Trio selected to preside over 76th Annual Strawberry festivities

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MARYSVILLE The 2007 Strawberry Festival Royalty were selected last weekend at the April Friesner Royalty Scholarship Pageant in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School auditorium March 24.
M-P junior Cassie Miller will reign over the court as Royal Ambassador with Brooklynn El Fattal and Alicia Coragiulo serving as Ambassadors. The trio won scholarships worth $3,000 and $2,000, respectively, and will represent the festival on the hometown float at two dozen parades throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The three were selected from a field of seven locals. The show included a variety of musical performances and talent exhibitions, and for the first time fathers escorted their daughters on stage. The trio of 16-year-olds were selected by a panel of three judges whose votes were tallied along with those of several different local organizations over the past six weeks. The other four contenders were Danielle Wilcoxson, Kirsti Meyers, Devin Leatherman and Shandra Brand.
Oh my gosh, Im so excited, Im so overwhelmed, said Miller, shortly after having her new tiara pinned to her hair by last years Royal Ambassador Julianne Mack. Honestly, I didnt expect to get what I got.
Coragiulo was also selected as Miss Congeniality by her peers, winning a $250 scholarship for the Bob Klepper Memorial Scholarship; she also won an award for selling the most pageant tickets. An articulate speaker, she was only stumped for a moment by winning the silk sash.
Im very excited, thrilled and honored, Coragiulo said, adding that running for the Maryfest court was a personal challenge. Its great to do something you doubt yourself in and to prevail.
The show included speeches by the seven nominees, a talent demonstration and impromptu questions from Maryfest president Darrell Wigdahl. He noted the high quality of field just before grilling the girls with a round of questions drawn randomly from a strawberry-shaped basket by four-year-old Brooke Bontrager.
Judges, my hat is off to you, I wouldnt want to be in your seat at all, Wigdahl said.
Brand was asked to choose between giving up either her cell phone or computer for a year.
It would probably be my computer, Brand answered. My cell phone is my life. I talk to everyone on it.
Coragiulo was asked what kind of pet she would be; a dog she replied, because they are loyal, friendly, childlike and energetic. El Fattal was asked to pass on some words of wisdom. She said its OK to be yourself and that she lived by that maxim.
Who you see here is who I am all the time, El Fattal said.
Given the choice of visiting any country on earth, Leatherman said she wants to help AIDS victims on what was once known as the dark continent.
Its been one of my biggest dreams to build AIDS orphanages, Leatherman said. I would go to Africa in a heartbeat.
Meyers got a fat pitch as Wigdahl asked her how she would make an impact if she was a teacher for a day. The senior at Marysville Arts & Technology High School plans a career in that vocation.
I would teach them to be themselves, to not be afraid to grow up and to listen to their parents, Meyers said.
Miller said if given the choice to be marooned on an island with only one person, she would pick her mother, Christa.
Shes the one person who challenges me, Miller said. Theres so much wisdom in her.
Wilcoxson was given the choice of dinner with any person living or dead, she picked civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. because of the impact he made on the world.
Choosing from the court nominees was a slender thread, according to Myke Folger of Seattle, one of three judges, along with Liz Fowler and Fred Fillbrook. He saluted the nominees and said he leaned heavily toward their talent performances on stage, but felt his vote was cancelled out by another judge who focused on other segments of the competition.
It takes courage to get here in the first place, Folger said. I was really impressed with all of them. A few stood out tonight you can italicize that. You just had to look at it as objectively as possible.
While the votes were tabulated Michelle Giesler entertained the crowd of several hundred with a couple of country music songs and past royalty took the stage to share their memories, including Kristi Wilcoxson, 2005 Royal Ambassador and Danielles older sister, and Chesney Carroll, 2004 Ambassador. Shortly before she ended her reign Mack told the nominees they were in for the time of their lives.
This is the most fun Ive ever had, Mack said, noting that the parades were her favorite part and that she and her peers created a little dance to perform on the Strawberry Festival Float. You girls are about to have the most fun that youll ever have.
Its an experience you cant get anywhere else, said 2006 Ambassador and Lakewood High School alum Katie Bartlett. Just really enjoy it; it goes by fast.
The Junior Royalty Court was also crowned: the three equals are 12-year-olds Courtney Harris, a Sunnyside resident who is in the sixth-grade at Marysville Middle School; as is Hannah Taylor, who lives near the center of town. They were joined by Emilee McKamey, a sixth-grader at Lakewood Middle School.

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