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Being crowned is no laughing matter

(ran PAS edition)

A dozen young ladies stood holding hands and smiling in their sparkling gowns. Each was vying to become the new Miss Land O'Lakes, and each had taken a glamorous stroll down the runway.

But before one of them took on the title, outgoing Miss Land O'Lakes Erika Pugh had some sober advice.

"There's a man I want to warn you about. His name is Charlie Reese," Pugh said. "Be prepared to sit next to this man at community events. Be prepared to hear some of the dumbest jokes you've ever heard in your entire life."

Reese is the chatty former president of the Land O'Lakes Chamber of Commerce who still attends many events in town. He read scary stories to children at the library recently. He writes spirited letters to the editor.

And, according to Pugh, he is convinced that he is absolutely hilarious.

"There was a charity auction," she said after the pageant. "He sat next to me. He told me this joke: A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?' "

That's it. That's the joke. The horse's face is long. Get it?

Reese, introduced at the beginning of the pageant as a "dignitary," took exception to the cornball label.

"They're great jokes!" he insisted. He caught Pugh's eye and she started giggling.

"Look _ she's still laughing at my jokes," Reese said.

Pugh, who said she entered last year's pageant on a whim, also told the contestants that Miss Land O'Lakes is recognized everywhere. When little children approach, it's important to get down on bended knee to talk with them, she said.

"Little boys will flirt. Little girls will look at you in admiration," Pugh said.

And then there's Charlie Reese. At the charity auction during which he continually told the horse joke, Reese jokingly tried to auction Pugh off with other items. She shook her head and laughed, thinking back over the year of Reese's hi-jinks.

He maintains he's a riot.

"Did she tell you my joke?" he asked. "A horse walks into a bar ... "