A clean queen sweep

Kristina White performs during her speech "Garlic Chef with

Lauren Iwanaga took top honors for her speech and talent en
route to being crowned 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen on
Saturday night at the Gavilan College Theater.
By Tommy Wright

Lauren Iwanaga took top honors for her speech and talent en route to being crowned 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen on Saturday night at the Gavilan College Theater.

Despite winning the speech and the talent award, as well as three additional scholarships, Iwanaga said she wasn’t sure if she would be named queen until her name was announced.

“I was very nervous, I sort of had dejà vu from last year,” Iwanaga said.

Iwanaga was named first runner-up last year, with Jessica Brewka having been named 2009 garlic queen. Last year’s second runner-up, Tiffani Petersen, finished as this year’s first runner-up and Kristina White finished as the second runner-up.

Iwanaga said that she was hesitant to compete again because she is at a different place in her life than she was last year, in part due to her full-time job teaching first grade at Las Animas Elementary School.

“I decided that I really, really want this, and I’ve wanted this since I was a little girl so it can’t hurt to try one more time,” Iwanaga said. “I don’t want to live with any regrets.”

Iwanaga’s mom, Teri Hinmon, had tears in her eyes by the end of the competition. She had been a “nervous wreck” during the show, and just felt relieved when she found out her daughter won, she said.

“Born and raised in Gilroy, I’m just ecstatic that Lauren is taking advantage of the whole community thing,” Hinmon said. “She’s gone away to college and come back home and she’s just relishing the whole experience, and I just love her.” 

Iwanaga graduated from Gilroy High School and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and is currently working toward a teaching credential and a master’s degree at Santa Clara University. 

Iwanaga won the $1,000 Gilroy Rotary Scholarship, the $500 ConAgra Foods Scholarship, the $500 Founding Fathers Scholarship and a $1,000 scholarship as the garlic queen. 

Iwanaga described the day of the pageant as a whirlwind. Despite having to wait all day after a morning interview, which also factored into the scoring for the pageant, time flew by.  

Iwanaga performed a jazz dance for the talent portion of the competition and did a parody of “The Bachelorette” that featured three different festivals competing for her love. 

“You may come across as pungent and spicy, but you sure know how to mellow out,” Iwanaga said to the Gilroy Garlic Festival. “And you know how to be so sweet – that’s what I love about you.”

Gene Sakahara and Sam Bozzo, also known as comedy and cooking team SakaBozzo, were the masters of ceremonies for the event. They got the most laughs of the night with their ventriloquist act featuring Sakahara as the dummy.

Petersen, who graduated from Live Oak High School and is currently a student at Gavilan College, was picked Miss Congeniality by the contestants, and won the $750 Past Presidents Scholarship to add on to the $500 scholarship she received as first runner-up.

Petersen said even though she was very nervous, it was a good day for her.

“I was so nervous that I didn’t get any sleep last night,” she said. “I can say that I’m very tired. I was running around all day to the point where I haven’t really eaten anything.”

White won a $250 scholarship as the second runner-up and also took home the $500 Past Queens Scholarship. Gavilan College student Stephanie Marquez won the $800 Franca Barsi Miss Gilroy Garlic 1986 Memorial Scholarship. Natalie Portera, a student at Ann Sobrato High School, will join Marquez as a princess in the queen’s court.

Alannah Radtke, co-chairperson of the pageant, said that the show had to compete with a wine tour and Gilroy Gardens offering free admission to Gilroy residents on the same day, but she was still happy with the results.

“We had kind of a rough rehearsal, but I guess a rough rehearsal means a great show,” Radtke said. “We’re happy we have a new queen to represent Gilroy and the community and we’re looking forward to the Gilroy Garlic Festival and all the activities that come with it.”

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