By Melody Vallieu
TROY — The job of the Troy Strawberry Festival queen is a big one — and 15 Miami County students are willing to put the work in.
This year’s queen — and her court — will be decided at 7 p.m. April 8, in the Troy High School auditorium. Contestants for queen this year come from several Miami County schools — Troy, Bethel, Tippecanoe and Miami East — and will vie for scholarships of $1,200 for the queen, $800 for the first runner-up, and $600 for second runner-up, according to festival manager Corie Schweser.
The pageant will include a “personally you” segment in which each contestant will perform her favorite sport, creative art, hobby or talent for a panel of three judges, along with the audience. Contestants also will be interviewed on stage the evening of the pageant, Schweser said.
“The queen’s court duties are to represent the festival in a positive manner during the festival and promote the festival at events and parades in the surrounding area during her reign,” Schweser said.
Schweser said the first pageant was held in June 1977 and Patti Ording reigned as the first queen of the Troy Strawberry Festival.
The following are the 2016 contestants and some information about each:
• Rachel Martin — A junior at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Jeff Martin and Barbara Hughes.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: Be better at talking in front of people and becoming less scared and more confident in herself.
Special interests: Singing, writing, fashion and helping others.
Extracurricular activities: Basketball, track, volunteer at the soup kitchen, Make A Difference Day and other events.
Plans after high school: Attend OSU and major in fashion and become a fashion merchandise buyer.
• Shannon Cothran — A senior at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Barry Cothran and Laurie Cothran.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: Looks forward to the opportunity to perform and sing and represent my hometown of Troy.
Special interests: Enjoys singing, running, reading, writing books and poetry, creating art in many different media and baking.
Extracurricular activities: Involved in Senior Cabinet, Senior Leaders, the Troy High School orchestra and musical productions and the Worship Team at Christian Life Center.
Plans after high school: Attend Liberty University and study creative writing, studio arts and English and become a published author and illustrator.
• Maria Blocher — A junior at Miami East High School and the daughter of David and Susan Blocher.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: To strengthen her public speaking skills and feel more at ease in front of a crowd.
Special interests: Doing volunteer work, being a part of swim teams and playing the piano.
Extracurricular activities: Student Council, National Honor Society, the prom planning committee, the Miami East and Dolphin swim teams and is the class treasurer. She volunteers at Upper Valley Medical Center and in the nursery at her church. She also does volunteer work through the Salvation Army and through Project Believe.
Plans after high school: To attend college and go into the oncology field.
• Katie Mullins — A sophomore at Tippecanoe High School and daughter of Bill and Karen Mullins.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: After always having a bit of stage fright, she hopes the pageant will help that and build confidence.
Special interests: Loves to travel and see new places. She likes learning and school, especially math and science.
Extracurricular activities: She is in the band and on the swim team and in a life group at her church.
Plans after high school: Hopes to attend Purdue University and major in mechanical engineering.
• Victoria Noon — A sophomore at Troy High School and the daughter of Amanda Noon.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She hopes it will improve her work ethic and help her learn how to guide the attention of a room.
Special interests: She loves working with kids, which is why she does Reading Buddies and plans to do teacher academy through Troy High School. She also likes politics. She loves watching the presidential debates and forming opinions on topics herself.
Extracurricular activities: Reading Buddies, indoor and spring soccer and student government.
Plans after high school: Going to college to major in political science and minor in business, then go to law school to become a lawyer and eventually become a senator/governor.
• Blake Garrett — A sophomore at Miami East High School and the daughter of Pat and Andi Garrett.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: To bring skills back, such as being courteous to others, learning how to love and accept herself for who she is, getting out of her comfort zone; and recognizing the strengths in other young women.
Special interests: Expanding her knowledge of music and music theory; going on adventures with her friends; watching make-up tutorials on the Internet and recreating them; baking; shopping with my mom; Drum Corps International; and dancing.
Extracurricular activities: She is involved in marching band, varsity football, cheerleading, reserve basketball cheerleading, varsity track and field, the Miami East concert band and brass choir, student council, sophomore class vice president and modeling formal dresses for local prom shops in Ohio.
Plans after high school: To attend the University of Kentucky to major in pre-medical studies and specialize in orthopedic surgery or pediatric cardiac surgery and minoring in French.
