Second time’s a charm
Winners turn ‘12 experience into ‘13 titles
Bear Paw Pageant escort Jon Hefner, left, twirls Victoria Bensel during the evening wear competition.
Second time was a charm for Victoria Bensel and Nathan Dennis, whose return trips to the Bear Paw Pageant paid off royally Thursday, July 11 at the Steve Primis Auditorium.
Bensel and Dennis earned their Bear Paw King and Queen titles one year after finishing as runners-up in the 2012 scholarship competition.
“I think doing it last year probably gave me a lot of confidence,” said Dennis, a recent Chugiak High grad who plans to use his $1,000 scholarship to study music and biology at the University of Idaho this fall.
Bensel, also a 2013 CHS grad, will use her scholarship at Southwest Minnesota State, where she will run track while studying to become a physical therapist.
Although she was named Bear Paw Princess last year, Bensel didn’t agree that past experience gave she and Dennis an advantage.
“There’s always new dance steps to learn,” she said of the pageant, which included group dance numbers the contestants only had a couple practices to prepare for.
“We did this all with just three practices,” said pageant co-director Kathleen Kuersten, who again headed up the production this year with Nancy Arnold.
The Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions and Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation funded the winners’ scholarships.
Mr. Bear Paw 2012 Taylor Andrews and Miss Bear Paw 2012 Wendy Martin hosted the competition.
Miss Bear Paw contestants competed in onstage interviews, a costume contest and eveningwear competitions; the gentlemen did the interviews, eveningwear and were judged on diction while narrating the costume contest.
Ted Walters and Melissa Frey were named this year’s Prince and Princess, honors that come with a $500 scholarships from the Chugiak-Eagle River Women in Business and the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber. Walters and Victoria Jones each won $500 Community Service scholarships courtesy of the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions. Bensel and Jon Hefner were named Miss and Mr. Congeniality, while Paige Nelson’s “Alaska Outhouse” costume won top honors.
This year’s Miss Bear Paw contestants included Bensel, Frey, Jones, Paige Nelson, Mayrose Barbosa, Kristianna Coburn, Victoria Bensel, Shannon Bronn, Emiline Kerschner, Amanda Kiefer and Mackenzie Smith. Escorts competing for Mr. Bear Paw were Dennis, Walters, Mark Landon, John Weaver, Chase Newbrough, Brady Sanders, Jon Hefner, Christian Yeargan and Chase Gates. Each was sponsored by a local business, including Matanuska Valley FCU, Alaska Traffic Signal Supply, Stars Dance Studio, First American Title, Home Away From Home K9 Day Care, Behavior Matters, Al Bowler State Farm, Rep. Bill Stoltze, Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions, Eagle Summit Dental, Eagle River Printing, Re/MAX of Eagle River, All Seasons Travel, Diversified Health Services, Bruce Clarke Allstate, Jitters, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Good Deal Magazine.
Sunny skies outside had pageant goers fanning themselves all evening, and Bensel said contestants were in the same boat.
“We were taking the boys’ hats and fanning them,” Bensel said.
The fun and friendly atmosphere of the competition is what brought her back, Bensel said.
“We all tried our best to help each other out backstage,” she said.
Dennis and Bensel each said their favorite part of the pageant experience was getting to know contestants they might not otherwise have met.
“You meet so many new friends,” Dennis said.
2013 Bear Paw Pageant
“Round-up at the Bear Paw Corral”
Thursday, July 11
Steve Primis Auditorium
Queen — Victoria Bensel; King — Nathan Dennis; Princess — Melissa Frey; Prince — Ted Walters; Community Service Award — Ted Walters and Victoria Jones; Best Costume — Paige Nelson, “Alaska Outhouse”; Mr. Congeniality — Jon Hefner; Miss Congeniality — Victoria Bensel