Miss North Dakota 2003 is Stacey Thomas, 19, of Bismarck, a sophomore at the University of Mary in Bismarck. She is the daughter of Jerry and Shirley Thomas and has a sister, Amber, 21.

She was crowned by Miss North Dakota 2002 Jillayne Mertens at the conclusion of "Get the Party Started," the 2002 Miss North Dakota Scholarship Pageant Saturday night in Williston.

Thomas' platform issue is to increase awareness of mental disorders in children to help care for the children of the future. She is involved in volunteer work at Medcenter One in pediatrics, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and Young Life. Her talent presentation was a self-choreographed ballet pointe dance to "Dancing In The Rain." For evening gown competition, she glittered in a red sequined gown. Thomas also won Thursday swimsuit and Friday talent.

First runner-up is Felecia Farrell, 20, of Minot. She is a junior at North Dakota State University in Fargo and the daughter of Chipper and Renee Farrell. Her talent was a stunning self-choreographed baton twirling and dance routine. Farrell also won Friday night swimsuit, Thursday talent, the Overall Interview Scholarship Jean Stuteville Memorial Award, the Clem Degenstein Memorial Scholarship Award and was chosen by her peers as Miss Congeniality.

Paula Swenson, 21, of Williston is second runner-up. She is a freshman at Williston State College and the daughter of Randy and Wanda Swenson and has a brother, Trevor, 24. Swenson also won the Vicki Finders Memorial Education Scholarship.

Third runner-up is Jessica Lunneborg, 18, a senior at Wahpeton High School, also attending the North Dakota State College of Science. She is the daughter of Tim and Mary Lunneborg and has two siblings, Emily, 15, and Alex, 7.

Fourth runner-up is Crystal Wenko, 21, of Williston, a junior at Dickinson State University. She is the daughter of Rodger and Lucy Wenko and has a brother, Shawn, 25.

Toni Fauntleroy, president of the Miss America Organization board of directors, was a special guest at the Friday and Saturday performances. "I am so impressed with the warm welcome I have received ever since I landed at the airport," said Fauntleroy. "I am here to thank the people of North Dakota for all the volunteer hours they put in to make this happen.

"The Miss America program is about helping young women realize their dreams." Fauntleroy has been involved with Miss America for 23 years. Her goal is to visit every state and extend her appreciation to all the volunteers who help advance the Miss America Program.

The First Lady of North Dakota, Mikey Hoeven, also was a special guest. "I am so glad to be here," said Hoeven. "This shows me once again that North Dakota's greatest resource is its people. I am overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people of Williston.

"I have been in three pageants myself and I really gained confidence from them. Miss America is a strong supporter of women. Through their platform issues, these young women become role models for our children."

B. Michael Quale of Williston was honored as "Man of the Year" by the pageant board for 17 years of volunteer work for the Miss North Dakota Pageant.

Mertens received two standing ovations, one at the beginning of the program and another at the end of the evening. She shared her considerable vocal and violin talents throughout the program, along with the Miss North Dakota Dancers.

Stephanie Hamilton Ahlfeldt, Miss North Dakota 1996, and Roxana Saberi, Miss North Dakota 1997, emceed the three nights of competition. Miss Montana 2002 Kara Svennungsen was a special guest performer.

Other guest performers included the winners of the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Youth pageant: Katelynn Esterby, Little Miss; Brittany Noltimier, Pre-teen Miss; Brooke Blotsky, Junior Miss and Kimberly Beard, Teen Miss.

The other finalists were Elizabeth Haugen, 19, of Butte, who also won the Community Service Project awarded by the Miss America Organization; Jill Samuelson, 22, of New York Mills, Minn., Nalia Hegge, 18, of Williston, who also won Friday night swimsuit; Lindsay Numedahl, 19, of Grand Forks who also took Thursday talent honors; and Heidi Williams, 23, of Sykeston, who also took the American State Bank Scholastic Award.

Patricia Olson, 18, of Harvey took the Jane Grey Stewart Memorial Scholarship and the Outstanding Athlete Award.

Karen Kopseng Medical Scholarship Awards went to Mandy Munkeby 18, of Carrington and Jennifer Olson, 19, of Harvey. Munkeby also won the Community Service Award for the best project presentation and Miss Promotion. The Katie Jo Gussiaas Memorial Scholarship award was garnered by Jessica Wagner, 17, of New Rockford.

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