Pageant kicks off 2013 Community Fiesta




Eight contestants battled it out for the chance to be crowned 2013's Fiesta Queen at this year's Mexican Fiesta Scholarship Pageant, and not only were there more contestants than in prior years, but more cultures were also represented.

The pageant, hosted by Fort Hays State University, was held at the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building at Garden City Community College Friday night.

The queen of the pageant is awarded with a $1,500 scholarship and automatically qualifies for the Miss Kansas Pageant; the first runner-up receives a $750 scholarship and the second runner-up receives a $500 scholarship.

Christopher Cruz, pageant coordinator, said one of his goals is to encourage any girl aged 16 to 21, who has been a Kansas resident for at least six months, to enter the pageant.

"I wanted to make the pageant more diverse and so that's what I believe happened. The word got out there that the pageant is for everybody — it's not just for Mexican girls. So this year, I had eight girls," Cruz said. "I've got an Anglo girl, I've got a Chinese girl, I've got a Vietnamese girl and Mexican girls this year."

Cruz said this year's talent competition was as varied as the cultures represented.

"The talent is everywhere — they've got dancing, singing, acrobatics, playing instruments," Cruz said.

17-year-old Yoana Cruz, a senior at Garden City High School, performed a viola solo.

"It's supposed to be an orchestra piece but I arranged it to be a solo piece, so that's a part of my talent, as well," Yoana Cruz said.

19-year-old Pamela Hernandez, a freshman at GCCC, performed a song titled 'Corre' in Spanish, showcasing her ability to play acoustic guitar while singing, but also her comedic talents.

"Corre means 'run' in English and in this case, run means run from that special someone who is no longer a special someone, but is probably a psycho," Hernandez said, to which the whole audience roared with laughter.

Other contestants performed culturally-inspired acts. 18-year-old Alisia Saucedo, a senior at Garden City High School, performed a folkloric dance.

She said entering the pageant is something her family has always wanted her to do.

"It's kind of like a big deal for my whole family," Saucedo said. "I've been practicing for awhile now and I'm on the folkloric dance team at the high school, so that kind of helped me prepare."

In addition to the talent competition, the girls also competed in an evening gown competition.

"The evening gowns this year are gorgeous," Cruz said.

Followed the evening gown segment, each contestant had to answer a question posed by one of the judges.

Cruz said during the preliminaries held Sept. 6, the judges, including Delores Gillen, Barbara Oringderff, Janie Perkins, Darla Sammy, also interviewed the contestants.

"The judges told me, 'These girls are very sharp girls, so you're not making this easy on us,'" Cruz said. "It's anybody's game tonight. Any one of them could walk away with that crown or that scholarship."

Cruz said that the Garden City's Community Mexican Fiesta's president, Angelica Castillo-Chappel, told him that because they were under budget this year, all of the girls would be receiving a prize.

"Not only are the queen and the first and second runner-ups going to get their scholarships, but all the rest of the contestants are going to get a $200 scholarship, so they're all going to walk away from here with something tonight," Cruz said.

He said that the girls also gain valuable experience in participating in the pageant.

"For a lot of them, they're still in high school or their first year of college, so if they don't win this year, they can always come and try again next year and this is good practice for them, getting in front of people," he said.

2012 Fiesta Queen Klarissa Calvillo was on hand to crown this year's winner — 18-year-old GCCC freshman Madison Miller. In addition to the crown, title and scholarship, Miller received a trophy, bouquet of roses, a sash and will appear in the Fiesta Parade on Main Street at 10 a.m. today. In addition to the $1,500 scholarship, she also received the crown, a trophy, a bouquet of roses, a sash and will appear in the Fiesta Parade, which takes place on Main Street at 10 a.m. today, followed by a Fiesta Celebration in Stevens Park.

The first runner-up was 18-year-old Bin Hua, a freshman at GCCC and the second runner-up was 17-year-old Julia Santos, a senior at Holcomb High School.

Other contestants included 18-year-old My Nguyen and 16-year-old Alexandra Pio, both freshmen at GCCC.

Prior to the competition, Santos said she has wanted to be in the pageant since she was a little girl.

In addition to their respective scholarships, the two runners-up were also awarded with a trophy and bouquet of flowers.

The Community Mexican Fiesta continues through the weekend. After the parade, a celebration in Stevens Park will feature family-friendly events, food and live entertainment including a Mariachi band and folkloric dancers. A beer garden will open from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight in Stevens Park and will feature live music by La Costumbre Norteña, Son Lagunero and El Emperador.

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