Historic “COVID Court” reign comes to an end

by Patrick Patton

PASO ROBLES — Eight young women contended in the California Mid-State Fair (CMSF) Pageant on Wednesday, Jul. 21.

From Left to Right: Hailey Frederick, Dana Rasmussen, Yvette Fiorentino, Gillian Umphenour, Shelby Degnan, and Elizabeth Umphenour

After showcasing her unique talent of speed-painting, modeling a glittering emerald evening dress, and answering a final question, 21-year-old Yvette Fiorentino of Arroyo Grande was officially crowned as the 2021 CMSF Queen.

“I’m overly thrilled and excited!” said Fiorentino. “I actually had to stop myself from crying on stage. It’s been a long time in the making—four years working at this—and I am just so thrilled, and I honestly feel like I couldn’t have followed up a better Queen. Mikaila Ciampi was amazing, and I just hope I can live up to what she did for this pageant and the Mid-State Fair.”

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Fiorentino is attending Cuesta College, and her hobbies and interests include painting and horseback riding. She’s a board member of the Woods Humane Society, Portuguese Holy Spirit Society, a regular contributor to Vitalant, and a support assistant for RISE. Her awards and achievements include becoming 2019 Miss Congeniality, creating blankets for PAWS, and becoming a Veterinary Judge for FFA. Five words that describe her are outgoing, hard-working, compassionate, adventurous, and sassy.

Yvette Fiorentino reacts as she is named 2021 Miss California Mid-State Fair Queen.

First Runner Up was awarded to 18-year-old Cassidie Banish of San Miguel.

“I’ve made my dream come true,” said Banish. “Being able to be a face of the Fair is something that is so exciting to me, and it’s just an amazing opportunity to have this spot for a year.”

Second Runner Up was awarded to 23-year-old Megan Moffat of Paso Robles, who said of the title, “it means so much to me. I’ve always wanted to do this, and now I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, and I did it, and I was rewarded for all my hard work.”

The title of Miss Congeniality was awarded to 20-year-old Haley Fredrick of Paso Robles. She said the title meant she was “the mom of the group basically, the one who is always prepared, so it was really fun to take care of everyone in this pageant.”

Mikaila Ciampi, 2019’s CMSF Queen, along with 2019 Princesses Mary Hambly and Cara Bullard, will go down as the longest-reigning court in CMSF history due to the cancellation of last year’s CMSF and have dubbed themselves the “COVID Court.” Ciampi handed down the sash and crown to Fiorentino after a touching farewell speech.

2019 CMSF Queen of the “Covid Court” Mikaila Ciampi delivers her farewell address.

“These past couple years as Miss California Mid-State Fair Queen have been quite a whirlwind,” said Ciampi. “Being the first queen to reign for two years has been an exciting adventure that I am so blessed to have embarked on. I am grateful to have served the Fair and my community during the pandemic. Selling popcorn for the Fair’s drive-in movies, attending all the Fair markets in crown and sash are some of the great memories that no other Queen in history has been able to share, and I wouldn’t have wanted to experience these unique events with anyone other than Kara and Mary [2019 CMSF Princesses]. You both have offered me so much support the past couple years. From parade waves to fancy dinners to becoming the ‘COVID Court,’ I am so glad we were able to join the sisterhood together! Thank you for our friendship.”

“It will be bittersweet to hand the crown down to the next court,” said Hambly, 2019 First Runner Up. “I’ve enjoyed being a part of the ‘COVID Court.’”

“It’s been crazy,” said Bullard, 2019 Second Runner Up. “We had all the usual business of the Fair. Then COVID hit, and we got to do all of the parades and events all over again!”

Uncertain whether the fair would be held this year at all, this year’s group of contenders had a much shorter preparation period than is typical.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the girls who have worked so hard these past six weeks,” said 2012 CMSF Queen and Pageant Coach Savannah Romero. “They usually have two months to prepare.”

“It means the world to me,” Fiorentino said. “It means that I get to watch little girls’ and boys’ faces light up when I walk down. I get to see them say, ‘it’s the queen, mom, it’s the queen!’ I’m planning to fulfill my duties by showing up at every event I’m needed at and doing to one hundred percent of my ability and making sure my girls are with me for everything, so none of them feel left out.”