Those who missed the 74th annual Veterans Homecoming Queen Pageant at the Porterville Memorial Auditorium on Saturday night missed an outstanding show. Nine local high school seniors fought for the title of 2019-2020 Miss Porterville with an opening dance routine, on-stage interviews, and a talent showcase that had the audience on its feet.

The anticipation could be felt to see who would be crowned as this year’s Miss Porterville and reign as the Veterans Homecoming Queen for the next year. The anticipation came to a head when Madison Chapman’s name was announced as this year’s winner. Madison broke into tears of joy as she crossed the stage to receive her crown, cape and trophy.

At 6:30 p.m., Don Dowling welcomed those in attendance and made some quick introductions to kick the night off. He asked the color guard to post the colors, and The Fabulous Studio Band played the National Anthem. The band, under the direction of Clark Keele, provided music for the entire program.

Dowling recognized Porterville Mayor Martha Flores, the 2018-2019 Homecoming Queen and Court, Barbara Hawthorne and Dennis Townsend, before he handed the microphone over to Townsend who acted as the pageant’s Master of Ceremonies.

“Good evening everyone,” said Townsend. “Thank you for attending this evening. You are in for a big treat. There is going to be group of young ladies up here that you can really be proud of, proud to say that their from this community and our local schools.”

Townsend said the girls would be coming on stage to do a dance routine called the “spirit dance” that was put together in the tradition of the Big Band Era. The song they were to dance to was Benny Goodman’s hit “Sing, sing, Sing.”

The nine young ladies made their first appearance on stage, coming out in dresses of red or blue. The girls hit every step in their choreographed number before hurrying off stage to change into their introduction gowns.

While the contestants were getting ready backstage, Townsend took a moment to introduce the judges for this year’s pageant. All five of the judges were military veterans, and four of the five military branches were represented on the panel. The judges for the night were Sandra Carr, Tech Sergeant for the Air Force, Stephanie Sera, Corporal for the Marine Corps, Trever Studinger, Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Navy, Larry Waggle, Specialist 4th Class for the Army, and Joanna Woodyatt, Specialist for the Army. The judges received a warm round of applause, and the pageant moved forward to contestant introductions. As each girl was introduced, she was escorted to the stage by a local veteran.

Sevyn Garcia, from Monache High School, made her way to the stage in a flowing blue dress. Sevyn was followed by Catherine Entenman from Porterville High School. Enetenman wore a floor length white gown. 

Next to make her way to the stage was Rebecca Keele of Porterville High School. Rebecca wore a stunning green dress. Sajara Loomis, from Harmony Magnet Academy, floated to the stage next in a black gown, followed by Selicia “Cici” Flores, of Granite Hills High School, whose blue and white dress had the audience gasping when she stepped into the spotlight. 

Briana Facio, of Porterville High School, stepped on to the stage in her red dress with a smile from ear to ear. Alexa Pompa, of Monache High School, followed Briana on to the stage in a sparkling red dress that caught every bit of light it could. 

Liliana “Lily Rose” Garcia, from Porterville High School, traveled up to the stage in a marvelous gray dress, and was followed by the last contestant for the night, Chapman. Madison is from Monache High School and her blue dress trailed behind her as she made her way across the stage.

As each girl made their way to the stage, Townsend shared their favorite books and quotes, where they saw themselves in five to ten years and what each of their hobbies and interests were. Each contestant recognized their parents at the microphone before exiting the stage.

After all of the contestants were introduced, the pageant began with on-stage interviews. Each of the nine young women were asked two questions, one thought provoking question and one lighthearted question.

First up was Garcia. She was asked if she believed every high school graduate should go to college.

“I think college isn’t for everybody,” said Sevyn. “People like to experience different things that don’t involve going to college, like going into the military right after high school, and so I think college is important but it isn’t for everyone.”

Sevyn was then asked what her favorite animal was and why. She replied her favorite animal was a sea otter because they’re “sea puppies.”

Next to be interviewed was Entenman. Catherine’s first question was did she think her generation, in general, respects the country.

“I think my generation, in general, has a form of respect for our country, but not as much as they used to, like older generations do,” said Catherine. “So I think we should definitely work on respecting our country more and the servicemen who gave their all to serve this country.”

Catherine was then asked what makes her laugh, and she answered her friends do.

Contestant No. 3, Keele, made her way to the stage to answer her first question which was if she believes it’s important to vote.

“Thank you for that question,” said Rebecca. “I think voting is a really important part of being an American citizen. Voting is one of the ways that we can really be involved in our country’s policies and things that happen. We all benefit from the laws and the policies and everything that is done by government, and so we should all put our two cents into what we believe should be happening and that is what we do by voting.”

