Sixteen young women performed, answered questions and modeled swim and evening wear Saturday for a chance to be crowned Miss Merced County 2013, Miss Yosemite Valley 2013 or Miss Sierra Nevada 2013.
Eight of them, most of whom are 17 years old and still in high school, vied for the Miss Merced County crown at Buhach Colony Theater. The other eight, most of whom are in their early 20s and in college, competed for Miss Sierra Nevada or Miss Yosemite Valley.
Performances in the talent competition included dance and ballet routines, and singing of popular songs and show tunes. But not all of the performances were traditional: Malina Meza, 17, of Merced, gave a golf demonstration, and Taylor Briggs, 17, of Atwater sang a song while drumming on a plastic cup for a beat.
Julianna Johnson, 20, a University of California at Davis pre-med student, was crowned as Miss Yosemite Valley 2013, while Christina Alcaraz, 23, a graduate student at Pepperdine University, won the title of Miss Sierra Nevada 2013.
Miss California 2012, Leah Cecil, did the honors of crowning Nicolette Schiber, a 19 year-old California Polytechnic State University student who attended Atwater High, as the new Miss Merced County 2013.
"Unbelievable," said Schiber, upon winning the crown. "What an amazing experience. I can't believe it's over. I had a wonderful time preparing with all of the talented young ladies in this pageant."
Schiber said she plans on fulfilling her duties as a student while making a difference in the community. Her platform is "Adopt a Grandparent," which is an effort to encourage people to work with the elderly in nursing homes.
Schiber received a $1,000 scholarship along with an opportunity to compete in the Miss California and Miss America pageants.
Receiving a $500 scholarship as first runner-up in the Merced Merced County competition was Kari Johnson, an 18-year-old Merced High student.
The Miss Yosemite Valley and Sierra Nevada crown winners each received $500 scholarships and also are eligible to compete in the next level of pageants.