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Miss Victoria Court forms sisterhood bonds through service

By Camille Doty
July 25, 2012 at 2:25 a.m.
Updated July 26, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.

Miss Victoria Kelsey Thomas,  18,  plans to enroll at Charles and Sue's School of Hair Design. Her parents are John and Terry Thomas


• WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, doors open at 5 p.m.

• WHERE: Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive, Victoria

• HOW MUCH: $8

• FOR MORE INFO: Visit miss victoriapageant.com


Name: Kayliana Pena

Age: 5

School: Rowland Elementary

Parents: Betty and Larry Pena

Name: Kahlyn Espinoza

Age: 4

School: Chandler Elementary

Parents: Erica Espinoza

Name: Addisyn Turner

Age: 5

School: Mission Valley Elementary

Parents: Jill and Corey Turner

Name: Macie Kolodziejczyk

Age: 6

School: Industrial Elementary

Parents: Shanda and Jeffery Kolodziejczyk

Name: Ariah Barrera

Age: 5

School: Vickers Elementary

Parents: Caresa Trautwein and Billy Joe Barrera

Name: Elizabeth Grace Hoffer

Age: 5

School: F. W. Gross Montessori

Parents: Beth and Jason Hoffer

Name: Julianne Horner

Age: 4

School: DeLeon Elementary

Parents: Britney Jordan and Matthew Horner

Name: Samarah Perez

Age: 7

School: Shields Elementary

Parents: Maria Loya and Fernando Perez

Name: Ambree Vaclavik

Age: 5

School: DeLeon Elementary

Parents: Katherine and Joshua Vaclavik

Name: Madalyn Rowlands

Age: 4

School: Vickers Elementary

Parents: Sarah and Daniel Rowlands and Kinglsee Anderson

Name: Kamdyn Morales

Age: 4

School: Northside Baptist

Parents: DeAnn and Kevin Morales

Name: Sydney Bohac

Age: 5

School: Vickers Elementary

Parents: Jamie and Scott Bohac

Name: Myleigh Kramer

Age: 4

School: Shields Elementary

Parents: Melanie Kramer

Name: Shelby Terry

Age: 6

School: DeLeon Elementary

Parents: Elizabeth Terry, Billy Terry, and Laura Arlitt

Name: Tristyn Lindsey

Age: 6

School: Shields Elementary

Parents: Robin and Curtis Lindsey

Name: Averie Porras

Age: 4

School: Kiddly Winks Playcare Inc.

Parents: Stefanie and Isaac Porras

Name: Olivia Cooper

Age: 5

School: Aloe Elementary

Parents: Ashlee and Brandon Cooper

Name: Tara Cocoy

Age: 11

School: Bloomington Middle School

Parents: Janie and Dustin Carter

Name: Kennedy Dudley

Age: 8

School: Nursery Elementary

Parents: Marise and Bryan Dudley

Name: Soulel Fair

Age: 8

School: Chandler Elementary

Parents: Crystal Castro and Sam Fair

Name: Arianna Hernandez

Age: 8

School: Hopkins Elementary

Parents: Herlinda and Tony Hernandez III

Name: Melody Kloss

Age: 10

School: Trinity Episcopal

Parents: Talitha and Evan Kloss

Name: Caitlin Serenil

Age: 11

School: Howell Middle School

Parents: Veronica and Eddie Serenil

Name: Megan Slayden

Age: 9

School: Vickers Elementary

Parents: Terri and Jimmy Slayden

Name: Kara Steininger

Age: 10

School: Schorlemmer Elementary

Parents: Misty Smith and Zane Steininger

Name: Kylee Tipton

Age: 11

School: Stroman Middle School

Parents: Belinda and Tommy Romanowski

Name: Elizabeth Caldwell

Age: 13

School: Cade Middle School

Parents: Maureen and Vic Caldwell

Name: Sabrina Emiliano

Age: 15

School: Industrial High School

Parents: Elsa and Roman Emiliano Jr.

Name: McKenna Greene

Age: 15

School: Industrial High School

Parents: Jackie LeJune and Jody Greene

Name: Saige McLarty

Age: 13

School: Cade Middle School

Parents: Natalie and Travis McLarty

Name: Katelyn Shaw

Age: 14

School: St. Joseph's High School

Parents: Jennifer Shaw and Blake Shaw

Name: Ofelia Alcaraz

Age: 17

School: Victoria East High School

Parents: Ofelia and Oscar Alcaraz

Name: Katlynn Balli

Age: 16

School: Victoria West High School

Parents: Vanessa and Johnny Vale

Name: Kendle Bomersbach

Age: 17

School: Victoria West High School

Parents: Cindy and Pat Bomersbach

Name: Monica Garcia

Age: 16

School: Victoria East High School

Parents: Maria Garcia

Name: Bethany Garza

Age: 16

School: Victoria West High School

Parents: Valarie DeLaGarza and Gregg Garza

Name: Lauren Klesel

Age: 17

School: Home schooled

Parents: Cyndy and David Klesel

Name: Maranda Ramirez

Age: 17

School: Victoria West High School

Parents: Martha and Augustine Ramirez

Name: Cameron Shaw

Age: 17

School: Victoria West High School

Parents: Teri Bates and Reginald Shaw

Name: Hunter Slusher

Age: 16

School: Victoria East High School

Parents: Karen and Jeff Slusher

2011 Court

Name: Kelsey Thomas

Age: 18

School: plans to enroll at Charles and Sue's School of Hair Design in Corpus Christi