Rebecca was then asked where the farthest place she has traveled to was and she answered Maine.

Loomis came to the microphone for her on-stage interview where the first question she was asked was should parents monitor their children’s cell phones.

“I feel like parents should not monitor their children’s cell phones because they’re losing a form of trust that they should have with their children,”said Sajara. “If they start monitoring their cell phones and what they do with it I feel like they’re not going to be as trusted by their children.”

Sajara was then asked if she could be extremely gifted in one thing, what would that one thing be, and she said giving advice to others.

Flores made her way to the microphone where she was asked what she believes a good solution to the homeless problem in the city would be.

“That is a very good question, thank you,” said Selicia. “I think a good solution to our homeless is just to go out in the community and offer them a place to stay, give them all the love and support that they need to get them back on their feet.” 

Townsend’s second question for Selicia was when did she learn to ride a bike. She answered  she was 12-years-old when she first learned to ride a bike, and she taught herself.

Next to make her way on stage was Facio. Briana’s first question was what should the main priority of the U.S. President be.

“The main priority, I believe, for the U.S. President would be to serve his people,” said Briana. “To make sure that everyone in our country feels safe and feels patriotic towards our country.”

She was then asked if she could vacation anywhere, where would it be. Briana answered she would choose to vacation in Amsterdam.

Briana was followed by Pompa, whose first on-stage interview question regarded her opinion of women having combat roles in the military.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Alexa. “I really appreciate them fighting for us and to make what they’re doing for us.”

Alexa’s second question was who was her favorite U.S. President, to which she answered Barack Obama.   

Next to come to the stage was Garcia. Liliana’s first interview question was does social media have negative or positive influences on the world.

“I believe social media has both,” said Liliana. “It influences positive because it’s a type of platform where we can express ourselves and express our beliefs and diversity within our country. But it can also be a negative thing because there is cyber-bullying, but I feel like as a community we can come together and overcome those negative barriers and overfill them with positive influences.”

Liliana was then asked what her favorite food was, and she replied anything with barbeque sauce on it.

Last to be interviewed was Chapman. Madison’s first question was should it be mandatory for all U.S. Citizens to be familiar with the Constitution.

“I believe that U.S. Citizens should be familiar with our U.S. Constitution because we should be aware of the laws that we have placed,” said Madison.

Townsend finished off the interview portion of the pageant by asking Madison if she were stranded on a deserted island, what would she do first, to which she replied she would figure out a way to call her dad because he can fix anything.

The pageant then proceeded on to the talent portion of the competition. Each of the contestants showcased their talents on center stage, and each performance was thoroughly applauded. 

Sevyn preformed a flag routine to “America Will Always Stand.” Catherine played “God Bless America” on the euphonium, and Rebecca sang “Bring Him home” from Les Miserables. Sajara recited an original poem titled “Welcome Home.” Selicia did a dance routine to the song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” by Toby Keith, and was followed by Briana who recited the poem “Why I Stand.” Alexa sang “God Bless America” and Liliana played “Amazing Grace” on her flute. The last contestant, Madison, recited “America, Why I Love Her” to end the talent portion for the night.

As the judges scores were tabulated by staff from Safe 1 Credit Union, the 2018-2019 Veterans Homecoming Queen and Court made their way to the stage, where Darcy Sarr, the 2018-2019 Homecoming Queen gave a brief reflection speech on her time as Miss Porterville over the last year.

“This past year has been an amazing learning experience for myself,” said Darcy. “From the day we walked in to our first pageant rehearsal, to this very moment, we have been through many life changing experiences. We have learned how to be ladies, how to conduct ourselves with dignity and responsibility, how to  interact with our community and most importantly, how to honor our veterans. Being on the Homecoming Court has changed our lives for the better and has truly been an amazing journey for all of us.”

Following Darcy’s speech, the 2018-2019 Queen and Court headed backstage to prepare to crown the new Veterans Homecoming Queen and Court for 2019-2020. Once the scores were totaled, the nine pageant contestants made their way back to the spotlight to hear the results.

The 2019-2020 3rd Attendant is Keele. The 2019-2020 2nd Attendant is Entenman, and the 1st Attendant is Garcia. The 2019-2020 Senior Princess is Garcia.

The audience was on its feet in celebration of all the hard work each contestant put into the 74th annual Veterans Homecoming Queen Pageant. The 2019-2020 Queen and Court will be present at the upcoming Veterans Day Parade, as well as various events throughout the next year.

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