A Look at the Mr. Lake Geneva Pageant

By Nat Wexler | Photo courtesy of Lakes Area Lifeway

There are a number of reasons to look forward to springtime in Lake Geneva: long walks on the lakefront trail, a return to dining outside and, for the past few years, the Mr. Lake Geneva Pageant. A new, annual tradition, the Mr. Lake Geneva Pageant is a tongue-in-cheek “beauty” pageant that subverts the traditional feminine competition and transforms it into a masculine one instead. The fun spring event raises funds for local charities and is sponsored by Lakes Area Lifeway, a nonprofit that aims to “provide opportunities that initiate self-development, spiritual growth and community enrichment.”

Lakes Area Lifeway CEO and founder Kelly Gerlitz came up with the idea for the pageant a few years ago as a fun way to raise awareness and funds for meaningful causes in the Geneva Lake area. Gerlitz says the idea was initially met with some skepticism, but the event has proved to be a smashing success. In its first year in 2022, the pageant raised approximately $43,000 for local nonprofits, and the second year it raised over $71,000.

Each year, Lakes Area Lifeway board members and other members of the community nominate local men to participate in the pageant. Once the group is chosen, preparations for the event begin in earnest. Weeks before taking the stage, the group of approximately 10 contestants starts rehearsing their act, forming friendships with their fellow competitors and fundraising for their chosen causes. Past fundraising beneficiary organizations have included Habitat for Humanity, Walworth County Special Olympics and Open Arms Free Clinic.

On the night of the pageant itself, the participants compete in four rounds of activities in front of a packed auditorium. For the first round of the pageant, the contestants perform a group dance together. Next up, they change into their beachwear (yes, really!), followed by the talent portion of the night. Finally, each man puts on his finest evening wear to answer interview questions. While the evening’s program is an ironic nod to classic beauty pageants, the scoring for the Mr. Lake Geneva pageant adds another element to the definition of success: 50 percent of a contestant’s final score comes from their pre- pageant fundraising efforts, while 50 percent comes from their performance on the night of the pageant.

In a few years, Gerlitz says she would love to host an all-star version of the pageant where past winners and contestants come back for a second chance at the crown or to become a two-time winner.

The Mr. Lake Geneva Pageant is not the only event that Lakes Area Lifeway hosts. The organization also hosts seasonal crafting workshops, educational gatherings for middle and high school students and various service projects, among others.

This year’s pageant will take place on Saturday, June 1. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased on Lakes Area Lifeway’s website. For more information about the pageant, including this year’s competitors and the causes they are supporting, visit lakesarealifeway.org.

Author: atthelake

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