Among a cheering crowd, low lights and dazzlingly designed evening gowns, pageant judges crowned Shanice Amber Street the 34th annual Miss Lincoln County Apple Queen Saturday night at the Citizens Center in Lincolnton.
Just 16 years old, Street, who was also chosen among her eight competitive peers as this year’s Miss Congeniality, is only the second African-American in the pageant’s history to wear the crown, with Monica Link winning in 1992.
“We’re breaking a lot of barriers and showing diversity in the county,” Street said.
The rising Lincolnton High School senior was also more than thrilled to welcome the responsibility and life-changing duties that accompany the coveted title.
“It represents being a role model,” she said. “It represents poise and shows leadership.”
In addition to a 10-minute behind-the-scenes interview worth 40 percent of each contestant’s overall score that was completed prior to the night’s events, judges scored the women on two other categories, swimwear and evening gown, on a scale of 1-10. Both categories were worth 30 percent apiece.
In swimwear, judges looked for physical fitness and overall health combined with their first impression of each contestant. In evening wear, judges’ scores reflected personality, stage presence and each woman’s candid response to a certain question.
The 2011 Miss Lincoln County Apple Queen, Alyssa Kay Duhon, crowned Street, who will receive a $3,000 scholarship. Street plans to save the money for tuition at Duke University, where plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology, with an M.D. her ultimate goal.
“It’s always been my passion,” she said of the medical field. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, particularly in the emergency room.”
While Street is a New York native, moving to Lincoln County in the fifth grade, she considers the Southern community to be her home, calling it a “family-oriented place.” It certainly was her friends and family, including parents Gabriele and Chariese Alvarado, her 4-year-old brother and 2-year-old sister, who swarmed the stage to congratulate her Saturday night.
The only Lincolnton High School contestant to enter this year’s competition, Street had no prior pageant experience but knew she couldn’t pass up the local opportunity after learning of the large scholarship prize involved.
Street not only intends to show-off her crown and mingle among her community at next month’s Apple Festival in downtown Lincolnton but also looks forward to visiting county schoolchildren throughout the year and take part in a number of other highly-anticipated annual events such as Relay for Life, Denver Days and the Veteran’s Day parade, among others.
Additional scholarship recipients at this year’s Miss Lincoln County Apple Queen pageant included first runner-up Abigail Lee Labar, a rising senior at North Lincoln High School, second runner-up, Shelby Lynn Gilmore, a 2009 graduate of North Lincoln High School and third runner-up Taylor Elizabeth Schronce, a rising senior at West Lincoln High School.
Master of Ceremonies Nicole Greer, a professional life and business coach, congratulated all the women as “winners” and praised them for being bold individuals in their community.
“At a really young age, these girls stopped and decided what it is they wanted to do with their lives,” she said.
Cathy Davis, president of prime pageant sponsor the Lincolnton Business and Professional Women’s Organization, agreed with Greer and described the contestants in a heartfelt way in one of the night’s opening speeches.
“They are strong; they are beautiful; they are determined,” she said. “They have worked their entire lives for this one night.”
Street hopes the pageant title will open the door for more opportunities to connect with her community, receive additional scholarship money and launch the way into an exciting future education and career.
“I’m going to do my best to be the best Apple Queen,” she said.
As for Duhon, she plans to complete her final semester this fall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before pursuing a master’s degree in special education from Duke.
She told the crowd that this past year has been one of many blessings and that she’s proud to have attained two personal objectives by wearing the Apple Queen crown, to love Lincoln County and show “a token of appreciation” to her parents.
“Walking away, I feel confident that I’ve accomplished these two motives,” she said.