The 2022 Manitoba Sunflower Festival Queen is back in Altona after visiting the town's Australian sister city, Emerald.
Halle Hildebrand was joined by her parents, sister and aunt, as well as First Princess Amber Thiessen and her mom. She and Amber participated in the 2023 Central Highlands Sunflower Festival, along with Emerald's 2022 queen, Piper Rhoda. 

"The first day that I was there, Amber and her mom arrived the day after I arrived, Piper and I went to a care home and we met a lifelong committee member named Lorna. She was very cute. So cute. Then the next day we went to do interviews, and then after that we had the High Tea and there was amazing sandwiches there, best I've ever had," said Hildebrand. "There, we got to meet all the entrants' families, got to know the entrants better and we got to meet a lot of the town, actually. Which was really cool."

The group also toured the local coal mine and gem fields.

"We did a few hikes, which was really fun," noted Hildebrand. "We swam in Rainbow Falls with an eel. There's a big eel that lives there and I was terrified of it."

Festival day kicked off with Easter Parade. 

"So, all the floats are decorated with Easter eggs, bunnies, everything. It was so cute. And the entrants had to make their own float. They decorated them themselves, which was really cool to see. You could see all the hard work they put in," described Hildebrand. "I drove in a very nice vehicle. I remember that I was sweating in there, not because of the heat. I was like, 'I don't want to wreck anything'. And after the parade we went to the horse races which I didn't really watch a lot because I had to do some speeches, hand some stuff out. But before the speech, there was a thing for all the boys and men and they have something called the mullet contest. I was so excited. I think I was more excited than anybody else, except for my mom. That was really cool, just knowing that guys could be involved in the pageant as well. And then after, we went to the rodeo. Thank goodness we were supposed to ride hobby horses, the horse on the stick, and go around the arena and go around each barrel. I was like, 'no, I can't do that'. Thank goodness we didn't have to. They're like, 'We're three hours behind. We're not going to do it'."

One distinct difference between Emerald's festival and the one held in Altona each year, is that the Central Highlands Queen is crowned in the morning. This year, that was Paige McKenzie who will be visiting Altona during its festival July 28th-30th. 

Written with files from Chris Sumner

Listen to Chris Sumner's full interview with Halle Hildebrand, below.