Jessi Hawkins’ first instinct was to pass on the Miss Del Norte Scholarship Competition.
The 17-year-old Castle Rock Charter School graduate had received an email from fellow contestant Hannah Pearcey saying the pageant organizers were low on entrants, but Hawkins said it was her sister who ultimately convinced her to go for it.
Hawkins drummed up enough sponsors to pay the enrollment fee, borrowed a dress and a skirt and visited the $2 or Less Thrift Store to create a costume for the talent contest. She spent $1.50 for a blouse and a belt to turn herself into Eponine from “Les Miserables.” Ten minutes after former Miss Del Norte Alicia De Leon Mendoza placed the crown on her head, Hawkins said she was still waiting for it to sink in.
“I’m still in shock,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to win because of the way I had done things.”
Master of ceremonies John Pritchett announced Hawkins as this year’s Miss Del Norte and the winner of a $1,500 scholarship. Deleana Saylor, 18, a freshman at Southwestern Oregon Community College, is this year’s runner-up and the winner of a $750 scholarship. If Hawkins were unable to fulfill her duties as Miss Del Norte, Saylor would take over, according to Pritchett.
Saylor tied with 20-year-old Riley Sheets for best talent, which carries a $100 scholarship. Sheets, who is double majoring in psychology and music at the University of California–Santa Cruz sang “Your Daddy’s Son” from the musical “Ragtime.” Saylor sang “I Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which was made famous by Elvis Presley.
Saylor was also selected by her fellow contestants for the Sisterhood Award, which also carries a $100 scholarship.
“I’m so honored,” she said. “As soon as I heard it, I looked at the girls (and thought) ‘Thank you so much!’”
The theme for this year’s Miss Del Norte pageant followed the fair’s theme “Rodeo stars, d-derby cars and ewe!” The girls opened with a line dance and gave speeches on why memories are more important than money when it comes to the future of the fair.
During her speech, Hawkins talked about a conversation she had with Randy Hatfield about what it costs to put the fair on each year, about $150,000 annually, and the seven-year sales tax measure that will be on the November ballot.
“They want to raise sales tax for the next seven years and use the money from that to go towards the fair,” she said. “I believe we can make our fair sustain itself. I believe that with some creativity and some financial management and hard work we can make our fair substantial and self supporting. We can have our touching memories and a sustainable fair.”
Before donning evening gowns, Hawkins, Saylor and the other contestants had lunch with the judges: Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jeff Parmer, Triplicate publisher Cindy Vosburg and Ellie Latt, a member of the Emblem Club and Beta Sigma Phi. The Xi Sigma Rho chapter of Beta Sigma Phi hosts the pageant each year.
During the meeting, the judges asked the contestants what their proudest accomplishment was, who their role model was and what qualities they admired in their best friends, Parmer said. The contestants were also scored based on their stage presence, community involvement, talent, poise and knowledge of the fair industry, he said.
Hawkins said she was nervous when she met with the judges but felt she did well during the interview.
“They’re very personable,” she said.
Hawkins is currently a sophomore at College of the Redwoods and will transfer to Brigham Young University – Idaho to obtain a degree in business administration. After earning her degree, Hawkins said, she will go to cosmetology school and earn her beautician’s license with the goal of building her own business.
Saylor plans to transfer to the Oregon Institute of Technology to become a radiologic technologist.
This year’s pageant organizers were Dee Newton, Loretta Stoner and Jackie Wood.