Parents: Terry and John Thomas

Name: Emilia Ureste

Age: 16

School: Victoria East High School

Parents: Eden Yaklin and Mark Ureste

Name: Jillian Brooks

Age: 11

School: Plans to attend Howell Middle School

Parents: Christina and David Brooks

Name: Taylor Bearden

Age: 8

School: Chandler Elementary

Parents: Jaclyn and Lee Bearden

What advice do you have for the contestants on Saturday?

• "Just be yourself. They (the judges) want to see who you are every day, not just who you are for a few hours." - Kelsey Thomas

•  "Be yourself and be calm. Don't freak out because it's only going to make you more nervous." - Emilia Ureste

• "Have fun and smile." - Jillian Brooks

• "Just do your best and have fun." - Taylor Bearden

Kelsey Thomas smiled from ear-to-ear as she strolled on the stage. Her brown hair perfectly-coiffed and her eyes glowed during the rehearsal for Saturday's 42nd Annual Miss Victoria Pageant.

But behind this queen's radiance during her time on the court, she dealt with tremendous pain.

The 18-year-old Industrial High School graduate earned the coveted title last August, and within months, one of her biggest supporters died.

Travis Madden, Kelsey's boyfriend of two years, died suddenly in December. He was a baseball player for Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Despite Kelsey's agony, she held her head high and continued to serve the community.

"I had to cowboy up and do my job," she said.

The daughter of John and Terry Thomas also thanked her court family for providing comfort and support.

"We're just like family, we're there when you need us," said Debbie Bennett Green, who has served as the pageant director for 21 years.

The court, which includes Kelsey, Junior Miss Victoria Emilia Ureste, Young Miss Victoria Jillian Brooks and Little Miss Victoria Taylor Bearden, will pass down their crowns Saturday at the Victoria Fine Arts Center.

This year, 40 contestants are vying for the four titles.

The contest is divided into age-based categories: Miss Victoria for 16- to 20-year-olds; Junior Miss Victoria for 12- to 15-year-olds; Young Miss Victoria for 8- to 11-year-olds; and Little Miss Victoria for 4- to 7-year-olds.

Contestants must be a resident of Victoria County or attend a Victoria school, and must have never been married or have had any children.

The competition consists of a personal interview, casual wear with questions, and formal wear with a final question. The opening routine will not be judged. There will also be optional photogenic and sponsorship contest. Fellow contestants will vote for one another in the Miss Congeniality portion.

Overall winners from each group will receive a crown, sash, bouquet of flowers and a $500 U.S. Savings Bond.

Green said the title comes with responsibility.

"This is not a Toddlers and Tiaras pageant. It's about community service," she said.

Members of the court participate in parades and service projects, including their own platforms to help the area.

Emilia used her platform to help women learn self defense techniques.

The 16-year-old Victoria East High School student said serving on the court has helped her become more confident and responsible.

Although the role has been a tremendous time commitment, she has bonded with her royal court family.

"I wouldn't want to be with anyone else," she said. "We're like sisters."

Emilia admitted to being a little sad about passing on the crown, but she's thrilled to have some more free time.

Jillian's face still lights up talking about the court as though she was crowned yesterday. The experience was surreal.

"It's like a dream," she said.

The 11-year-old future Howell Middle School student said to overcome her initial nervousness, she smiled bigger. Jillian's advice for the contestants was to have fun and smile.

Taylor enjoyed participating in the pageant so much she wishes that she could continue to replay that fateful night again and again.

Fun for her didn't stop when she earned the crown, she's had fun hanging out with the court.

"I'm sad that it's over, but it's been a good year," she said.

As Kelsey takes her final walk on Saturday, she will not have Travis cheering for her in the crowd saying, "that's my girlfriend," like he did in the past.

Miss Victoria said he loved to brag about her. He also considered himself a good luck charm since both his sister Lauren Madden and mother, Carol Madden, held the title in previous years. Kelsey credited Travis for giving her courage.

"I believe he gave me his strength when he passed," she said.

Miss Victoria encouraged all contestants to make the most of this opportunity, because it's so rare. She's become really close to the other members of the court.

"We've formed lifelong friendships," she said.



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