Chi Alpha Pi reminisce on Mr. Augustana competition

Natalie McMillan

The Chi Alpha Pi sorority (CAP) hosted the Mr. Augustana competition Friday, Jan. 11 at Centennial Hall. This was Augustana’s 16th annual Mr. A pageant and, as an event, it has evolved since its first production.
Allison Benschnieder, a sophomore and co-chair of this year’s Mr. A pageant explained, “The Mr. A pageant is pretty much a mock-male pageant that’s kind of funny and super entertaining.”
However, the CAPs did not always host Mr. Augustana. In comments on the CAPs’ Facebook page responding to a post from the Observer asking about the history of their service projects, some past members recalled what their sorority did before the competition began.
“Each year we volunteered to stand outside the grocery stores to collect [money] for the red poppies for veterans, I think. I don’t remember much else, but we certainly didn’t organize anything elaborate,” CAP alumna of 1992, Erin Bartley Cummisford said.
“I graduated in ‘98 and I can tell you that our service projects used to be picking up roadside trash and putting on a Bingo game for residents of a nursing home,” CAP alumna Jenny Braun said, responding to the Facebook post.
The Mr. A competition itself began with CAP alumna of 2004, Erin Falb and Laura Cohen. Falb said in an email, “Laura and I pledged with CAPPAC in 2001. I’m starting to lean more towards 2003 as the start of it.”
Falb said in an email,  “My understanding was each Greek group had to have some sort of service project in order to maintain their [chapter] with Augustana. That being said, whatever the CAP’s were doing was not memorable as I can’t even remember what it was. Laura and I got to talking and found out we had done a Mr. (insert high school name) competition at our respective high schools. I did mine as part of the National Honor Society as a fundraiser to a charity. Essentially, we took that idea and evolved it into Mr. Augustana.”
Cohen said responding to the post on Facebook, “Erin Ellyn [Falb] and I started this up as a philanthropic event to raise money. We started with competitors from each of the frats at the time.”
Many things went into planning the event, from the actual planning to getting participation to logistics.
“We wanted to get the most participation as possible from the entire school which is why we invited participants from each of the fraternities and presidents of each sorority to judge, knowing all those groups would ideally show up to support their members along with their friends. Laura and I had to meet with the college to propose and get authorization from the college to even put on the event, we had to locate prizes from the community, find a location to host it, everyone had to do ticket sales and we chose the American Cancer Society because it was a general charity,” Falb said in an email.
Being the first year, Falb and Cohen didn’t know what to expect. Falb said in an email, “I remember it being a little nerve racking as we didn’t know what the participation and response would be for the inaugural show.  It was hilarious, fun, and the feedback was great from everyone.”
Today, the event’s popularity has not faded. The event earns a profit of “$4,258.47, which is usually average. I think we did $4,000 last year too,” senior Maddie Witt, a member of CAP said.
A lot of preparation now goes into planning what is now the sorority’s largest event. Chapter president and senior Sofia Vacca said, “Our co-chair position is actually a two-year commitment. Selling tickets, advertising, choreographing and teaching the opening dance, collecting prizes and many other duties are delegated to members of the sorority and are assigned as different committees to help the show run efficiently.”
We had no idea it would continue as it has,” Falb said in an email, “and I am sure Laura and all the initial members are super proud of what the sorority created and has maintained over the years.”
Jordan Cone and Madeline Palmer contributed to this story.