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Andrea Strunk takes Miss Kingston crown

KINGSTON — Andrea Strunk can describe her crowning moment at last weekend’s Miss Kingston Scholarship Pageant in a single word: “surreal.”

“This is something I’ve always dreamed of,” said Kingston’s new and slightly breathless reigning miss as friends and photographers flocked around her post-pageant. “It’s been hard work, but also a lot of fun. It was surreal to be up there on stage and hear my name.”

Strunk is joined by her new court, Princess Erinn Bartlett and Princess Chyna Riedel. In the next 12 months, the royal threesome will spend much of their time attending parades, making public appearances and supporting community service.

For the seven Miss Kingston hopefuls, weeks of preparation came down to two hours of eager eyes and nervous smiles at the Kingston Junior High gym on Saturday night, where the teenaged contestants, each one looking every inch a princess, gathered for a chance at the title. The event opened with Mistress of Ceremonies Patrice Diehl introducing a modern dance production in which the contestants performed along with the four members of the 2004 court.

Then the stage darkened, the spotlight was struck, and the girls took the stage one by one to showcase their talents in a “creative display.”

In hot pink and gold spangles, Ione Shepherd-McNamara wowed the crowd with a self-choreographed belly dance. Then, from the Arabian Nights to the moors of Scotland, Vivian Suarez delivered a recitation from Macbeth.

Dance instructor, Erinn Bartlett, chose the jazzy Bob Fosse number “The Rich Man’s Frug” which she performed with skill in a chartreuse, fur trimmed mini. Marki Lea Rustad was a contrast in style in her cap and trench coat, singing “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia. Kiara Ewell changed the pace yet again with some spirited hip hop to the Britney Spears song, “Do Somethin’.”

With ladylike poise, Chyna Riedel seated herself at the keyboard to favor the audience with a nicely rendered “Sonatina in G” by Haydn. Andrea Strunk, taking no chances on audience inattention, began her delivery of “Fallen” by Alicia Keys with, appropriately, a staged fall that introduced her aptly angst-ridden vocals.

Competition moved on to evening gowns and impromptu questions based on the mandatory essay submitted by each contestant. Shepherd-McNamara, tall and willowy in a strapless green gown, discussed her association with the Greater Kingston Kiwanis. Suarez, regal in plum and white, was asked about her interest in dispute resolution. Rustad wore feminine lavender silk with a sugar-sparkle bodice and responded to questions on the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Association. Bartlett, with her hair up in Grace Kelly fashion and a white beaded gown, explained her work with children as an education mentor and tutor. Ewell, cool in sky blue silk with an A-line skirt, detailed the Michael J. Fox Parkinson Foundation. Strunk, dressed in elegant black with a pattern of shimmering white flowers, promoted the Fishline Food Bank. Riedel, the picture of romance in a pink gown with flared skirt, outlined plans for a fund-raising calendar in support of the Kitsap Humane Society.

Prior to announcement of the awards, Miss Kingston 2004 Heidi Nicks and her princesses Lindsey Raymond, Michelle Blesie and Breona Johnson, took the stage to make their final farewells. They thanked sponsors, family and pageant co-directors Allison Morrison and Leslie Burns, who are now veterans of six pageant seasons.

Her reign at an end, the former Miss Kingston plans to attend the University of Washington in the fall, working toward a degree in physical therapy. Nicks looks back on her Miss Kingston experience as one of change and growth:

“It’s much more than parades, gowns and tiaras. Being Miss Kingston teaches you confidence and lifelong skills such as teamwork and public speaking. We’re passing on more here than rhinestones and sequins.”

Sidebar:

Miss Kingston Pageant Special Awards:

Miss Kingston 2005 ($1,000 scholarship): Andrea Strunk

First Princess ($500 scholarship): Erinn Bartlett

Second Princess ($500 scholarship): Chyna Riedel

Miss Congeniality: Erinn Bartlett

Director’s Award: Marki Lea Rustad

Best Essay: Marki Lea Rustad

Choreography Award: Erinn Bartlett and Ione Shepherd-McNamara

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