BENTON TOWNSHIP — New Buffalo, Three Oaks/River Valley and Bridgman all have representatives on the 2019 Blossomtime Festival royal court.

Mr. New Buffalo Jacob Smith was named First Runner-Up to Mr. Blossomtime (Sin’cere Taylor of Coloma) during a Sunday, March 10, pageant held on the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center Mainstage.

Taylor also was the choice for Mr. Nice Guy while Cody Wayne Adkins of Edwardsburg is Second Runner-Up.

The crowning moments of the Monday, March 11, Miss Blossomtime Pageant saw Miss Bridgman Krystin Buist become this year’s Second Runner-Up and Miss Three Oaks/River Valley Claudia Moore assume the title of First Runner-Up before Olivia Ellis of Bangor was chosen to be Miss Blossomtime 2019. Also in the court is Miss Spirit Maya Schuhknecht of Buchanan as the 2019 Miss Congeniality.

Ellis took her first walk and made her first speech Monday night as Miss Blossomtime at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center, as classmates and family members in the crowd yelled out their approval.

Asked how it felt hearing her name called, Ellis responded: “Crazy! I had no idea I’d be here today. I just wanted to represent my community well, and here I am, Miss Blossomtime.”

Asked what she most looks forward to seeing or doing for her yearlong reign, Ellis said: “Just growing in myself, and getting to meet so many new people.”

Ellis, 17, is a South Haven High School senior, and the daughter of Jim and Kelly Ellis, of Bangor. She’s on student council, is a member of the National Honor Society, and a sixth-grade camp counselor. She also plays softball and volleyball.

After graduation, Ellis plans to keep playing softball this fall at Manchester University, in Indiana, where she’ll study sports management. Her goal is work in major league baseball’s business side.

“I’m just excited for the year, and so thankful for this opportunity,” she said.

Moore’s position gives her the chance to wear the crown, in case Miss Blossomtime can’t fulfill her duties.

Moore, 17, is a senior at Berrien Springs High School. She is the daughter of James and Angela Moore, of Galien.

“It’s so thrilling – my goal is just to make it through the night, and I did it,” said Moore, laughing.

She plays piccolo in the school band and enjoys computer coding, which she’ll study this fall at Western Michigan University. Her goal is to be a computer technician.

Buist, 17, is a senior at Bridgman High School. She’s the daughter of Joel and Sarah Buist, of Bridgman. Her featured activities focus on sports, including cheer, softball, track and volleyball.

Asked what she looks forward to most doing this year, Buist responded, “Getting to know the girls on court, and just getting to ride in the (Blossom) parade, on the Blossomtime float.”

Buist will attend cosmetology school this fall and plans to become a stylist.

Schuhknecht won her title by a vote of her fellow contestants. She’s 18, a senior at Buchanan High School, and is the daughter of Michael and Jennifer Schuhknecht, of Buchanan.

“I’m super overwhelmed, just excited and grateful that they gave me the opportunity,” she said.

Schuhknecht also won the Miss Spirit pageant, which is open to all local first runners-up, in January.

She plays basketball and tennis, is a National Honor Society member, and enjoys drawing and painting to express herself.

After graduation she plans to study advertising and graphic design at Michigan State University. She wants to become a graphic designer.

Twenty-three young women competed for the Miss Blossomtime title.

Miss New Buffalo Olivia Haskins and New Buffalo Mr. Blossomtime contestant Mikey Tran both won $250 scholarship drawings on Sunday.

Audience members got their first look at the community queens during Sunday’s Mr. Blossomtime pageant, where the Miss Blossomtime contestants joined their male peers for a series of lip synching and dance routines set to hit songs from the 1950s through today.

Both groups also had to answer a final question, which the judges used to settle the top 10 finalists.

The male contestants’ question focused on this year’s theme, “America: The Places You’ll Go,” while the women had to tell co-host Phil McDonald what personal qualities they’d bring to the court, if chosen for it.

Taylor became the first Mr. Blossomtime and Mr. Nice Guy titleholder in the Sunday night pageant.

“It feels amazing, honestly – it’s something unexpected, and something I’m going to cherish all my life, for sure,” Taylor said, moments after taking his crown from last year’s titleholder, Garrett Brandt.

The Mr. Blossomtime title is decided by a judges’ vote, while the other contestants choose Mr. Nice Guy, as their female counterparts do for the Miss Congeniality title.

Taylor credited fellow titlist, Miss Coloma Sam Scott, with giving him the nudge to go after the big crown, once he’d gotten the local pageant under his belt first.

“She helped me out a lot – she told me, ‘Hey, you should do Mr. Coloma,’ and I was (saying), like, ‘All right, I’ll give it a chance,’” he said.

Taylor, 17, is a Coloma High School senior, and son of Sinatra Taylor and Tuesday Clay, of Coloma. His major activities include football and track, and public speaking classes, “which have helped me out immensely,” he said.

After graduation, Taylor hopes to continue his track career in college, and study medicine.

Asked what he looks forward to most about the year, Taylor said, “Getting to know the full court, for sure. I can’t wait to see who Miss Blossomtime’s going to be.”

Smith waxed equally enthusiastic about his win, which also came as a first-time contestant, he said.

“I feel electric. I could not describe this feeling. It’s amazing – I’m so glad I made it here,” he said.

Smith, 18, is a New Buffalo High School senior, and son of Jason and Brandi Smith, of New Buffalo and Sawyer, respectively. His award allows him to serve as Mr. Blossomtime, in case the winner can’t fulfill his duties.

He enjoys working out every day after school, and has participated all through high school in Envirothon, which tests its competitors’ environmental knowledge, he said.

“We’ve gone to state every year (in Envirothon), and I actually enjoy it a lot – and then, robotics. I’m also in robotics, and that’s a lot of fun,” he said.

After graduation, Smith plans on studying engineering, either at Michigan State University – where he’s been accepted – or the University of Michigan.

“I was looking for something to do – so I went out for it, and I was roped in, but I’m so glad I did it,” he said.

Adkins, 18, is a senior at Edwardsburg High School, and son of Dwayne Adkins and Fran Cordell, of Edwardsburg.

His activities include captain of the varsity tennis team, varsity chorale, and “Shrek,” the school musical, in which he’s playing the lead role.

Asked how he juggled his Blossomtime commitments with “Shrek,” which runs next week, Adkins responded, “Very carefully. I always put my full dedication into each and every activity, and I love every moment of it – Blossomtime’s a dream I’ve always had, and I’m so honored to be here.”

Adkins plans on studying pharmacy at Ferris State University, after he transfers from Southwestern Michigan College. He plans on returning here as a community pharmacist, “to stay in contact with Blossomtime,” he said.

Twenty-eight young men competed in this year’s pageant, which had the theme of, “America: The Places You’ll Go.”

As in past pageants, there was plenty of show business razzle dazzle – since Sunday’s event gave Southwest Michigan’s queens a chance to strut their stuff on the Mendel stage, too.

The featured entertainment included groups of kings and queens joining forces for lip sync and dance routines set to popular songs like Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock,” Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” and Devo’s classic ’80s New Wave hit, “Whip It,” which drew screams and yells of appreciation from the crowd.

Lainie Lu Von Behren and Phil McDonald returned in their familiar roles as emcees on both nights. Former Miss Blossomtimes Roxie Elliott (2014) and Lisa Bowman (2011) assisted on Monday evening.

Other featured entertainment included Kelly Preston, Miss Outstanding Teen 2017, singing the national anthem Sunday and Monday and serenading community queens accompanied by “little” princesses on Sunday.

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