Magnificent Seven vie for Strawberry Festival crowns at March 24 pageant

Courtesy photos by Natalie Court/Clear Image Studios -
Courtesy photos by Natalie Court/Clear Image Studios
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MARYSVILLE Call them the Magnificent Seven.
Seven lovely ladies are touring town as the Marysville Strawberry Festival prepares to select the royalty for this years Strawberry Court on March 24. Three ladies will be selected to wear the tiaras and ride the festival float in parades around the Pacific Northwest at the annual pageant held at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School auditorium. Their crowns also include scholarships worth thousands of dollars and the chance to represent their community.
The nominees will be judged on a variety of points, including poise, talent and speaking ability. They have been appearing before various groups such as the Marysville Rotary, City Council and school board; members of those groups vote and their tallies are combined with the decisions of a three-judge panel voting the night of the pageant.
The seven nominees are Shandra Brand, Alicia Coragiulo, Brooklynn El Fattal, Devin Leatherman, Kirsti Meyers, Cassie Miller and Danielle Wilcoxson.
Until 2001 the pageant crowned queens and princesses; then Brandon Hemming broke the mold with his selection as king and served along with queen Emily Gutierrez. Since then the festival has named two ambassadors who each get $2,000 scholarships and one royal ambassador who gets one for $3,000. This year is the first time the annual pageant has been named after long-time Strawberry Festival board member and community activist April Friesner. Friesners daughter Amanda was past royalty, according to pageant director Bobbi Young, who added that this is also the first year the nominees will be escorted by their fathers.
They are going to be doing a speech, and a dance and singing, said Young. One gal will be doing a poem that she wrote.
They will be judged on a variety of five factors including poise, speaking and others. The nominees visited seven different community groups around town, including both Rotary clubs, the Marysville Kiwanis club, the school board and City Council. Three members of each group voted for the ladies they thought would represent the festival well and those votes were locked into the vault at a local bank. They will be combined with the decisions of three judges at the pageant. That is panel from out of town, with no local connections to any board members or pageant contenders, Young emphasized.
The contenders are:
Shandra Brand; a 16-year-old junior at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, where she has worked on the yearbook and served in the marketing classes. Brand lives in the Allen Creek area and goes to United Methodist Church in Marysville. Her goal is to attend Lake Washington Technical College and study automotive subjects. Brand wants to open her own auto body shop someday; it pays well and she likes the work, she said.
Her hobbies include hanging out with her friends and writing; she said she actually sits out on the rooftop for inspiration.
I can write for hours, Brand said. When somebody tells me I cant do something I strive to prove them wrong.
Alicia Coraguilo is the same age and in the same class at M-P, and is captain of the girls varsity swim team and a lifeguard at the YMCA. She volunteers with kids at her church and at Eagle Wings Ministries in downtown Marysville as well as at a Burlington middle school and in Costa Rica. Plans to attend Eastern Washington University or Seattle Pacific University are a building block to her ultimate goal of being a missionary, with skills as a nurse practitioner or OB/GYN nurse to help her help others.
My real passion is helping out globally, Coraguilo said.
Brooklynn El Fattal is a scholar, musician and Christian and wants to roll up all three into her life.
Music has taught me that what matters in life is to share with others the gift that God has given you,
El Fattal told the Marysville City Council at its Feb. 12 meeting. A tall and poised M-P junior with a 3.6 GPA and National Honor Society membership, she wants to be a teacher and has gotten a head start by tutoring a Spanish speaking student at Kellogg Marsh Elementary School. El Fattal plans to get her sheepskin at SPU, majoring in teaching and English education.
I believe through teaching I can have a positive impact, she said.
Devin Leatherman is just as tall, but is a senior at Marysville Arts and Technology High School where she has served four years as ASB ambassador.
Its fun to represent my school, Leatherman told the City Council.
President of the Poetry Club, she has also served on the North Snohomish County Youth Council. The University of Portland is in her plans but shes not sure what to pursue once on campus. Her plan is to figure that out as she completes her general distribution classes the first two years, but Leatherman wants to help fight AIDS and HIV in Africa, possibly with the Peace Corps.
Im hoping to get there, Leatherman said. Her other passion is to be a strong role-model for her 13-year-old brother.
Another A&T senior is Kirsti Meyers, a 17-year-old member of the National Honors Society and another lifeguard at the Y. She mentors four freshman girls and plans to attend Pensacola Christian College in Florida. She hopes to be an elementary school teacher after graduation and is very proud of her Marysville roots. I learned to ride a bike here, I learned to swim here, Meyers told the Marysville School Board at its March 5 meeting. Im really excited about what the future holds.
Danielle Wilcoxson should know what shes getting into; her older sister Kristi was the 2005 Royal Ambassador and the M-P junior is hoping to follow in her footsteps. A member of the Spirit Club and ASB secretary, she said her biggest fear in life is not making a difference. The Marysville native has done a lot of community service work with her church and plans to major in psychology at Brigham Young University, where she hopes to get her Ph.D to allow her to help girls improve their self-image.
I want to work with girls with eating disorders, Wilcoxson said.
She has played in her high school musical, and said that is her one and only real hobby.
I love to sing, I sing a lot, Wilcoxson said, adding that she likes all styles and genres of music.
Cassie Miller is another warbler and like Wilcoxson, she wants to help young women with their self-perception and views the Strawberry Festival Float as the perfect vehicle to do so.
Ive always watched the girls in the parades and stuff and Ive always wanted to use that to show girls how important they are, Miller said.
Miller is often seen around town showing off her pipes with the junior high school choir and singing the national anthem at Veterans Day events. She has also performed on stage in musicals with the Village Theater and at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle.
Its my passion and its what I love to do, said the 16-year-old.
The M-P junior is in the Honors Society and helps the ASB with special events. English is her favorite subject and writing is her hobby, she spends hours writing lyrics.
Her ideal goal is to perform on the Great White Way, but realistically a Broadway career is a reach, Miller admitted, so she will diligently prepare for a teaching career by studying at the University of Washington or the University of Michigan, where she will major in business and minor in musical theater. If things go well she will someday own her own theater.

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