Kathia Morales takes throne as Miss Downey

DOWNEY - Kathia Morales, 22, was crowned Miss Downey and Sandy Fernandez, 16, won Miss Teen Downey at the 54th annual Miss Downey Pageant, presented Saturday by the Downey Rose Float Association at the Downey Theatre. The doors opened to the public at 6 p.m., where they were greeted by last year's court and directed to their appropriate seats. Once the crowd was seated, Pageant Director Susan Domen welcomed everyone and introduced the master of ceremonies, Rick Porcaro. Following Porcaro's introduction, the ladies performed their opening number, "Labels 4 Love." The various categories that contestants competed in were Sportswear, Business Wear and Evening Gown. Prior to the selection of the top 10 in the Miss Downey category and top 11 for the Miss Teen Downey, the judges deliberated while the audience viewed a small clip of the ladies' three months of preparation. This year, the panel consisted of 12 judges from various areas. The panel included former NBA player like James Cotton; theatrical and motion picture executive Keith Hurt; UNET Music & Entertainment co-owner Linsey Onken; Miss Long Beach 2006 Christy Van Der Westhuizen; R&B singer Uné; actor Ernest L. Thomas; active member of the pageant industry Sara Hilt; president of Sports Legends Incorporation Gene Rotundo; city of Lakewood resident and volunteer Rita Gallardo; pageant industry expert Barbie Myer; and Financial Investment Firm employee Ingrid Martin. "We try to get a variety of people [to judge]," said Domen, when asked how the judges were selected. She said judges cannot have any prior involvement with the city of Downey, whether as a resident or city employee. "We don't want favoritism," said Domen. The 2009 Miss Downey Princesses Court consists of Sarah Del Rio, Natalia Amador, Roxy Arteaga and Alicia Winter. The Miss Teen Downey Princesses Court includes Lauren Brasov, Katarian Schweitz and Mariah Picou. "I am extremely excited," said Morales, Miss Downey. "I've actually competed before and I've always placed really well but I've never really won a crown, so I wanted to give it one more shot, and I actually still can't believe it." Morales said it was hard to believe that she was the winner over the other contestants, whom she referred to as "magnificent girls". "It still feels like it's a dream," said Fernandez, after she was declared Miss Teen Downey. Fernandez said her favorite part of the pageant experience was meeting all the girls and the challenges that it brought forth, and overcoming them. "I'm happy," she said. Not only was the pageant exciting for the winners, but the ladies said they enjoyed the experiences leading up to the competition. "My favorite part was definitely meeting new people and just getting involved in the community," said Amador. The ladies underwent several interviews with five judges the morning of the pageant, an important factor in the judges' final decision. "I think that they were all so extremely talented and really forthcoming in their answers in interviews," said Myer. "I asked behind-the-door questions that kind of pulled something out about them, and they all had a lot of substance." As the ladies excitedly take on their new duties, they are responsible for attending all big community events such as the Arc Walk for Independence, the annual Downey Holiday Lane Parade, ribbon cuttings, and helping to build and ride on the rose float.********** Published: March 27, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 49