After traversing the obstacle course to Payson High School homecoming queen, senior Katie Whelan has decided to continue her quest by competing for the title of Arizona's Homecoming Queen.
She has been selected as a finalist in the 23rd annual state competition, scheduled for June 7 and 8 at the Radisson Phoenix Airport Hotel in the Valley. The state winner will then compete with winners from other states for the title of America's Homecoming Queen.
"It's a chance to meet a lot of people and if I win the state, I would get some scholarship money," Whelan said. "And it's money I can use at any school I choose to attend."
The downside is that running for queen is a lot more arduous than one might think -- even at the high school level. The big event is a student body assembly at which all the king and queen candidates compete in some really strange events.
"It's kind of a ‘Fear Factor' meets ‘Survivor'-style thing," Whelan said.
Events included eating worms while blindfolded and a how-many-hot wings-can-you-eat competition, which would be bad enough if you weren't a vegetarian. But Whelan is.
Nevertheless, with the able assistance of her king-candidate partner, Ryan Peters, the duo consumed a total of 19 wings, good for a second-place finish in the event behind winners Rachel Ray and Waylon Pettet.
And then there's the matter of the kid sister who good naturedly made sure Whelan was always treated like a "queen." Whelan's sister, Karlie, is a sophomore at PHS.
"We'd be walking around and there'd be a puddle, and she'd say, ‘Oh no, we don't want the queen to step in the puddle,'" Whelan said with a laugh.
But Whelan got through it all, including the homecoming dance for which she didn't get a dress until the last minute.
"I really didn't think I was going to win so I didn't buy a dress," she said.
Now she's gearing up to go through the whole routine again. Although eating worms isn't on the state contest agenda, there is a series of lunches and brunches and a whirlwind of other events to attend.
It's been a busy senior year for Whelan, who has been active in a number of school activities, including being a cheerleader for four years. She's currently president of the Payson High School chapter of Family Career and Community Leaders of America and heavily involved in that group's fashion show scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
"We went shopping in the Valley, but we had to come back early because of the snow," she said. "We're going back Monday to pick out the rest of the outfits we'll be wearing at the show."
Next year, Whelan hopes to attend school in the Valley in pursuit of a career as an X-ray technician. But if she should win the title of Arizona's Homecoming Queen, she'd probably have to postpone college until the following year.
The national competition is an entire slate of events that makes the state and PHS contests seem tame by comparison.
There's even the possibility of appearing as a contestant on "Wheel of Fortune."
The America's Homecoming Queen event is closely tied to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and to the AXA Liberty Bowl Classic. In fact, contestants visit the hospital to cheer up young patients.
But first there's the state competition, and to participate Whelan needs to raise $375 from sponsorships. The money is used for hotel rooms and other expenses the pageant incurs.
So far, Marble Slab Creamery, where Whelan works part time, has donated $25. Any other businesses or individuals interested in becoming sponsors can reach Whelan at 474-9769.
Pashion for Fashion
Katie Whelan and other members of the Fashion Plus class will be wearing the hottest fashions at "Pashion for Fashion.
The annual fashion show will be held Wednesday, March 5 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Payson High School auditorium.
This year's show features retro-70s looks, hobby and recreational wear, casual wear, swimwear and prom attire, according to Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Devon Wells.