• Kaitlyn Parker — A senior at Bethel High School and the daughter Brian and Esther Parker.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: To work on her confidence skills while meeting new friends and become a positive role model for others in the community.
Special interests: In helping the community, music and making a difference in the lives of those around me.
Extracurricular activities: Volleyball, softball, National Honor Society, band, choir, Buckeye Girls State, student council and a humane society volunteer.
Plans after high school: Attend The Ohio State University to study bio-medical engineering and Arabic, work for the CIA and change the world.
• Maria Poggi — A junior at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Brock and Leyla Heath.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She hopes to gain the ability to have fun while trying something new. Life is full of many adventures that push you out of your comfort zone and she is excited to try this one.
Special interests: She has been dancing at Center Stage Academy for the past 11 years.
Extracurricular activities: She is a swimmer for the Troy swim team, runs track for the Troy track team and a dancer at Center Stage twice a week. On Wednesdays, she is a part of the Ginghamsburg life group and she tutors once a week.
Plans after high school: She would like to attend the University of Dayton or The Ohio State University to major in pre-law and minor in political science.
• Gabrielle Centliver — A senior at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Andrew and Kevy Centliver.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She hopes to take away the sense of achievement and fulfillment, likewise the excitement and memories she will have is beyond measurable on its worth in expanding her social horizon and boosting her self confidence.
Special interests: Some of her special interests are studies in American Sign Language, reading classics and widening her knowledge in astrology.
Extracurricular activities: She is a member of and affiliated with SkillsUSA, Troy High School marching band and Winter Guard, NASP Archery, cross country, track, swim team. She volunteers at Upper Valley Medical Center and the Miami County Animal Shelter and anywhere else extra hands are needed.
Plans after high school: To aspire to gain her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She will be attending Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
• Jasmeen Gill — A senior at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Jasdev Singh and Harjit Kaur.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She would like to take away the ability to become better with her social skills with people.
Special interests: She plays basketball, runs, works and likes to dance.
Extracurricular activities: She is involved in Key Club, track and field, Business Club and weightlifting.
Plans after high school: She would like to attend college and major in English while doing pre-law.
• Kailyn Hatfield — A senior at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Christopher Hatfield and Mary Trissell.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: This is another way to get involved and have an opportunity to give back to the community.
Special interests: Soccer, hockey, photography, dogs, driving, working with elementary students, friends and family time, putting outfits together for myself and others.
Extracurricular activities: She is involved in select soccer, a Lunch Buddy at Cookson Elementary and takes extra college courses.
Plans after high school: To attend a college in Ohio and begin classes for her pre-physical therapy major.
• Cynthia Stanley — A sophomore at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Gary and Melissa Stanley.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She wants the experience of being in a pageant, and to take away skills she can use later in life.
Special interests: She plays the tuba and trombone.
Extracurricular activities: Math Club and Spanish Club.
Plans after high school: To attend The Ohio State University for math education.
• Lauren Koontz — A senior at Miami East High School, she is the daughter of Kevin and Erin Koontz.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She wishes to become closer and more informed of her hometown’s greatest tradition and take knowledge of a side of the Strawberry Festival that she has not previously been a part of.
Special interests: Her greatest interest is writing poetry and is her favorite pastime. She also enjoys biking and making music.
Extracurricular activities: Cheerleading, marching band, concert band, jazz band, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, National Honor Society and student council.
Plans after high school: She wanted to get an undergraduate degree in forensic chemistry, and her medical degree in forensic pathology.
• Tabitha Sexton — A senior at Tippecanoe High School, she is the daughter of Matt and Susie Sexton.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She hopes to become more comfortable on stage and better her public speaking skills.
Special interests: She loves playing and listening to music, traveling, being active with children and try new things — even if it is as simple as trying a new food.
Extracurricular activities: She is involved in band, ASTRA and volunteering at a local preschool.
Plans after high school: To attend college and get her degree to become a child psychologist and hopefully travel the world.
• Sierra Simon — A junior at Troy High School, she is the daughter of Shane and Sierra Simon.
What she hopes to take away from being in the pageant: She wants the experience of speaking in front of a crowd and to be able to break out of her shell and comfort zone.
Special interests: She loves animals and children, as well as art, and has received art awards for pieces that have been displayed at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center.
Extracurricular activities: Part-time student at Edison State Community College, Girls Scouts, choir.
Plans after high school: To attend a four-year college, preferably Miami University in Oxford.