And the winner is…

by Matt Benoit and Lexi Foldenauer

Horizon Reporters

It was tears and tiaras last Saturday night in Whatcom’s Syre Student Center, when Whatcom student Vonda DiLorenzo was crowned “Miss Whatcom County 2010,” marking the third consecutive year a Whatcom student has won the annually-held pageant.

“Unbelievable, if there was a way to describe it,” DiLorenzo said of winning. The 20-year-old Whatcom student, who is pursuing a career in dental hygiene, said she didn’t expect to win. After the first four winners were announced, DiLorenzo—who competed at last year’s pageant but did not place—said she thought she was headed for the same disappointment.

But then her name was called, and DiLorenzo cupped her hands over her face, fighting back tears as she stepped forward to hug Chandler Batiste, Miss Whatcom County 2009, and accept the sash and crown of her new title.

Eleven contestants, two of whom were Whatcom students, took the stage to compete in this year’s competition. Each contestant had two months to prepare for things like interview skills and presence, the audience was told by Batiste. The star of the show, Batiste opened with a cooperative part in Ferndale and Bellingham High School’s drum line—making an extravagant lead to the night.

Batiste, Whatcom student and member of the student council, was also first runner-up in last year’s Miss Washington competition.

“You should be proud of each and every person you see up here tonight,” exclaimed Batiste while standing at the podium.

After an introduction for the MC of the night, Jim Swartos, each participant was brought on stage to a loud overture of hoots, hollers, and airhorns from the crowd, and performed a group dance. The competitions then began, starting with swimsuit/fitness. Each participant walked across stage in a swimsuit, which was partly judged on modesty and appropriateness. The music in the background was some sort of techno, and friends and family jokingly cat-called for the contestant they came to see.

The contestants quickly changed back stage, and it was time for the talent portion of the evening. Batiste also performed a solo on the drums, doing a rendition of the classic surf song “Wipeout.” Of the 11 acts included: a piano solo, song performances, and dance routines.

After a 15-minute intermission, the 11 eleven contestants, along with Batiste and Janet Harding, Miss Whatcom County 2006 and Miss Washington 2008, performed another dance routine, this time wearing bonnets and sun dresses. Visiting Miss America royalty were introduced afterward, and included many past Miss Whatcom County winners as well as Linda Marie Anderson, Miss Bellingham 1964.

A little later into the evening, Batiste gave her final farewells as Miss Whatcom Count before all the contestants, dressed in evening wear, paraded across the stage together to the Michael Buble tune “I Just Haven’t’ Met You Yet.”

The final portions of the competition, evening wear and on-stage interview, were then conducted before the big moment: coronation. Each contestant who did not place received $200, and 10 other awards were given before Miss Whatcom was crowned.

Gabrielle Wade took home $100 for Miss Congeniality; former Whatcom student Christal Berard won the $150 People’s Choice Award, voted on by the audience; $200, along with the Inspirational Award, went to Barbara Lewis. Western student Emily Marsh took home the Community Service Notebook Award, worth $250, as well as $800 for being first runner-up.

Emily Sulak received three awards, being named third runner-up (worth $350), receiving the highest score in the talent portion of the competition ($300), and also receiving the Interview Scholarship ($300), which was conducted earlier in the day before the competition.

Fourth runner-up ($250) went to Tristen Graybil, and second runner-up ($500) went to Whatcom student Heather Rickords.

“This is just what I wanted,” said Rickords, 23, of placing in the top three. Competing in her first pageant ever, she said a friend who was involved with the competitions introduced her to it and eventually convinced her to compete. Rickords is pursuing a career in nursing.

Batiste said the fact that a Whatcom student won the competition for the third-straight year was “awesome.”

“It’s a depiction of the fact that our organization is scholarship-based,” she said.

DiLorenzo, who received a dozen red roses and $2,000 for winning the pageant, will now set her sights on July, when she’ll head to Renton, Wash., to vie for the title of Miss Washington.

“I have a lot of work to do,” she said.

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