Saturday’s 75th Porterville Veterans Homecoming Queen/Miss Porterville Pageant in the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theater inside the Porterville Memorial Auditorium was everything one would expect from “Patriotic Porterville” – the honoring of Veterans, the playing of the signature songs of each military branch’s marches; patriotic poems, videos and music; and a lot of red, white and blue.

And it all culminated with the crowning of the 2021-2022 Porterville Veterans Homecoming Queen/Miss Porterville – Kyleen Mitchell while “Pretty as a Picture” played.

Carrying a bouquet of flowers and wearing a freshly placed crown, white “Queen” sash, a red velvet robe and a big smile, Mitchell took time to pose with American Legion Post 20 and other veterans before family, friends and loved ones began hugging and congratulating her.

“I feel like this is so surreal,” said Mitchell. “I cried. I was shocked – surprised I just won. It is a really good experience of a lifetime, a memory I will cherish forever.”

The Queen Mother, Christina Floyd, could also be seen wiping away at tears.

“I’m just so excited for her,” her mother said. “She’s so patriotic. She’s all about love for the veterans. She would try so bad to always give back to the veterans. I’m so proud of her.”

Her father, Timothy Floyd echoed the sentiments, mentioned her two brothers were in the military service, and said she’s extremely involved in anything and everything patriotic.

The program began with a welcome by Veterans Homecoming Committee Chairman Ruben Bonilla, the posting of National Colors, the Pledge of Allegiance led by Allen Pundt, and the National Anthem sung by Rebecca Keele before the reigning 2019-2021 queen, Madison Chapman, and her third attendant Rebecca Keele were introduced. The rest of her court, Lili Rose Garcia, Sevyn Garcia and Catherine Entenman, was absent due to being away at school or in the military.

“We have a very special program ahead of us tonight,” said Lessa Rojas, MC, after being introduced.

And she was right.

The entertainment kicked off with the reigning queen and the three contestants performing the traditional “Spirit Dance” to Tommy Dorsey’s 1940s hit ‘Opus One!’

“The contestants have been working hard since September 7, preparing for tonight’s event,” Rojas said after thanking them. “Along with the excitement of the pageant, they have been mindful of the reason they are here; to honor our servicemen and women, past and present.”

And after introducing the panel of judges, Rojas introduced the current queen.

“As you know, these past 18 months have been challenging for all of us. Last fall, we were not able to host a pageant or have our traditional Veterans Day festivities,” Rojas said. “However, a silver lining to this situation, was that our reigning queen, Madison Chaman, was able to continue her reign for another year. She has been our pride and joy and the true epitome of what a Veterans Homecoming Queen represents.”

Rojas described Chapman’s family as a true, patriotic, American family.

A patriotic reading, “America, Why I Love Her” by John Wayne followed, along with a video showcasing numerous landscapes and scenes from across America.

“What a beautiful reminder of why we love this country that we call home,” Rojas said before presenting the 2021-2022 Veterans Homecoming Queen contestants, all Monache High School seniors, escorted in alphabetical order by last name by local proud veterans.

As they walked down the auditorium aisle, Rojas mentioned each contestant’s favorite book, favorite quote, where they see themselves in five to 10 years, and listed their hobbies and interests.

Contestant No. 1 Lily Cisneros walked down the aisle in a light blue sparkling robe and white furry shawl wrap.

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon” by Paul Brandt was her favorite quote, Rojas said.

Azalea Rose Gutierrez followed in a pink/rose gown with a silver sash belt.

“I was here for a moment and then I was gone,” from the movie, Lovely Bones, was quoted as her favorite saying, because it makes her think of special moments in life, such as cheering at a football game or sitting at a lunch table with friends, and she realizes she will never again be ‘exactly there’ again.

Kyleen Mitchell was escorted in last.

“My favorite book is The Bible because not only does it spread God’s Word, it helps me through tough times and guides me down the path where I can share my faith, and to keep me going,” Rojas read. “It helps me realize every day that I need to believe, hope, love, trust, and most importantly, forgive.”

She also said her favorite quote is Isaiah 40:29 – “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”

“This verse shows that an easy life is not always promised. God will never give me something that He knows I could not handle. This helps me know that no matter how hard life may get, there is a reason why God is directing me in that path,” Rojas read.

Listing her hobbies and interests as cheerleading, water polo, swim, dive, work and clubs, including Student Council, Alive in Him, Spanish Club, MCTA pathway, where she’s an ambassador; and she competes in woodworking for Skills USA.

She said she sees herself at Texas Tech in five to 10 years, double majoring in Cyber Security and General Engineering, and doing it while being enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program

“When I graduate, I will enroll into the Air Force with my degrees and officer title. These will get me a step closer to reaching my goal of becoming an agent for the CIA,” Rojas read.

As each candidate reached center stage, she would introduce her parents.

The military branch marches followed, with military members in the audience asked to stand during the playing of their respective military branch march.

“Thank you, service members,” Rojas said. “We will forever be in your debt.”

The on-stage interview followed. One by one, the contestants were called to the stage to answer two randomly selected questions; one light hearted and the other thought-provoking.

Mitchell’s questions were to list one thing about her most people wouldn’t know just by looking at her. Mitchell answered she’s fluent in Spanish and has earned the State Seal of Biliteracy.

She was then asked what she believed was a main priority for a U.S. President.

“A main priority for a U.S. president is patriotism and caring for our country,” Mitchell said and went on to talk about showing patriotism to today’s youth and doing what’s best for the country.

During the talent portion of the competition, Mitchell recited an original poem “The Fallen 13” referring to the 13 service members killed – 12 of them Marines - outside Kabul’s Airport in August by the Islamic State Khorasan terror group.

As she recited the poem, a video of her making a wooden flag complete with the engraved names, one on each stripe, of the 13 fallen was shown.

As the judges tabulated scores, Chapman once again took the microphone to talk about her two-year reign, explain why her court members were absent, and share a picture slideshow of her reign.

Keele also said a few words before both ladies were presented with a thank-you gift.

“Every nation goes through trials and hard times, but we have been blessed to have had some amazing leaders. Let’s listen to some words of wisdom from some of our past presidents,” Rojas said, as a video with Presidents Ronald Reagan and John F Kennedy began.

“Before the final results of tonight’s pageant are revealed, help me welcome back onto the stage our reigning Veterans Homecoming Queen Attendant Rebecca Keele singing ‘America the Beautiful.’

Then, once again, the contestants were beckoned onto the stage

"Ladies, thank you for your participation in this wonderful event and for your support of our veterans. All of you have done an outstanding job and have made your friends and families proud,” Rojas said. “It takes a special young lady to get on this stage and do what you’ve done and to have put in all the work leading up to this moment. You are all role models to the young people of our community so again, thank you.”

And with that note, the 2021-2022 Porterville Homecoming Queen/Miss Porterville and her court were announced.

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