Aalfs Auditorium was filled with testosterone on Sunday afternoon, as ten USD men had the chance to flaunt their dance moves, their fitness skills and even their flugelhorn talents.
Carson Sehr, a first-year English major, won the title of Mr. USD, along with a pair of Beats headphones. Kallo Arno, a sophomore kinesiology major, took home the Mr. Congeniality title.
The contestants competed in fitness, talent, on-stage question and evening-wear categories, which Amber Hulse, who brought the pageant to campus, said is similar to the teen competitions in Miss America. South Dakota state titleholders from the Miss America pageant judged the contest.
“The people that are judging are actually all Miss South Dakota contestants, so Miss USD is one of them, and there’s a bunch of other girls that have held titles for the USD pageant,” Hulse, sophomore political science major and South Dakota’s Miss State Fair said. “Miss South Dakota and Miss South Dakota’s Outstanding Teen will be emceeing the first part of the show, and the second part of the show will be emceed by Mitchell Olson, who is kind of famous Vermillionaire; he actually was on the TV show Survivor when he was younger, and he has worked with the Miss South Dakota organization for years and years.”
For his talent, Sehr performed on his flugelhorn, a valved brass instrument similar to a cornet or trumpet.
“I took more time than I probably should have deciding my talent and picking out music and also spending too much time on my outfits,” he said. “I sang and I played flugelhorn.”
Arno said he was surprised he was chosen to be Mr. Congeniality by his fellow contestants.
“Everyone picked who they thought was the most funny, had a lot of spirit and was just overall positive throughout the whole thing,” he said. “I don’t want to say I knew, but I kind of felt like all the guys were like ‘hey, he’s pretty funny, maybe we should vote him to be (Mr. Congeniality)’ and at first it was a surprise. I was like ‘I didn’t know they would pick me.’”
Hulse partnered with Dakotathon to plan Mr. USD, and the proceeds of the event will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network. Hulse said the event brought in a total of $500.
“The boys are selling 50/50 tickets and half those proceeds go to the pot for the 50/50 prize, but the other half is raising for their personal donor drives, so that was an incentive to compete. The people’s choice jars, which we have here in the MUC… that money goes to the Dakotathon overall drive,” she said. “The admissions tickets will go to my donor drive for Miss South Dakota, because even though all the money goes to Children’s Miracle Network, Dakotathon and my donor drive are different.”
Hulse said a future responsibility of the winner of the Mr. USD pageant will be to attend the Dakotathon Day-Of event.
Arno said he became involved with Mr. USD “for the kids,” even though he isn’t currently involved with Dakotathon.
“At first, I was not really going to do it but then I was like ‘I might just do it for the kids,’” Arno said. “And then I got into it, and I thought ‘this is actually pretty fun.’”
Hulse introduced the Mr. USD contest to bring something new to campus, and to increase awareness pageant involvement for women. The Greek God and Goddess competition was a USD pageant that took place during Greek Week, although it was ended in favor of Greek unity in 2016.
“I think there is kind of a missing event like this because we don’t do Greek God anymore, so I was like this will kind of take the place of that, so we’re not repeating a similar event, but I think it would be really cool to promote the Miss South Dakota organization and get more women involved on this campus,” Hulse said.
Hulse hosted a male pageant for two years at her high school in Hot Springs, S.D., and has competed in several Miss South Dakota pageants herself.
“It’s almost like putting on a Miss America competition but with boys, so it’s a lot of work,” she said. “You have to get the contestants, you have to get the venue, get the judges and so knowing what it’s like because I’m a competitor is really easy to do that because I’ve actually watched and helped set up actual locals before… so it’s kind of fun to be on the other side of it.”
Both Sehr and Arno said the day of the pageant was a bonding experience for all the men involved.
“It was a lot of fun. It was a busy day. We started at noon, and we ran through some dance rehearsals, some rehearsals for fitness, we all ran through our talent and it was go, go, go for sure,” Sehr said. “But it was a really fun experience, all the guys we got along really well… I had much more fun than I expected I would.”
“Throughout the day, it all felt like we knew each other, we were happy being around each other and we all had that good vibe, those positive vibes,” Arno said.
Arno said he recommends that more men give the contest a try next year.
“I got to learn a lot of new dances; I got to learn a really fun aspect of myself,” he said. “I didn’t think I was a pageant person, but I guess I am now.”