Merced County Times Newspaper
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Sophia Lomeli is new Miss Atwater for 2023


Sophia Lomeli, a student at Atwater High School, was crowned Miss Atwater 2023 on Saturday, Sept. 9.

“I’m very honored, and I’m excited for what the future holds,” Lomeli said. “I’m looking forward to meeting with our K-12 schools, and getting to communicate with them, and to meeting the whole community.”

The Miss Atwater Pageant this year brought glitz and glamor to a brand new stage at Juniper Elementary School, where Lomeli competed with two other contestants — Kayleigh Trindade, also of Atwater High, and Alejandra LoVette of Bright Light University Homeschool.

They were scored on an off-stage interview, community initiative statement, talent, and red carpet look accompanied by questions from the judges.

Each student brought something unique and personal to the stage. The talent portion displayed great range amongst all the contestants. Lomeli sang “Stay” by Rhianna while playing piano, Trindade recited the FFA Creed, and LoVette sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley.

Their community initiatives were equally varied. Lomeli advocated for youth nutrition, Trindade for agriculture education, and LoVette voiced support for literacy.

In addition to winning the Miss Atwater crown, Lomeli was the recipient of a generous scholarship, provided by donations from sponsors of the program. This year’s total was $2,305, with 60 percent given to the winner and 20 percent to the remaining contestants.

This was only the second Miss Atwater event following a decade-long hiatus. 2022’s Miss Atwater, Hallie Billings, was the first to win the revitalized pageant.

“The chance to bring back the Miss Atwater Pageant for the centennial was an amazing opportunity,” City Clerk Kory Billings said of the event. He was a central figure in its revival, and is the father of last year’s victor. “It’s great to see it back up and running, and the opportunity to see the contestants progress has been amazing as well.”

Past pageant winners from both Miss Atwater and Miss Merced County provided much assistance in the arrangement and presentation of the pageant. Former Miss Merced County Jillian Stewart was MC of the event, and current Miss Merced County Ananya Veerapaneni gave a signature dance performance. Other former winners comprised the Miss Atwater Committee. And of course Billings performed, as well as provided assistance to the current contestants as they prepared to pursue her crown.

The qualifications to compete to be Miss Atwater are simple: one must be a high school student within the city.

Miss Atwater is responsible for attending a variety of events throughout the year, such as National Day of Remembrance, National Night Out, the Easter Egg Hunt, and multiple community parades.

Billings reflected on her past year after crowning her successor: “I didn’t expect it to feel like it went so soon. If I could give advice, I’d say enjoy it, because it does fly by.”

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