Caloosa Belle

The 2017 Swamp Cabbage Royalty

The 2017 Swamp Cabbage Queen and Princess Pageant was held at the LaBelle High School on Saturday, February 4. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the pageant. The theme of the event was “The Golden Age of Hollywood” and the stage was adorned with embellishments indicative of the bygone era. Along the lip of the stage was a photographic reel of film with pictures of iconic Hollywood stars interspersed with images of this year’s contestants. Along the back wall was a gorgeous collection of palms which invoked memories of not only the palm trees that line the famed Hollywood Boulevard but also of our very own Swamp Cabbage Palm. Center stage was taken by two larger than life golden Oscar statue silhouettes which framed the twinkling lighted red carpet where our Queen and Princess hopefuls made their grand entrances.

One by one the young ladies introduced themselves to a packed and exuberant audience as the judges (Jennifer Danforth, Lori Jennings, and Deborah Smith Ford) caught their first glimpse of the excitement that the evening would hold.

Layni Challender 2nd Runner-up and People Choice, Most Talented and 2017 Queen Alyssa Johnson, Mahalet Gonzalez 1st Runner-up & Photogenic, Evalena Sabelle 2nd Runner-up & Miss Congeniality. (Courtsey photo/ Photography By Jerri Lynn)

The emcees of the evening (Ashley Curry and Mallory Tanner) kicked off the show by introducing 2016 Princess Kaylee Wills as she entertained the crowd with a tap dance routine to the Andrew Sister’s Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Kaylee’s performance was followed by the Costume Competition which featured each contestant dressed as an iconic Hollywood Star.

Next came the talent portion of the show by our Princess and Queen contestants. The talent of this year’s ladies was outstanding as each one of them wowed the audience with their show-stopping offerings. Tatiana White got things going with a playful clogging number to Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband”. Novi Jo Kohutek sang a soulful rendition of Amy Winhouse’s song “Valerie”, followed by fellow Princess contestants Natalie Welky, who delivered a mesmerizing performance of “Vanilla Ice Cream” from the Broadway show She Loves Me. Kiley Prevatt who sang a stunning version of recording artist Pink’s song “Perfect” providing her own accompaniment on the grand piano, and finally Taylor Randant who entertained the crowd with her own comical and original monologue about the history of the Swamp Cabbage Festival and Pageant.

Next it was time for the Queen contenders to show off their talents!

Evalena Sabella energized us all with her clogging routine to Kenny Loggin’s classic “Footloose”, followed by Layni Challendar who incited waves of laughter with her original poem entitled “Talent”. Mahalet Gonzales sang the emotionally driven anthem “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney animated film Moana, and finally Alyssa Johnson had the audience rolling in laughter again with her stand-up comedy routine about monster trucks, broken horns, and her general disdain for cars and their parts which admittedly confound the young comedienne.

Before the judges had the daunting task of choosing the crowns there was yet one more round of the competion: the Evening Gown and On Stage Interview portion of the night. Each of the contestants executed extreme poise and dignity as they graced the stage for the final time before the Queen and Princess would be announced and every one of them revealed a little more of their unique and individual personalities as they spoke on the platforms that were near and dear to their hearts.

After a farewell speech from the reigning 2016 Princess Kaylee Wills, that was both heartwarming and humorous, came the moment that all of the brave and beautiful contestants had been waiting for; it was time for the announcement of the awards.

2016 Princess Kaylee Wills, Tatiana White, Taylor Randant 2nd Runner Up, Most Talented and 2017 Princess Natalie Welky, People Choice, Most Talented and 1st Runner-up Kiley Prevatt, Novie Jo Kohutek Miss Congeniality. (Courtsey photo/ Photography By Jerri Lynn)

First came the reveal of the accomplishments of top ticket sales, most ad sales, most photogenic, Miss Congeniality, and the talent awards.

The awards were given as follows:

Top Ticket Sales – Natalie Welky

Top Ad Sales – Kylie Prevatt

Miss Congeniality – Novi Jo Kohutek (for the Princess division)
Evalena Sabella (for the Queen division)

Most Photogenic – Natalie Welky (for the Princess division)

Mahalet Gonzales (for the Queen division)

Talent – was a tie with Natalie Welky and Kylie Privatt (Princess division)
Alyssa Johnson (Queen division)

The audience also got to vote that night for the People’s Choice Award for Queen and Princess and the winners were:
Princess – Kylie Privatt
Queen – Lani Challendar

And then came the final announcement from the judges; the winners of the scholarships and the crowning of the Queen and Princess of the 2017 Swamp Cabbage Queen and Princess Pageant.

The grand winners were Princess Natalie Welky and her court of first runner up Kylie Privatt, and second runner up Taylor Randant.

The title of Queen went to Alyssa Johnson with first runner up, Mahalet Gonzales, and tied for second runner up were Evalena Sabella, and Layni Challendar.

The evening was truly spectacular and one that I’m sure will live on in the memories of every one of the talented, beautiful, and intelligent contestants.

The organizers of the pageant and the board members Jerri Lynn Blake, Pam Keller, Kass Whidden, Paula Woods, Jackie Zavala, and Beth Barfield would like to thank the parents, volunteers, and all who contributed both their time and sponsorship which made the event possible. They would also like to thank Preston Long for the use of his sound equipment and for doing a stellar job as sound engineer so that we got to hear each of our belles of the ball.