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Queen pageant a royal Lamb Derby tradition
For complete biographies on Lamb Derby Queen, princess and Little Miss contestants, see
insert inside Saturday's Willows Journal.
Willows has been crowing Lamb Derby queens since 1936.
The title comes with a $500 college scholarship and the opportunity to reign over Lamb Derby events, making it one of the most sought after honors associated with Willows’ biggest celebration.
Ten Willows High School juniors are vying for the title, including Lamb Derby’s first princess Michaela Biggs.
“I would love to win,” Biggs said during Tuesday’s rehearsal. “It would be a huge honor to represent
Willows, but it’s been awesome just getting to know the other girls. We all go to high school together, but we have become so close, it’s amazing.”
Biggs, Rebecca Jones, Chanchal Wadhwa, Christine van Tol, Delainy Ward, Natalie Massa, Nicole Reed, Brooke Lindell, Ophelia Cofer and Kaitlyn Berglof are competing for the title, making it the largest group of contestants to date, organizers said.
Berglof also competed in Lamb Derby’s first princess pageant four years ago, taking home the first runner-up and Miss Congeniality tittles.
Pageant coordinator Hillary Goss, who ran for Lamb Derby Queen in 1999, said the girls have blossomed since committing to the process four months ago.
“They are all equal going in,” said Goss, who got tears in her eyes Tuesday at the poise, talent and confidence the girls have shown in the days leading up to the competition.
In addition to being judged on what the audience will see during Thursday’s pageant, including talent, group dance, on-stage question and stage presence, the judges must also calculate in participation points, which includes attendance at rehearsals, North State parades, speaking engagements and public appearances.
Talents include demonstrations, speeches, dancing and singing.
The contestants have also been scored on their performance in private interviews, which were conducted Wednesday.
“I never thought I would ever do anything like this,” said van Tol, who will recite a poem she wrote. “I’m usually pretty shy, and it’s always been hard for me to talk in public.”
The 17-year-old said she has rehearsed her presentation and talent so much, even her father, Ted van Tol, has it memorized.
Like van Tol, a member of 4-H, FFA and Guardian Angels, all the contestants are high achievers in school, and participate in many school and extracurricular activities.
Jones is editor of the Willows High School newspaper and member of the Academic Decathlon Team.
Wadhwa is the junior class president, vice president of the Culture Club. She is also an active member of the Interact Club.
Ward is involved in Saint Monica’s Catholic Youth Organization and has coached Willows Youth Cheerleading for two years.
Biggs, Berglof, Reed, Cofer and Lindell have also been involved in cheerleading or coaching cheerleaders.
Massa said it is tough sometimes to fits the competition requirements into the busy lives the girls lead, but says it’s worth it.
“Lamb Derby is such a big part of Willows,” she said.
The 17-year-old just returned from the state FFA conference, where she placed second. She is also a 4-H Allstar and is the reigning Orland Portuguese Festa Queen.
“I’ve learned from my family that you have to set priorities,” added Massa, about being involved in many activities. “It’s hard to make time for everything, but it all works out. You set priorities first, and then find time for the small stuff.”
Goss said the queen pageant has endured nearly 80 years because the contestants come away from the competition with self confidence, a close bond with the other contestants, and a greater appreciation for Lamb Derby and tradition.
“It’s also a lot of fun,” Goss said. “The queen pageant is an experience they will never forget.”
In addition to the title and scholarship, the queen, first-runner up and Miss Congeniality win a variety of gifts.
The queen will represent Willows at county fairs and other local and North State events, such as car shows and festivals.
She will be crowed at Memorial Hall Thursday by outgoing queen Mackenzie Gomes.