Where can you find community initiatives, classical piano, gymnastics, choreography, and a whole lot of pink? The Miss Merced County competition, of course.
Fourteen contestants competed for the roles of Miss Merced County, Miss Yosemite Valley, Miss Sierra Nevada, Miss Merced County Teen, and Miss Yosemite Valley Teen. The event, which took place last Saturday, Oct. 14, at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater, was an evening full of talented young women whose intelligence and talents were on full display.
The winner of Miss Merced County was Bianca Trindade, a 20-year-old student at Merced College. She follows the reign of Ananya Veerapaneini, a UC Merced student who was the first Indian-American to hold the title.
The winner of Miss Merced County Teen was Hallie Billings, the former Miss Atwater and a sophomore at Atwater High School.
Carly Jensen, a senior at Redwood High School, won Miss Yosemite Valley Teen. El Capitan High School senior Jessica Ma was Miss Yosemite Valley Teen runner-up.
The winner of Miss Sierra Nevada was Raelene Sichmeller, a 19-year-old sophomore at CSU Northridge majoring in Deaf Studies with a focus on ASL interpretation.
The winner of Miss Yosemite Valley was Elita Damron, a 24-year-old Applied Mathematics major at Bellevue University.
Emcees Yaya Munoz and Merced City Councilwoman Sarah Boyle hosted the evening, along with current title holders.
Miss Merced County, Miss Yosemite Valley, and Miss Sierra Nevada are scholarship programs and pageants that are part of the Miss America annual competition. The winners are eligible to compete for the title of Miss California, which will take place in Visalia this upcoming June. The current Miss California, Sabrina Lewis, was in attendance at Saturday’s event.
The competition included an interview, talent performance, and walk with evening wear. There were also performances from the current title holders.
In addition to each category competing at the event, there was also a Friendship Award given to Mackenzie Saephanh. Winners received scholarships ranging from $200 to $500, as well as the privilege of representing their respective communities for the following year.