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Liz Lindley, Azalea Festival queen

Azalea Festival Queen Liz Lindley walks down the runway after being crowned at Azalea Scholarship Pageant Saturday night. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
When it was announced that Brianne Dodgen had won first-runner-up in the Azalea Scholarship Pageant, the four remaining princesses – Liz Lindley, Ashley Juarez, Meredith Horel and Emilee Bottoms – held hands in anticipation of who would be queen of the 2011 Azalea Festival.

The tension finally broke as Master of Ceremonies Les Cohen announced that Lindley was the winner. Lindley immediately showed her joy as the other princesses applauded her.

Following the announcement, 2010 Queen Ashley Lueckfeld came over to her to place the crown on Lindley’s head and the red cape on her shoulders. With a bouquet of flowers, in her hand, Lindley made a trip down the runway to give her coronation curtsy in front of the standing-room-only crowd at Brookings Church of the Nazarene Saturday night.

Every seat in the church sanctuary, big enough for approximately 450 people, was filled; latecomers found themselves standing along the back wall. It was perhaps the largest crowd to attend the pageant in recent history.

Pageant board member Charles Kocher, who also served as statistician for the evening, said that there’s no firm count on attendance. Then he added that ticket sales were more than $1,800.

Money raised from ticket sales, advertising and princess sponsors goes to scholarships for the contestants. Each year the scholarship figures change. As the pageant continues to grow it is anticipated that the scholarships awarded will also grow, according to a  statement in the pageant program.

Scholarships are presented to the queen and first-runner up. Additional grants are given to the winner of the talent competition, which was won by Lindley. Other prizes include a $100 savings bond to the princess who sold the most tickets – Bottoms, and a gift from Harbrook Jewelers for Miss Congeniality – Horel.

The competition began the morning of the pageant, when the princesses and the judges – Eric Gleason of North Bend, Kelly Schellong of Crescent City, Debbie Hodgson of Grants Pass, Becky Ross of Gold Beach, and Terrie Misfeldt of Roseburg – gathered for breakfast. The judges also read essays written by the young women.

The evening began with the opening dance, choreographed by Julie Fitzhugh.

Then one by one, the princesses presented their talent, street attire, evening gowns and were asked a question promoting a brief, impromptu speech. During the evening gown presentation, each princess was escorted by a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Chetco River.

Princesses Liz Lindley, Emilee Bottoms, Brianne Dodgen, Ashley Juarez and Meredith Horel are escorted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard. The Pilot/Jef Hatch

While the princesses were backstage preparing for their next presentation, entertainment was provided by the Brookings-Harbor High School Sea Breeze vocal ensemble, Heidi Moore and Virginia Riddle, Lueckfeld and Riddle, and participants of the upcoming Mr. BHHS Pageant, scheduled for Wednesday, May 18.

Following the pageant, friends and family of the princesses hosted a reception in the church fellowship hall, where each contestant was congratulated.

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