There she is, Miss Lake Tahoe |

There she is, Miss Lake Tahoe

A new Miss Lake Tahoe was crowned Sunday in the Harrah’s South Shore Room.

Tiffany Joy Ahrens, a 19-year-old student who attends the University of Nevada at Reno, won the two and a half hour event on the strength of a dance performance, and comments about caring for those with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Most of Ahrens’ time was spent backstage where it was dark, except for the bright light from the stage and from behind the curtains guarding the dressing rooms. She and nine other contestants had to wait – amid the equipment and sets from Harrah’s stage shows – until it was their turn to go on stage.

Once there, the dazzling lights prevented them from seeing all but a few of the 500 people in the audience. None of the women, however, were bothered by the strangeness of the event.

“The stage is not something new to me,” Ahrens said. “This is where I belong.”

She added she was a bit surprised by the outcome of the event, but, with a big smile, said, “Now I expect to go out and win Miss Nevada.”

Winners of regional events, such as this one, qualify to compete in state pageants for the right to compete in the Miss America Pageant. The current Miss Nevada, Gina Giacinto, was a contestant in the 1999 Miss America Pageant and was at the event Sunday to help crown Ahrens.

“The Miss America Pageant is a great way to humble a girl very quickly,” Giacinto said.

The aim of the more than 1,400 pageants that take place across the country is to provide the contestants with scholarships with which they can pay for school. The Miss America Foundation awards more than $31 million in scholarships each year, $8,000 of which was awarded to Miss Lake Tahoe contestants.

The scholarship money was raised by the Miss Lake Tahoe Scholarship Board through contributions by more than 50 Lake Tahoe residents and businesses.

Ahrens received a $2,000 scholarship. South Tahoe High School seniors, Lisa Borges and Amy Thompson were awarded $750 and $500, respectively, for winning second and third place.

The other 7 contestants; Kelly Musson, Cassandra Golding, Sarah Woodington, Jessica Smith, Heather Avila, Lesa Schultz, and Andrea Froyum, were each awarded $300 scholarships.

“It was a blast, and I still won a $300 scholarship, so it was worthwhile,” said Avila, a South Tahoe High School senior. “We weren’t really trying to win because we all became such good friends. But it was nerve racking being in front of all those people.”

Last year’s winner, Tiffany Good, used her scholarship to begin studying at the University of California at Santa Cruz, but is now attending Lake Tahoe Community College.

Good took her final walk as Miss Lake Tahoe Sunday, and passed her crown to Ahrens who, she said, is in for a harrowing experience at the Miss Nevada Competition this summer. “It was fun, but it was also one of the hardest weeks of my life,” Good said. “It was exhausting mentally, physically, and emotionally.”

The event is important, according to Renee Conway, the co-executive director of the Miss Lake Tahoe Pageant, because it gives the women an opportunity to further their education.

“And it gives these girls a wonderful opportunity to shine,” she said.

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