Corona del Mar Today: Local girls compete in Miss California pageant

"I told everyone that when I grew up I was going to be Miss Universe," said Lyssa Aruda, Miss Newport Coast, one of four girls from the Newport Beach area that competed in the Miss California Teen USA Pageant in Palm Springs last weekend.

Jill St. Geme, Miss Newport Beach, who attends Corona del Mar High School, with Lyssa, was a Top 10 finisher. Other local participants include Brooke Hanrahan, Miss Corona del Mar, who attends Mater Dei High School, and Amber Papst, Miss Laguna Beach, who attends Newport Harbor High School.

Competing against neighbors made the pageant more fun, they said.

"It was very nice knowing other girls from Newport Beach," Jill said. "It was comforting to be able to pick out a few familiar faces in a group full of strangers."

The pageant is known for being a welcoming to newcomers, but both CdMHS girls had competed before. Lyssa, who was a pageant girl throughout her childhood, held three National Supreme titles and acted as a spokesmodel for Hakes International Pageant.

Although Jill is still in the incipience of her career as a beauty queen, she has competed and won "Most Photogenic" in her previous (and her first) competition.

Preparation for the pageant stimulated an excess of nerves within the girls — but mostly feelings of excitement.

Lyssa says that she although she was anxious, "I was mostly looking forward to having a great experience."

Jill had similar feelings and was thrilled that the weekend finally arrived after such long preparation.

The pageant consisted of three portions: Interview, Swimsuit and Evening Gown. Contestants were judged based on their character, poise, confidence and personality. Jill said she was most excited to wear her evening gown.

"I love my dress — which was the first gown I tried on and instantly fell in love with — so I was excited to finally be able to show it off," she said. She also confesses she was dreading the opening dance that the contestants do together. "The piece was a tough one, and I'm not the best of dancers, but I had practiced a lot."

Lyssa had similar sentiments and said she was excited to show off her pageant clothes as well.

"I was also really looking forward to meeting so many accomplished girls," she said. "I met quite a few at orientation and I couldn't wait to get to know more of the participants."

For Lyssa there was no least-favorite part, but she was most nervous about doing her own hair and makeup.

The girls scored well overall, although Lyssa did not make it into the top 20. An ecstatic Jill walked away from her second pageant with an impressive place in the top 10. Brooke Hanrahan and Amber Papst both placed in the top 20.

The title of Miss California Teen USA went to Alexis Swanstrom, Miss Greater San Diego.

Despite her disappointment, Lyssa said she had "so many memorable experiences with pageants in general. The girls you meet are so unique and driven. They all work hard and are all equally deserving."

Jill agreed.

"This whole experience is going to be something I will remember forever," she said. "It has taught me so much. It forced me to move out of my comfort zone and try something different, meet new people and learn to be comfortable with myself."

Corona del Mar Today advertiser Wrapadoo was a sponsor of the Miss California Teen USA pageant.

—Sarah Light, CdMToday intern

Gourmet food and wine shop coming to town

A gourmet food and wine shop will be opening in Corona del Mar early in 2011, according to city officials and a sign on the business.

Vin Goat will be located at 3326 E. Coast Highway, the former location of Great Lengths hair salon. The salon closed this spring.

According to a sign in the window, Vin Goat will sell artisan and farmstead cheese, wine, craft brews and gourmet pantry items.

The owner did not immediately respond to an e-mail and call seeking comment, but city officials have said they worked with him for many months to secure a location for the business.

At one point, a lease deal fell through and the plans seemed doomed, but the owner apparently was encouraged by a Corona del Mar Residents Association survey that showed a gourmet food shop as the No. 1 business that people wanted to open in the village.

Spark of Love toy drive underway

The Spark of Love toy drive is underway through Christmas Eve, with all of the Newport Beach Fire Department participating, said Jennifer Schulz, a department spokeswoman.

Anyone who can bring a new, unwrapped toys or sports equipment items can drop them off at any city fire station, including the Corona del Mar firehouse on Marigold Avenue.

The Spark of Love campaign in Orange County combines with the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, Social Services Agency's Operation Santa Claus and the St. Vincent de Paul Holiday Charities program. Each year, the groups distribute about 300,000 toys to Orange County children who otherwise go without during the holiday season.

CdM Chamber to host holiday mixer

The Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce is hosting a holiday mixer from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Bungalow Restaurant at 2441 E. Coast Highway.

The mixer costs $5 for members and $10 for non-members. It includes complimentary wine and appetizers on the fireside patio.

For more information, call (949) 673-4050.

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