Celebrating Seven Years with Erika Cruse: 1991’s Little Miss Knightline

Celebrating Seven Years with Erika Cruse: 1991’s Little Miss Knightline

My friends, where does the time go? As Atomicdust approaches our 14th year in business, I wanted to take a minute to talk about an event that happened about halfway through our existence.

Seven years ago, we were lucky enough to meet a sassy young lady from Farmington, Missouri, named Erika Cruse. Erika was moving back to Missouri from Denver, where she was working as an account executive at an ad agency.

The team at Atomicdust was only around seven or eight people at the time, and I can’t remember if we were even looking to hire a new account person. What I do know is that, after meeting Erika Cruse, we had to hire her. That day would change and shape our agency forever.

What was it that made Erika so intriguing? Was it her vast client experience? Her industry knowledge? Her friendly but confident leadership style? No. It wasn’t any of these things. No way. A solid no.

We didn’t know what it was at first, but we knew there was something special. We could feel it. It turned out to be something so powerful that most people would hesitate to put it on their resume. There was really no good way for her to tell us about it without seeming totally arrogant. And then, on a seemingly ordinary day, over lunch, with quiet confidence, Erika told us what it was.

In 1991, Erika Cruse was crowned Farmington, Missouri’s Little Miss Knightline.


The Little Miss Knightline Pageant judged girls from area elementary schools on talent, beauty and personality. While more than 100 girls from the region came out that day to compete, many learned one of life’s cruel lessons: there can be only one winner. And for the rest of their lives, 99 girls would be haunted by that winner’s name: Little Miss Erika Cruse.

Now, if you ask Erika about the pageant, she’ll be the first to tell you that while she nailed the interview portion, the thing that really made her competitors look like a bunch of children was her humor. “I was hilarious,” said Erika. “I made some jokes about my sister, and the crowd was rolling.”

I wonder if a young Erika Cruse realized at the time that the combination of those two skills – interviews and humor – would be the winning combination for any leading agency account manager. After thinking about it, she probably did know. She is Little Miss Knightline after all.

Suspiciously, 1991 was the only year of the Little Miss Knightline pageant. Why did it shut down? Politics? Funding? A declining population? Maybe. But I like to believe that on that day in August, the world found their Little Miss Knightline in Erika Cruse, and there’s never been a reason to look back. She’s lived up to the demands and pressures that a crown so heavy can bring. She’s set the example for excellence, and I believe that the good people of Farmington made the right decision that day. A decision that helped shape the world.

“This is weird.” –Tara Nesbitt (sits near Erika)


So happy seven years at Atomicdust, Erika. You’ve brought the confidence and charm that only Little Miss Knightline could deliver. Every day, you wear an invisible crown of confidence into the office, and bring a huge and delightful attitude along with it. Thank you for deciding to be a part of Atomicdust.

(Erika Cruse is an account manager at Atomicdust and enjoys a solid and lengthy non-compete agreement.)

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

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