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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Homecoming king and queen finalists announced at pageant

As the lights dimmed and the curtain rose, 30-something perfectly poised, high-heeled pairs of feet stood waiting. The dancing began.

At the UF homecoming pageant Monday night, called "A Red Carpet Affair," six UF students were appointed to the UF homecoming court.

Katie Darst, a UF health science senior; Jillian Yoerges, a UF anthropology senior, and Sarah Hartmann, a UF history senior, were named finalists for queen.

Nicholas Baragona, a UF marketing senior; Joshua Jackson, a UF political science senior; and Ryan Merkel, a UF marketing senior, were named finalists for the first-ever UF homecoming king.

The king and queen will be announced at Gator Growl on Nov. 2.

Contestants were interviewed by five judges before the pageant and submitted résumés and personal essays.

Each contestant was sponsored by a student organization at UF, such as a sorority, fraternity, college or club.

Elizabeth Davlantes, a UF genetics senior and homecoming chair, said it cost contestants more than ,200 to participate in the pageant.

Davlantes said she didn't know how many ,10 tickets were sold, but she was happy with the attendance. The Phillips Center was more than halfway filled to capacity.

The bulk of the judging was based on contestants' résumés and essays, she said, but the pageant activities and question-and-answer session factored in, too.

The king and queen will reign over UF for a year and will participate in UF functions and parties, Davlantes said.

Monday night, after the opening dance routine to "Razzle Dazzle" from the Broadway show "Chicago" and Fergie's "Glamorous," homecoming-queen hopefuls modeled casual wear under a bright spotlight one-by-one.

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Michelle Schroeder, last year's queen, and Kevin Quinn, from KISS 105.3 FM, announced the contestants' names, awards and hobbies as they appeared on stage.

In addition to a slew of honor society memberships, scholarships and awards, some of the most popular hobbies among the girls included working out, spending time on the water, traveling and supporting the Gators sports teams.

After the contestants flaunted knee-length, pastel sundresses, crisp white blouses or slinky capri pants, it was time for formal wear.

Accompanied by one of 10 homecoming king contestants, each woman glided out in a floor-length ball gown.

Sequins glistened, ribbons bounced and white teeth sparkled from unmoving smiles as the queen contestants sauntered around the stage, stopping at each corner to pose or flip their hair.

"You gotta love the formal wear," said Tricia Outzen, a UF elementary education junior who attended the event.

Outzen said she had three friends in this year's pageant, and she has considered participating next year.

"I like it because it's not really like a beauty pageant," she said. "It's about leadership and giving back to your school."

After a 15-minute intermission, the top six queen contestants were brought back on stage to answer a question: What risks might you face in life, and how would you deal with failure?

The women mostly cited career apprehensions, but each answer was laced with optimism.

Will Daines, a UF finance senior at the event, said he thinks the pageant is important because it continues a UF tradition.

"It's part of the college experience," Daines said. "It'd be bland without it."

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