Miss Finger Lakes 2015

This weekend was the 2015 Miss Finger Lakes and Miss Upstate NY pageant! Two beautiful ladies would join their Outstanding Teen sister queens at the Miss New York competition in the summer.

Diane Marie Neal with Kari Pedersen, Miss New York 1967.

As a special theme, the team decided to honor the great legacy of Miss Finger Lakes, Miss New York, and the Miss Americas who hail from New York. Each song played was the performance piece of a former titleholder. There was even a special guest on the judges panel- Diane LaValley, Miss Finger Lakes 1968.

Desiree, Miss Finger Lakes 2014 and Diane, Miss Finger Lakes 1968
Desiree, Miss Finger Lakes 2014 and Diane, Miss Finger Lakes 1968



Although this particular local began in 1999, the Miss Finger Lakes title itself is one of the oldest titles in the state. Diane was the very first Miss Finger Lakes, nearly 47 years ago. The Miss Finger Lakes Organization was extremely lucky to be able to have her on the judging panel.

The pageant took place in the Local 1000 USW, a long time supporter and venue sponsor for the event. Of course emcees for the event were former titleholders; Lorna Rose, Miss Finger Lakes 2009 and Allie Curtis, Miss Upstate NY 2013, returned home to see who would join the sisterhood.

The contestants were welcomed to the stage and performed a fun Zumba inspired routine to “Happy”, originally by Pharrell Williams. You may remember it as performed (with a cup) by Kira Kazantsev, at both Miss New York and when she won the title of Miss America.



The first performance of the evening, while the girls were preparing for the swimsuit portion, was a beautiful vocal piece by Jillian Larson, Miss Finger Lakes’ Outstanding Teen. We can’t wait to see her at the state competition.

The contestants returned to the stage for the Lifestyle and Fitness competition. The swimsuits were modeled to Get Up Offa That Thing by James Brown; honoring Mallory Hagan, who was the first Miss New York to take the Miss America crown since Vanessa Williams (Another New Yorker). The sass level during this phase was through the charts, and confidence was also soaring.

Following a classical violin performance by Madison Manuel, Miss Upstate New York 2014, the girls were invited back to the stage to show us their own talents.


Following The contestants’ talent portion, the audience watched a special performance by Katie Manuel. Katie served during the year at Miss Finger Lakes’ Star Princess, and accompanied Madison to Miss New York. She then competed at the Little Miss Finger Lakes pageant, where she took home the title of Jr. Miss Finger Lakes.

Katie is an accomplished dancer, but decided to do something different and highlight her martial arts training. She integrated dance into a board breaking demonstration.

Kerisa Bonville

The contestants returned for the most elegant phase of competition: evening gown. Each lady had her time to shine, and show off her poise, beauty, and natural confidence. During this time, Happy Days Are Here Again played in the background, to honor Vanessa Williams. As a former Miss New York who won Miss America, she was also from Upstate New York and attended Syracuse University- the alma mater of both of the evening’s emcees.

Following their initial evening gown scoring, each lady returned to the stage for the On-Stage Question portion, where she was judged on her ability to formulate an answer with confidence, or public speaking ability, and overall how well she would serve as a titleholder.

Lauren Crandall

During this time, Sing Sing Sing by Benny Goodman played in the background. Jillian Tapper performed a fabulous twirling routine to this song, earning her a spot in the Top Five at Miss New York. Following Kira’s Miss America win, Jillian received the title of Miss New York herself.

The questions were tough, and included a great assortment of topics from whether plastic surgery should be allowed in pageantry, an opinion of the Ray Rice domestic violence situation, the current racial protests, the relevance of the talent portion, and second chances. One contestant was basically asked what question she would like to ask a titleholder. Other questions asked about responsible use of social media, the hazing scandal surrounding Kira Kazentsev, how the current generation will be remembered,  females in politics, opposition to pageantry, and the evening was rounded off with “What is your favorite part of Finger Lakes”. The answer is wine tours, obviously.

There was a brief intermission to allow time for the auditors to tabulate the scores. Following intermission, the current titleholders were announced. Not only were the current Little Miss Finger Lakes and Colonial Days queens present, but also a dozen current Miss NY and Miss NY Outstanding Teen titleholders and a handful of National American Miss and USA National Miss titleholders. There was also a special appearance by Mrs. New York herself.


Alisa Vasquez, Miss Upstate New York’s Outstanding Teen, entertained us with a beautiful rendition of Someone Like You. She will be competing for Miss New York’s Outstanding Teen in the summer as well as Jillian.

The scores nearly tabulated, it was time to say goodbye to out outgoing queens. Desiree gave a heart wrenching farewell, where she expressed her gratitude for everyone who has supported her. She shared a story of one of the 400 students she worked with during her year, assisting them with the college application process, and how he had not felt he would be able to attend, but with her help he applied.

Madison told how she had originally not felt she was going to win this pageant. It was only her 2nd Miss competition ever, and had already signed up for the pageant for the following weekend. She was shocked but overjoyed. She shared with the audience how she had given a seminar in a different school each month during her reign to promote her platform on bullying prevention.

Awards & Crowning

There is a superstition that the Miss Congeniality award is a “Kiss of Doom”, and that the girl who wins it will not be the winner of the overall pageant. This is simply a superstition, and should not the case. There is no reason that being kind, helpful, and outgoing backstage would indicate you are not going to win. Nor does it mean that the girl who wins was two-faced and snotty backstage.

Miss Congeniality was a tie between Lauren Crandall and Kerisa Bonville.

Community Service award went to Kelly Hoffman.

The People’s Choice Award went to Tracee Sheibel. She received 50% of the total funds used to vote for the contestants.

Michaela, Marivi, Kerisa, Lauren, Jessica, Kelly


4th Runner Up: Michaela Kenny

3rd Runner Up: Kelly Hoffman

2nd Runner Up: Marivi Arza-Howell

1st Runner Up: Jessica Brosofsky

Miss Upstate New York: Lauren Crandall

Miss Finger Lakes: Kerisa Bonville


**It just goes to show that Miss Congeniality is not a Kiss of Doom after all, eh?





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