By Carol Lawson-Swezey
It was a special Valentine’s evening for 13 beautiful young ladies at the Mercedes Edwards Theater in Clovis at the Miss Clovis Scholarship competition. The six contestants vying for the Miss Clovis title, as well as the seven competing for the Miss Clovis Outstanding Teen crown, showed talent, self-confidence and grace under pressure in front of adoring and supportive friends and family.
After an eventful night jam-packed with memorable performances and stunning evening gowns, Kiley Barton, a junior at Clovis East High School, was named Miss Clovis Outstanding Teen. Taylor Coloka, who attends Fresno State, was crowned Miss Clovis. Barton’s talent was singing and her platform will be disability awareness and inclusion. Coloka’s talent was dancing and her platform is First Book, a program which provides new books for children in need. .
The contestants were assessed by a panel of three state-certified judges and two local celebrities, and scores were based on interviews, formal wear with on-stage questions, swimwear/physical fitness and talent.
For Miss Clovis Taylor Coloka, her court was completed with first runner-up Keri Allred and second runner-up Vannalee Cayabyab. The other Miss Clovis contestants included Kimberly Brant, Amy Bishop and Elena Saavedra.
Barton’s court included first runner-up Jenna Aoki and second runner-up Savannah Sanchez. The other contestants included Laura Harkness, Bethany Pallestrini, Micayla Wright and Lilly Yang.
In addition to the title, other awards were given for People’s Choice, Marketing, Miss Congeniality and Academics. In the Miss Clovis contest the awards were: Miss Congeniality, Amy Bishop; Marketing Award, Elena Saavedra; and Academic Award, Vannalee Cayabyab. In the Outstanding Teen competition, first runner-up Jenna Aoki was awarded both the Marketing Award and the Academic Award.
Thirty-five contestants began the competition earlier this year. Scholarship money was awarded to the winner and her two runners-up in each contest. The program’s main sponsor is the Clovis Community Foundation, which raises funds for the scholarships.
Last year’s winners, Miss Clovis Morgan Edwards and Miss Clovis Outstanding Teen Jacqueline Trafton, crowned the 2015 winners. The outgoing royalty joined other past recipients in performances throughout the evening, and each also presented a touching video farewell to culminate their reign.
The pride and joy of supportive family and friends was palpable in the theater. Many flashed handmade signs and carried bouquets and single red roses for their candidate of choice.
All of the finalists showed poise and elegance in their stunning evening gowns, but sparkled as well in their talent. Performances included singing, tumbling, creating balloon animals and a variety of routines involving line dancing, tap, jazz and traditional Hmong and Polynesian dancing.
“We are so fortunate to work with such wonderful young women. It is exciting to watch their personalities grow with this program,” said Alyssa Bandoni, executive director of the Miss Clovis Scholarship Association.
A bevy of beauties from the Central Valley Princess organization, which featured girls ages 4 through 11, entertained the audience with their introductions and a dance number to “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” They stole the audience’s hearts and nearly stole the show.
This year’s winners will have a busy year before them attending events including the Clovis Rodeo and Christmas Parade, the Mayor’s Breakfast and invitations to various business openings. They will also go on to compete in the Miss California Pageant held in Fresno in June. That winner goes on to compete for Miss America in September.
Although only two of the lovely girls were crowned that evening, there were no losers. Everyone was a champion and brought to life every mother’s dream of her little girl someday becoming a princess.