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East Peoria Times-Courier - East Peoria, IL
  • Festival of Lights Queen named

  • The second time was a charm for Megan Stafford, the 2012 Festival of Lights Queen. Stafford was the second runner up in the Festival’s queen pageant two years ago.
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  • The second time was a charm for Megan Stafford, the 2012 Festival of Lights Queen. Stafford was the second runner up in the Festival’s queen pageant two years ago.
    Her father, Brian Stafford, said his daughter told him she wanted to try out for the pageant again this year. He told her, “You know what you have to do.”
    Stafford practiced speaking in front of people to hone her skills for the pageant.
    “I’m just very proud of her. Any time she sets her mind to something she works very hard to achieve her goal,” her father said.
    Stafford’s mother, Alison Duvall, said she was immensely proud.
    “It’s kind of neat. At 18 I was queen in my hometown,” she said.
    Stafford, 18, is a senior at East Peoria High School.
    “Since I was a sophomore, I’ve been looking forward to leading not only the girls in the community, but just being a positive role model for everybody,” Stafford said.
    The queen and her court will ride in the Festival of Lights parade Saturday.
    Ten girls participated in the pageant at the Par-A-Dice Hotel Saturday afternoon.
    The contestants were: Shannon Hoffman, 17; Kalee Cunefare, 18; Cheyanne Hasty, 18; Brooke Skaggs, 18; Justyce Blankenship, 16; Kimberlee Conover, 17; Karista Davis, 18; Megan Stafford, 18; Taylor Schofield, 20; and Natalie Ogle, 16. All contestants had to live within the East Peoria city limits.
    The 27th annual pageant featured music by Harv McClelland, a welcome from pageant organizer Teresa Mustain, questions for the contestants by emcee Gretchen Wirtz and a year in review by the 2011 queen Demi Broderson.
    Contestants were judged on poise, personality, appearance and their answer to the “final question.”
    “I’m just glad I’m not the judge. It’s going to be a tough one,” Mustain said prior to the pageant.
    The judges were Chad Joos, East Peoria City Council; Mari Vandiver, School District 86; John Knapp, East Peoria Fire Department; Josh Graber, Fondulac Bank; and Alyssa Lewellen, the 2007 Festival of Lights queen.
    Cindy Reinhart of Fondulac Bank tabulated the scores. Reinhart’s daughter Amanda was the queen in 2006.
    “I think (the pageant) was part of the start of her public speaking,” Reinhart said about her daughter, who entered the pageant at the last minute when there were not enough contestants.
    “She said it helped her going into college. She had to go in front of a panel for a scholarship. ... She got a full ride scholarship to SIUE.”
    Reinhart is graduating in December and will be a nurse at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.
    Page 2 of 2 - The queen and the first and second runner ups received scholarship money toward college at this year’s pageant. Wirtz said $2,000 in scholarship money was part of the prize package for the winners. All contestants received a bag of goodies.
    During the year the queen and her court participate in a variety of events in East Peoria, including riding in the Festival of Lights parade, the lighting of the wreath, and leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the Fourth of July festivities on the riverfront.
    Six former queens attended the breakfast which had a peppermint theme.
    The Festival of Lights committee is Teresa Mustain, chairwoman; Marge Creek; Nancy Grigsby; Ashley Phillips, the 2000 Festival of Lights queen; and Gretchen Wirtz.
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