Chugiak High sweeps Bear Paw Pageant

Four Mustangs win top honors


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Wendy Martin, Miss Bear Paw 2012, and Taylor Andrews, Mr. Bear Paw, wave to the crowd during the Bear Paw Parade on Saturday, July 14, 2012. The duo earned their titles during a pageant held on July 12 at Steve Primis Auditorium in Chugiak.

MATT TUNSETH

Wendy Martin thought a vacation in Hawaii would prevent her from competing in this year’s Bear Paw Pageant.

Good thing she returned just in time.

Just four days after entering the pageant, Martin was crowned Miss Bear Paw 2012 on Thursday, July 12 at Chugiak High’s Steve Primis Auditorium.

“It feels absolutely fantastic,” said Martin, who’s entering her senior year at Chugiak. “It’s so rewarding.”

Recent Chugiak graduate Taylor Andrews was crowned Mr. Bear Paw. Incoming Chugiak senior Victoria Bensel was named Miss Bear Paw Princess, and her classmate Nathan Dennis won the Mr. Bear Paw Prince honors.

Martin said competing in two previous Bear Paw Pageants gave her an advantage.

“This year, I had the maturity level and the experience and took the title,” she said. “My confidence was really boosted.”

Martin knew the crown was hers to win.

“There was something extra this year,” she said. “I felt it.”

Martin plans to use her $1,000 scholarship — compliments of the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions — while attending Louisiana State University next year. An executive officer of Chugiak’s NJROTC program, Martin said she wants to pilot Black Hawk helicopters in the future.

Andrews plans to use his $1,000 scholarship — awarded by the Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation — while studying early education childhood development at UAA this fall.

Being crowned Mr. Bear Paw was a complete shock to Andrews.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I didn’t think it would happen.”

Andrews said making new friends was the best part of the pageant.

Bensel echoed that sentiment.

“I loved the connection that I have with the girls now,” she said. “I came in knowing two people, and I came out with a whole bunch of girlfriends.”

Covered head to toe in red balloons, Bensel’s portrayal of a Salmonberry earned her best costume. Bensel’s decision to dress as a Salmonberry was three-pronged.

“It’s cute, it’s fun and it’s a tasty snack,” she said.

Dennis also was a dual award winner, claiming the Mr. Congeniality honor. Amanda Kiefer was named Miss Congeniality.

The pageant was a great success, Dennis said.

“The last performance was amazing,” he said. “Everything went on without a hitch.

“It was fantastic fun throughout the entire time,” Dennis said.

While Bensel, Martin and Andrews will return next year, Thursday marked the final Bear Paw Pageant for coordinator Nancy Arnold.

“I will miss it a lot,” said Arnold, who’s moving Outside to be closer to family.

Arnold and Kathleen Kuersten have been coordinating the event since 2005.

Kuersten, who was a cheerleader with Arnold in high school in Colorado, said Arnold will be sorely missed.

“I don’t know what I’ll do without her,” Kuersten said.

All the hard work the pageant requires — rehearsals, decorations, etc — is made easier by the contestants, Arnold said.

“You forget all about that because we work with such great kids,” she said. “I feel very good about that.”

Working with the contestants is the best part of the pageant, Arnold said.

Over the years, Arnold said she’s had the opportunity to work with some of the country’s finest youths.

“This tells me the world is gonna go on,” she said. “We’re in great hands.”

And this year’s contestants were no different.

“They are just a great group of kids, and I love them,” Arnold said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727.

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