Stewart wins Strawberry Queen honors for 2011 |

Stewart wins Strawberry Queen honors for 2011

Heather McGregor and Reynis Vazquez
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jury Jerome Post IndependentKellsie Stewart is the new Miss Strawberry Days, winning the crown during opening festivities of the Strawberry Days Festival on Friday evening. The 2010 Miss Strawberry Days, Marissa Molina, placed the sash and crown on Kellsie while Melessa Starbuck and other contestants enjoyed the moment. "It was an amazing experience," Kellsie said. All 19 queen contestants will appear in the Strawberry Days Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. today.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Miss Strawberry Days 2011, Kellsie Stewart, will be a senior in high school this fall. She is already planning to attend college, earn a medical degree and return to Glenwood Springs to work.

For Kellsie, who won the top prize in the Miss Strawberry Days contest Friday evening, there’s no place like home.

“I’m absolutely shocked,” she said, minutes after having the queen’s tiara placed on her head by Marissa Molina, the 2010 Miss Strawberry Days.

“With this money, it will help me go to college to become an anesthesiologist. Life experience has guided me toward my career,” Kellsie said after leaving the stage. “You’ve got to have passion for what you do.”

Other winners in the annual contest were first runner-up Anna Marie Komula, second runner-up Cindy Bianco, Miss Congeniality Camie Marcon, and winner of the public vote, Keera Clark.

A team of six judges, all new to the valley, interviewed the girls earlier in the week and then conferred to make a selection.

“It was incredibly, incredibly difficult,” said Katy Taylor of New Castle, who served as a judge. “Their points were really close.”

Likewise, the voting for Miss Congeniality, selected from a vote among the contestants, was forced into a second round by a three-way tie in the first round, according to contestant Krissy Jimenez, 19, of Glenwood Springs.

Cami Marcon, 18, of Glenwood Springs, the congeniality winner, said her secret to a winning personality is “to just try to be nice to people, to be honest and real with people, and to show encouragement when it’s needed.”

Public vote winner Keera Clark, 17, a senior at Glenwood Springs High School, said her sponsors at Vicki Lee Green Realtors and her parents, Susie Speranza and Ken Clark, made flyers to encourage people to vote for her.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. The contest, she said, “helped me grow and be more outgoing. I am feeling more confident. I knew I had people who believed in me, people who were behind me and encouraging me.”

First runner-up Anna Marie Komula, 18, said she will use her scholarship money to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she plans to study dance and classics. She graduated from high school in 2009 and is about to earn her associate’s degree from Colorado Mountain College.

“I was looking for a way to get scholarship money,” she said. She also ended up meeting other young women who have career ambitions.

Second runner-up Cindy Bianco, 17, said she will use her scholarship money to attend college. She plans to become a Christian motivational speaker. “The best part was being with all the girls. I knew them all, but now they are all my friends,” she said.

Earlier in the evening, the Miss Strawberry Days Fashion Show entertained a crowd of people who put up with drizzling rain, two downpours, thunder and lightning that briefly stopped the show.

The show opened with the Strawberry Princesses, a new event that drew 40 girls ages 5 to 10. The princesses huddled together to keep warm, getting ready for their appearance on the stage.

Despite the cold, they lined up on stage. One by one, they waved, curtsied and blew kisses to the cheering audience. Their next appearance will be in today’s parade and at the FamilyFest Stage at 11:30 a.m.

After a rain delay, the fashion show started. The queen contestants came out on stage twice during the fashion show, first to model an outfit provided by their business sponsors, and the second time to model an outfit of their own creation, fitting their interpretation of this year’s theme, “There’s No Place Like Home.”

They presented a wide variety of outfits, from flirty and fun to sporty yet feminine. Some contestants modeled pieces made entirely out of recycled material.

On the second round, they had the opportunity to show more of their personalities.

Clara Miller decided on a historical look, inspired by the Frontier Historical Society, where she serves as a board member. This is Miller’s second year in the Miss Strawberry Days Competition.

“I like showing that you don’t have to be the stereo-typical pageant beauty queen,” said Miller. Even though she’s been in front of much bigger crowds, she said she still gets the jitters.

“I was really nervous. I’d never done anything like this before,” said queen candidate Dara Chase, 17, of Carbondale. “I need money for school, so I’m just going with it.”

“I loved being the center of attention,” said Krissy Jimenez. “When I was up there and they were reading my bio, I knew this was my time to shine.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I always wanted to do this. It’s turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she added.

The fashion show played to a highly appreciate audience.

“I was here for a couple of friends. It was fund to see them all dressed up,” said Kenzie Hill, 17, of Glenwood Springs, who was rooting for Keera Clark and Dara Chase. “They are all wearing really cute outfits. It’s good advertising – I want to go buy all that stuff.”

“I’m not going to vote, because I can’t decide,” said Jordan Hirro, 18, of Carbondale, standing under an umbrella as the fashion show went on in spite of a cold drizzle. “This is my first time to the fashion show. It brings spunk to all of Strawberry Days.”

“I’m voting for Kellsie,” said Ozus Lohani, 23, of Glenwood Springs. He heard the Strawberry Queen candidates practicing their speeches Friday morning, while helping his family set up a food booth at Sayre Park.

“She talked about ‘Home is where the heart is.’ Her speech is something I feel similar to,” Lohani said. Having just returned to Glenwood Springs after attending college, he said her comments ring true. “Glenwood Springs is the place to be,” he said.

Taking shelter from the rain under one of several tents, Savannah Ross, 16, and Andrew Frantz, 18, both of Silt sat close for warmth while cheering for their friends, Melessa Starbuck and Lyndee Zelenka. “I couldn’t really see past the umbrellas,” Ross said, but they were enjoying the festival.

“Rachel High looked really good in her sponsor dress,” said Zack Golden, 16, of Glenwood Springs. He noticed there were a lot of red shoes worn in the fashion show, the first he’s ever attended, as many girls based their creativitiy outfits on a Wizard of Oz theme.

“It’s cool they did this,” Golden added.

“I liked the creative outfits. They were all unique,” said Daryian Hawkins, 16, a former Glenwood Springs resident who recently moved with her family to St. George, Utah. She was struck by Lyndee Zelenka, who wore a bikini and a long black cover-up robe. “It was risky. She came out of her comfort zone,” Hawkins said. “I was talking to her earlier, and she was really shy. This showed confidence.”

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