The stage was set and the crowd was seated. The lights dimmed while music faded slowly to silence signaling the moment the crowd had been waiting patiently for.

It was coronation time at the Grand Theater in Rocky Ford Saturday evening, and with the spotlight firmly placed on Martha Castaneda and Maquela Huff each participant awaited the judge’s decision. Sharing the stage with Castaneda and Huff were contest coordinator Rosa Ramos, 2018 Fiesta Queen Bonita Rael and 2018 Fiesta King Martin Fernandez.

Envelope in hand, Ramos approached the mic while Rael and Fernandez stood at the ready to crown 2019’s Fiesta Queen. After an evening of competitions Ramos announced the winner, Martha Castaneda.

The journey to crown 2019’s Fiesta Queen began with each contestant giving a speech about cultural pride. The first participant to give her speech was Castaneda.

“Culture can maybe be a set of customs, traditions and morals, but for many people it’s a way of life,” Castaneda said.

She said that her culture was something that separated her from other people at her school. She went on to say that when she was younger, she never discussed her culture at school because it was something that made her different from her classmates.

Huff also discussed how her culture was shaped by her experience in school. She said that she didn’t fully embrace her culture when she was going to school on the east coast.

Her immersion into her culture would happen during the summers when she would visit her family in Rocky Ford during the summer, but that would end once school began. She said that when her family moved to Rocky Ford, she began to learn more about her culture and fully embrace it since she was around it all the time.

“I was able to finally embrace and celebrate everything that makes me, me.” Huff said.

After their opening speeches kicked off the show each contestant would go onto participate in the talent portion of the contest, where Castaneda would paint, and Huff would read her own poetry. Once the talent portion was over the last step before the crowning involved contestants dressing up in formal wear then answering an impromptu question asked by Rael.

The culmination of the night was the crowning and while only one contestant could walk away with the title 2019 Fiesta Queen both contestants walked away with scholarship money. One of the biggest factors that separates the Fiesta Queen pageant apart from other pageants across the state is that it’s a scholarship pageant.

“Usually a beauty pageant comes with money attached to it,” Ramos said, “What we do is we try to help promote higher education, so we’re providing them a scholarship which they receive once they show us enrollment.”

She went on to say that their involvement doesn’t just end with the scholarship because the program also provides assistant to their participants throughout their whole college experience where they need it.

On Aug. 14 starting at 5 p.m. will be Fiesta Day at the Arkansas Valley fair, festivities will take place at the pavilion and include a jalapeno, watermelon and enchilada eating contest.

jconlan@ljtdmail.com