Genoa High School graduates named 2024 Genoa Days scholarship winners

Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce presents annual scholarship contest competition, results as festival kicks off

Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce Krissy Johnson stands with Genoa Days 2024 King and Queen scholarship contest winners Connor Leahy and Rylie Stoffregen on June 5, 2024.

GENOA – Genoa Days kicked off Wednesday night with it’s usual pageantry and fanfare, and as the sun set on the first day of the yearly festival two Genoa teenagers were named king and queen.

After answering questions about themselves on a stage in front of a crowd filled with their family, friends, peers and community members, Connor Leahy and Rylie Stoffregen were announced as King and Queen of Genoa Days 2024.

“This means absolutely everything,” Stoffregen said. “I’ve grown up watching this contest and I’ve looked up to these queens that have won in the past and to finally serve as a role model for the younger generations watching means absolutely everything to me.”

Stoffregen and Leahy were among the 10 Genoa-Kingston High School seniors who made it to the final round of the 2024 Genoa Days King and Queen Scholarship Contest. Winning the contest means gaining a spot in Genoa Days lore, and a $1,000 scholarship to further their education.

Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Krissy Johnson said the 2024 contest was the 65th Genoa Queen competition, which first occurred in 1936 for the city’s centennial celebration.

The now yearly tradition was first held 88 years ago. The competition’s second rendition didn’t come around until 1961, when the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce reintroduced the Genoa Days Queen contest, Johnson said.

At that time, contestants’ names were given to Genoa businesses, and anytime someone purchased an item at a local business they got to choose a name to give a point to, Johnson said. That style of competition went on until 1991, when the Genoa-Kingston High School senior class choose 10 semifinalists, who were given a packet to turn in, before a committee selected five finalists who conducted a similar interview process to what’s held today.

The first ever Genoa Days King was selected in 1998, when men first were allowed to enter the competition, Johnson said. Leahy is the 26th Genoa Days King, and the community tradition is something he said he grew up paying attention to.

“I’ve been watching these since I was a little kid and I always wanted to be up here. and I think it’s pretty awesome to be royalty,” Leahy said.

The Genoa Days King and Queen competition is open to all graduating seniors living inside of the Genoa-Kingston School District, regardless of the educational institution they are graduating from. In 2023, planned attendance at a four-year university was removed as a prerequisite for the competition, Johnson said.

While competitors were required to submit their transcript with their application, Johnson said academics were not considered by the panel of judges – which was composed of local business owners and community leaders. Instead, the competition hinges on community service hours, and how well contestants score during two separate interviews.

One private interview, which Johnson said was made to mimic a job interview, was held with each contestant and the panel of judges before all 10 finalists were paraded onto the Genoa Days stage to answer questions about themselves in front of the public.

Johnson said she was proud of the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce, and all of the scholarship’s sponsors, for being able to hold the yearly competition.

“It’s a really big thing for these kids that get to get all dressed up and walk through downtown Genoa in their prom dresses and in their suits and things like that, and for the younger kids to be watching them,” Johnson said. “And it’s just being held in royalty, and helping lead the parade on Saturday, it’s just so huge for these kids, and it really is an honor for the chamber to be able to give back to these future leaders.”

The annual competition kicks off Genoa Days and brings out all sorts of community members. Stoffregen said the competition is a good representation of the city.

“This is a great symbol of what Genoa stands for. It’s a great way for our community to come together, have a fun time and support one another. And I think that’s beautiful and I think that’s what Genoa stands for,” Stoffregen said.

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