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Despite the global pandemic, one Minnesota State Fair tradition continued Wednesday evening: the crowning of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

Brenna Connelly was selected as the 67th Princess Kay during a private banquet for the 10 finalists and their families. The ceremony was livestreamed on Facebook, with all the contestants wearing face masks.

Connelly, 19, of Byron, succeeds Amy Kyllo, also of Byron. Connelly is the daughter of Craig and Heather Connelly and attends the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. She represents Olmsted County as did Kyllo.

Emily Benrud of Goodhue, representing Goodhue County, and Maggie Molitor of Rockville, representing Stearns County, were selected as runners-up.

Katherine Maus of Freeport, representing Stearns County, along with Benrud and Connelly, were named scholarship winners. Molitor was also named Miss Congeniality.

The contest is held each year in conjunction with the State Fair to select a goodwill ambassador for the roughly 3,000 Minnesota dairy farm families represented by the Midwest Dairy association. Princess Kay contestants are judged on their knowledge of and enthusiasm for the dairy industry, in addition to their communication skills.

Another tradition will continue this year in spite of the pandemic: Connelly and the nine other contestants will have their likenesses sculpted from 90-pound blocks of butter.

But that process won’t happen in public during the State Fair, which has been canceled this year. Rather, it will be conducted in private at the Dairy Building on the State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights. The sculpting begins Thursday and continues through Aug. 22. Updates on the sculpting will be livestreamed on the Princess Kay Facebook page.

In one change from tradition, the sculptor this year won’t be Linda Christensen. Rather, Gerry Kulzer will do the honors, though Christensen will join in Thursday via Zoom from her home in California.

Many new safety measures are in place for the sculpting process, including a reconfigured refrigerated butter booth, which will allow 6 feet of distances between the princesses and Kulzer, who will be separated by a plexiglass barrier. Masks will be worn, until it’s time to sculpt noses and mouths. The princesses will then be outside the booths on a ladder.

Here is the daily sculpting schedule (times approximate):

  • 8:30 a.m. — Sculpting begins
  • 10 – 10:15 a.m. — Break
  • DAY 1 ONLY 10:15 a.m. — Longtime butter sculptor Linda Christensen to join in via Zoom from her home in California
  • 10:30 a.m. — Facebook Live update No. 1
  • 12 -12:30 p.m. — Break for lunch
  • 1 p.m. — Facebook Live update No. 2
  • 2 – 2:15 p.m. — Break
  • 3:30 – 3:45 p.m. — Break
  • 4 p.m. — Facebook Live update No. 3
  • 5 p.m. — Finish sculpting and final photos

Here’s the schedule for the nine other princesses:

  • Friday, Aug. 14: Taylor Jerde of Northfield, representing Dakota County
  • Saturday, Aug. 15: Maggie Meyer of Grove City, representing Meeker County
  • Sunday, Aug. 16: Maggie Molitor of Rockville, representing Stearns County
  • Monday, Aug. 17: Emma Friauf of Glencoe, representing McLeod County
  • Tuesday, Aug. 18: Valerie Sauder of Pine Island, representing Dodge County
  • Wednesday, Aug. 19: Rebeckah Schroeder of Caledonia, representing Houston County
  • Thursday, Aug. 20: Katherine Maus of Freeport, representing Stearns County
  • Friday, Aug. 21: Emily Benrud of Goodhue, representing Goodhue County
  • Saturday, Aug. 22: Mackenzie Craig of Alexandria, representing Douglas County
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    Pakistan finance minister says the country has avoided a Sri Lanka-like default crisis

    VIDEO2:1302:13Pakistan minister says he thinks his country has averted a Sri Lanka-like situationStreet Signs Asia

    Pakistan's finance minister said the government has taken steps that will put the country on the right track and help the South Asian nation avoid an economic collapse. But that will cause pain for its people, he added.

    The country is desperately fighting for its survival as the recent rise in commodity and energy prices have exacerbated its debt problems. It has been struggling to pay for its imports as its official liquid foreign exchange reserves have shrunk by $754 million to $8.57 million in the week ended July 22 from the week before, according to the country's central bank.

    "There were serious worries about Pakistan heading Sri Lanka's way, Pakistan getting into a default-like situation, but thankfully, we've made some significant changes. We've brought in significant austerity, black belt tightening. And I think we've averted that situation," Miftah Ismail told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Tuesday.

    "We are now in an IMF program. We have reached the staff-level agreement. We expect to get a board approval later this month. We've taken off subsidies from fuel, from power ... We've raised taxes. So, I think we're headed in the right direction."

    Nevertheless, Ismail acknowledged that recent measures taken by the government will be difficult for Pakistan and would mean a lot of pain for the people.

    "But look at the alternative. If we had gone the Sri Lankan way this would have been much worse," the minister said.

    Debt crisis

    Pakistan is facing a serious debt crisis similar to foreign exchange shortage problems that has plagued its South Asian neighbor Sri Lanka this year.

    Sri Lanka has been battling shortages of food and fuel amid the worst economic crisis since the island nation's independence in 1948. The country has defaulted on its debt and has asked for relief from the International Monetary Fund.

    But unlike Sri Lanka, Pakistan was able to avert bankruptcy by striking a deal with the IMF in July. The country reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF to restart their stalled extended fund facility.

    Islamabad will get a first tranche of $1.17 billion from the IMF in the coming weeks, with further loans possible in the months ahead.

    "Pakistan is at a challenging economic juncture. A difficult external environment combined with procyclical domestic policies fueled domestic demand to unsustainable levels," the IMF said in a statement.

    "IMF has identified a $4 billion funding gap, which is to say that IMF wants our reserves to increase by $6 billion during this very challenging fiscal year," Ismail said. "And of that $6 billion, it says that we have $2 billion and we should try and get $4 billion from our friends. We are mostly there and I think that within a day or two we'll actually have that number."

    Tackling inflation

    In July, Pakistan's headline inflation soared to 24.93% year on year, according to official data — the highest level since October 2008.

    In his budget speech in June, the finance minister highlighted that the government aimed to lower prices by using monetary and fiscal policy in a better way.

    "I think that wheat prices are coming down, commodity prices are coming down. Core inflation in Pakistan is still about 12 or 13%, no matter what the headline number is," Ismail told CNBC.

    "We've stopped monetary expansion. Our interest rates are quite high now, I think. We should be able to bring back inflation to about where the core inflation is," he added.

    The government needed to curtail its imports to bring down oil demand for energy-related items such as fuel and petrol, the finance minister said.

    "Now that the imports have come down, the pressure has eased against the Pakistani rupee. In fact, its appreciated about 7% against the U.S. dollar last week. We will see now inflation really taper off," he said.

    Looking ahead, Ismail said, it is "very difficult" to give a time frame for when things will improve for Pakistan, though he added that prospects are bright for the economy in the coming months.

    "I should think that in the second quarter of this fiscal year, which starts in October, we should be able to get handle of the economy. Our three months number of current account deficits will have come down. Markets will have more belief in our austerity measures. And things will start looking better."


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