Five vie to be 2010 Garlic Queen

Kristina White

Breaking with tradition in the hopes of attracting a larger
audience, the 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant will move
from its usual Sunday afternoon slot to Saturday evening March
27.
Breaking with tradition in the hopes of attracting a larger audience, the 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant will move from its usual Sunday afternoon slot to Saturday evening March 27.

“I think it’s more fun to have an evening performance,” said Sheena Torres, co-chairperson of this year’s pageant and a former Miss Gilroy Garlic Queen.

SakaBozzo, the ever-popular comedy and cooking team that has become a festival staple, comprised of Gene Sakahara and Sam Bozzo, will join forces to emcee the event. The men, who will also put on the pageant’s opening number, are keeping their act under wraps, however.

“Everything they’re doing is a secret even for us,” Torres said. “It’s all kind of a surprise.”

Confident that this year’s competition has a little bit of something for everyone, Torres has been working closely with each of the pageant’s five contestants to hone their talents and speeches. A rifle routine will spice up the pageant’s usual smattering of musical performances and dance routines. But even the more traditional talents encompass tap and jazz dancing, along with guitar and violin performances. The rifle routine will not, Torres emphasized, include actual gunfire.

The girls’ speeches also offer an entertaining plethora of themes and reflect some of the year’s popular culture, including “Garlic Chef with Julia Child,” “The Festival Bachelorette” and “The Magic of Growactive.”

Two veteran contenders – Tiffani Petersen and Lauren Iwanaga – will return to the stage this year along with three newcomers. Stephanie Marquez and Kristina White attend Gavilan College, and Natalie Portera attends Ann Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill.

Judged on their talent, poise and individual interviews with a panel of the pageant’s judges, the girls have the added advantage of Torres as a mentor. Torres, who was the 2006 pageant winner and a previous judge, meets with the contestants twice weekly leading up to the pageant.

“It’s exciting to be involved on the other end of the pageant now,” Torres said. “We want to make sure we help them present the best of their talents and speeches.”

Working toward becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist, Torres has been able to use her experience as a counselor to help the contestants relax and focus on improving their performance. In the past, the girls have usually been able to turn the stress and anxiety of the contest into an unforgettable bonding experience, Torres said.

“Obviously all of them want to win but they’re very supportive of each other,” she said. “They make a good audience and they’re good about giving each other input. They’re all really encouraging.”

The winner of the crown will be the face of the Gilroy Garlic Festival for the year, an experience that sometimes takes the queen as far as Gilroy’s sister city in Japan, Takko-Machi.

“She’ll be taking on a really exciting responsibility,” Torres said. “It is definitely very unique. Beyond the pageant itself, all the different experiences really help (the queen and her court) grow to be more mature young women.”

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