent four weeks in Wagga and was apparently showered with so many gifts that she had to forward them home in boxes.

“I’ve got no expectations of what we’re going to see over there, but we’re so grateful for what the committee has organised for us,” said Kate.

“We’ve got a couple of presentations to make and we’ll connect with some of the community groups in Leavenworth as well.”

Haylee agreed that the pair would be kept busy during their week in the city.

“They’ve booked us right up; there’s a few dinners that we’re attending, we’ll get out on a horseback ride and we’re going to a soccer game and basketball, and they’ve organised for us to go to a couple of ranches, which I’m personally very excited about.”

Kate Pevere and Haylee Berkinshaw will soon trade the Murrumbidgee for the Missouri River

Kate Pevere and Haylee Berkinshaw will soon trade the Murrumbidgee for the Missouri River. Photo: Chris Roe.

It’s been a whirlwind year and a half for Kate and Haylee who joked that they had not really considered how busy things would be after participating in the quest in 2022.

“I hadn’t really thought that there might be a second year if we won,” said Haylee.

“Fortunately it was my boss who nominated me so she just has to cope with it!”

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Juggling work with titleholder duties leaves the pair with little spare time and Haylee said she’d been caught out in her tiara more than once.

“I forgot I had it on and went through the Fast Lane coffee shop and they were like, ‘Yes, princess? Can I help you?'” she laughed.

“You definitely forget sometimes why people are looking at you.”

Both agree that their involvement with the quest has given them opportunities and confidence and has opened their eyes to the work being done by committed volunteers.

“It’s given me a whole new perspective after having grown up here,” said Haylee.

“From being an entrant to then organising the event and meeting so many different charities and organisations, to now being invited to so many different events in Wagga, it’s definitely inspired me to keep pushing in that direction.

“I think both of us will have a much bigger part in the community of Wagga as we go on,” added Kate.

“We started last year as strangers and now we’re great friends and about to travel overseas together. It’s just an amazing opportunity.”

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