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Meet Mr. Northwestern: Connor Hart

Connor Hart has always had a heart of gold and now he has a crown to go with it. Last Thursday, he won the title Mr. Northwestern 2018 as friends and family cheered him on.

“My parents [were] super excited to see the show and my sister [visited from college] to see it,” said Hart, before the show. “The practices required a lot of time but it was worth it!”

Drew White was selected first runner up and Phil Dangello was chosen as the second runner up.

“The hardest part was coming up with funny, original ideas,” White said. “The funniest parts were the ones we weren’t allowed to do.”

Dangello’s feelings were nearly synonymous.

“The learning of my talent was tough, but the funniest part were the scenes we couldn’t do in the show,” he grinned.

The three gentlemen fulfilled a kind of family legacy with their participation.

Hart’s sister, Mackenzie, and White’s sister, Kelsey, both emceed the event when they were seniors and Dangello’s brother, Frank, was a contender for the crown.

Joining the three, 10 other contestants vied for the title including Jackson Bernhard, Isaac Bredbenner, Dylan Frantz, Ben Fry, Brian Garbacik, Aaron Green, Robbie Leiser, John McArdle, Mason Vogwill and Taylor Wanamaker.

The young men were applauded and cheered by an audience that clearly showed up to share in the good time and hilarity.

“It is always a really fun night and all our classmates come to laugh,” said White.

“It is fun for [the guys] and for the student body, too,” said Katie Smith, vice president of student council.

“Instead of just looking forward to graduation, [the senior class] also looks forward to Mr. Northwestern, to see them goof off or even to watch them embarrass themselves. [The boys] are all really confident and willing to put themselves out there.”

Embarrassment did not hold the boys back.

In fact, they embraced the opportunity to embarrass themselves as much as possible, knowing that would be part of the fun.

“Mr. Northwestern is a fun way to act like a fool and not be judged by it,” said Frantz. “Who wouldn’t want to see a bunch of half-naked boys on stage?”

“Everyone gets to see the senior boys make fools of themselves,” Dangello agreed.

“The raw talent and showmanship displayed in this event perfectly shows what life at Northwestern is like,” McArdle joked.

It’s no wonder judges Lauren Elsenbaumer, Linda Paist, Mike Sikora and Heather Fugazzotto had much to consider before making their final choices. The boys displayed a wild array of talent that redefined the word “entertainment.”

Paist cited several “crowd favorite moments,” notably “Aaron Green’s talent performance,” which she described as “a history of music compilation in heels.”

“Phil Dangelo did the Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey Dirty Dancing finale with another contestant, Jackson Bernhard, in a dress, danced as the ‘Baby’ character and Mason Vogwill and two other guys performed Beyonce’s song, ‘Single Ladies,’” she said.

It didn’t stop there. “Connor Hart did a dance routine with three other guys to Fifth Harmony’s song, ‘Worth It,’”

“I played the cowbell to Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper,’” explained Garbacik, who said he had the “encouragement and support” of his parents.

McArdle performed a song from Sponge Bob.

“It really spoke to me,” he said.

Fry played guitar and Leiser played “Baker Street” on the sax while Vogwill ‘danced to Single Ladies.’”

“The show was entertaining,” said Beth Johnson, co-adviser of the class with Patty Mengel.

“They had some great talent, some great dancing, playing instruments, singing, [and] joking. “It looked like they had a great time.”

“Mr. Northwestern is such a popular event because it is funny, and a lot of well-known people participate,” said Green, proud of his “pop diva medley, [which was] original and fun, especially in a sequined jacket.”

“[Mr. Northwestern] is something they’ll remember about high school,” said Mengel, student council adviser, whose history with the pageant goes back ten years.

Fun aside, practice and rehearsal were key elements in the run up to the actual event.

“The hardest part was learning all the dances,” said Bernhard. “But the dances were also the funniest part.”

Despite their antics on stage, the young men have their serious side.

Bredbenner and Bernhard enjoy film production, Garbacik is interested in actuarial science and Fry is drawn to medicine.

“[Mr. Northwestern] is a great way to see the ‘other side’ of the young men’s personality,” said Mengel. “The parents are typically in awe of how their sons can do something that’s really quite intimidating.”

Student council members were instrumental in making the show successful.

“It takes a lot of work for the contestants and student council alike to pull it off,” said Mengel.

“Hallie Harrington, Katie Smith, Brianna Mitich, and Myah Hambrick have done a fantastic job this year.”

“We’re running it,” admitted Smith with a smile. “We were in charge of writing the script and making sure everything is in the right place, making sure [the guys] have what they need for their act.”

Jessie Williamson helped with the script and music. “At first, I was brought in to emcee, but [since] I’m very close to most of the guys, I was also asked to help,” she said.

The ladies faced a few hurdles.

“We [were] supposed to practice over lunch, but absences [were] a problem, and snow days,” said Williamson. “Flex is the time when you’re supposed to take tests and study.”

“Definitely getting them to focus [was] very difficult,” Williamson continued. “[It] was hard to get thirteen different boys all together.”

“The people who came to practice were willing to give all the time they had because they understand it’s a big deal,” said Smith. “They have other commitments but when they were here they were definitely focused for a majority of time.”

“We only had a couple of weeks to remember the dances,” said Wanamaker, who performed the “mean girl dance” for his talent.

“It’s just a super fun and entertaining event that brings the community together for a great cause,” said Hart.

“I think that Mr. Northwestern is so popular because it is for charity,” said Johnson. “It is a senior send-off and it is the beginning of all of the senior finale [events].”

“[The guys] look forward to this as seniors [because they saw] the guys before them have soooo much fun,” said Mengel. “The reception by the community and their peers is always so generous. It’s a highlight for student council.”

PRESS PHOTO BY LOU WHEELANDNorthwestern Lehigh High School presented it annual Mr. Northwestern contest March 29 in the middle school auditorium. Thirteen young men preened, strutted and did their best to win over the judges in this year's event. Runners up Drew White and Phil Dangello bracket Mr. Northwestern 2018, Connor Hart. Copyright - Lou Wheeland Photography