If you took close notice of the Brookfield Zoo Tram during the Fourth of July parade last week, you saw a total of nine true American beauties riding in it and waving royally to their throngs of admirers.
These were some of the past winners of the coveted title of “Miss Brookfield” who returned to reign again, briefly, in the village where they received the honor as young women.
How did this happen? On April 13, the Miss Brookfield of 1972, Judy Plachetka Golitko sent a message on social media, asking if any of the former Miss Brookfields would be interested in getting together for the parade.
This was not an original idea; over the years, other Miss Brookfields had entertained the same notion, but now everything seemed to click. The time was right.
So, with the help of Cathy Edwards, Jane Minarovic Fiala and many others, the tracking-down process continued, to the point where the names of every Miss Brookfield are now known, except for 1974 and 1987.
When they were located, they were invited to ride in the upcoming parade. Nine Miss Brookfields showed up to ride: Jane Minarovic Fiala, 1962; Judy Plachetka Golitko, 1972; Lynn Henzl Laskoe, 1978; Julie Kucko, 1979; Sharon Katich Rogers, 1980; Kathy Nale Vondrasek, 1982; Cheryl Eckart, 1983; Susanna Kucko Krokosz, 1985; and Joanne Janetopoulos, 1988 and 1989.
The history of the Miss Brookfield contest began back in 1962, backed by the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce.
Minarovic Fiala, Miss Brookfield 1962, stated that the contest was “conjured up, rather hastily to meet, not only the Fourth of July parade, but to showcase the village of Brookfield’s [new] Public Works Department, and to have a representative at the newly established Illinois Truck “Roadeo.” A few names for Miss Brookfield were [gathered], along with voting around town, and voila, I was Miss Brookfield. It was fun, riding in a white Cadillac convertible.”
Though the first contest was a success, no Miss Brookfield was chosen for the next year, 1963.
But 1964 was a different matter. This time, having had some experience at the task, the Chamber of Commerce spread the voting wider, putting boxes around the village, so residents could vote for their favorite nominees. Carol Mangano Baldwin took the honors for that year.
Judging the finalists was not done by Brookfield residents, but by out-of-towners. Those interviewers were asking the famous “Three Questions” — one of which usually seemed to be “If there was anything to change in Brookfield, what would you change, and why?”
Judy Plachetka Golitko in 1972 answered, “Brookfield is such a nice place to live, I wouldn’t want to change anything!” Always on the shy side, she was shocked when radio DJ Larry Lujack announced her name as the winner.
“It made me a bit more confident in myself,” she said recently.
This seemed to be the effect it had on many Miss Brookfields. In 1979, Julie Kucko read an article in a local newspaper saying that contestants were being sought to run for Miss Brookfield.
“I decided to run,” she said. “Mom told me to go ahead, but not to get my hopes up.”
When she passed the first round of judging, her mom was “stunned.”
On the windy middle of the Jaycee/Ehlert Park ball field, the crowning took place.
“They still didn’t think I had a chance … my family was shocked. You see, I was the first Miss Brookfield with glasses. This gave me the confidence I lacked in high school. I overcame my shyness, ran for Miss Tall Chicago in 1983, and won. The Miss Brookfield experience changed my life.”
Greatly impressed, her younger sister, Susanna Kucko Krokosz ran for Miss Brookfield in 1985, and won. The Kuckos were the only family to have in it two winners of the title.
In 1973, Tina Rivaldo was a finalist, and was part of the Court of Miss Brookfield. Sandra Gonzalez, the winner of the title, was unable, for some reason, to perform her appointed duties and dropped out. Suddenly Rivaldo, with the next highest vote total, became the Miss Brookfield for that year.
Joanne Janetopoulos became Miss Brookfield for 1988 — and the next year; the Chamber asked that she extend her reign and be Miss Brookfield for 1989, too.
In total, the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce created 28 Miss Brookfields, from 1962 to 1990, ranging from Jane Minarovic Fiala to Tara Klecka. There have been no others since.
During the 1993 Brookfield Centennial, a Centennial Queen reigned, Miss Jennifer Krzos, and she was the closest thing to being a Miss Brookfield. Some believe that the Miss Brookfield experience should be revived.
Miss Brookfield 1979, Julie Kucko, is in favor of bringing back the Miss Brookfield contest, and would like to run it.
“We have to bring it back, just the way it was before,” she said.
Her sister, Susanna Kucko Krokosz, Miss Brookfield 1985, is of a similar opinion, and is willing to co-chair the event.
“Bring Miss Brookfield back!” she said.
The Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the Fourth of July Miss Brookfield reunion, is very much considering it.
Anyone interested in the subject of the Miss Brookfield contest can contact the Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 38, Brookfield, Ill. 60513.