SEASIDE — Miss Emerald Valley Abigail Hayes is the new Miss Oregon.
Hayes, of Damascus, was crowned Saturday night, the final evening of the Miss Oregon competition held at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center.
“I’m feeling like this is a dream,” Hayes said moments after receiving the crown from Shivali Kadam, who was crowned Miss Oregon in 2019. “I’m absolutely ecstatic and this is unreal. Unreal.”
Hayes, 20, is a student at Liberty University with a major in strategic communications. Her goal is to work in a law firm focusing on family and pro bono work.
“I believe that every single girl on the stage was absolutely beautiful and deserved it just as much as I did,” Hayes said.
The Miss Oregon Scholarship Program began in 1947. The annual event was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic but returned this year in a hybrid format with both a live and virtual audience.
The event was one of the North Coast’s largest since the pandemic began.
The five-person judging panel included publisher Neal Robbins; 2008 Miss Oregon Danijela Radeta; former Miss Idaho pageant director Gene Hill; writer and artist Mary Anne Radmacher; and Seaside Chamber of Commerce CEO Brian Owen.
Judges selected five finalists out of 18 entrants based on Thursday and Friday preliminaries, onstage interviews, red carpet performance and talent.
Along with Hayes, the finalists included Miss City of Roses Allison Burke, of Tigard; Miss Evergreen Claire Sparks, of Beaverton; Miss Tri-Valley Danielle Cormier, of Wilsonville; and Miss Portland-Metro Sophia Takla, of Portland.
Miss Clatsop County Haylie Moon, from Cannon Beach, was named nonfinalist interview winner and received a $250 scholarship. “This is my final year competing as a miss contestant,” she said. “I could not have done anyone more proud. I’m so proud of myself. I’m so proud of this community of women and the sisterhood. And I absolutely love competing in this program.”
Miss North Coast Caitlin Hillman, of Gearhart, said she felt great about the pageant. “I’m really just happy to be here,” she said. “This is my first time competing in the miss division, so it was great to be able to represent the North Coast and be here and meet so many amazing women. I’m very excited for Abigail. She’s going to be an amazing Miss Oregon.”
Earlier Saturday, reining titleholder Marin Gray passed the Miss Oregon Outstanding Teen crown to Moira O’Bryan, of Coos Bay, one of 11 teen contestants.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Beth McShane, the program’s executive director, said. “Coos County is one of our oldest, best local programs, and they have their first state titleholder.”
Teens will compete in Orlando next month.
As the winner, Hayes will receive a $10,000 scholarship and in-kind scholarship contributions from the Sherman College of Chiropractic. She will participate in the Miss America competition in December at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
In her final interview question, Hayes was asked how she would build stronger relationships with local businesses and sponsors.
“Looking at the 75th anniversary of Miss Oregon, what better brand than for our brand to be hope,” Hayes said. “After a year of coming out with political tension and global pandemic I believe it’s very important that we produce hope, and as Miss Oregon, it is my mission to help involve other organizations ... and letting them know what this organization is truly about.”
Her first act as Miss Oregon?
“I’m going to go hug my parents and cry,” she said.