Here She is ... Miss Washington

Giving thanks to God above, Miss Kitsap Kristen Eddings of Silverdale became Miss Washington 2006 Friday night in Tacoma when she was crowned by outgoing Miss Washington Tina Marie Mares.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
Giving thanks to God above, Miss Kitsap Kristen Eddings of Silverdale became Miss Washington 2006 Friday night in Tacoma when she was crowned by outgoing Miss Washington Tina Marie Mares.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Not since 1959 has a Miss Kitsap taken home the Miss Washington title. At least that was the case until last Friday when Silverdale native and former Miss Poulsbo Kristen Eddings was crowned Miss Washington as the tears of joy streamed down her face at the Champions Centre in Tacoma.

With a look of complete surprise, the 2002 Klahowya Secondary School grad threw her hands excitedly in the air. As Miss Washington 2005 Tina Marie Mares presented her with the crown, Eddings pointed up and smiled at her family and friends as they excitedly yelled out her name.

“I just remember thinking, ‘Praise God, I can’t believe this is happening,’” Eddings said shortly after the ceremony.

Just prior to realizing that her dream would soon become reality, Eddings stood in a line with the four other finalists. Each one holding hands with the next.

Eddings recalled thinking, “If it’s your will, if it’s your will.”

Feelings of suspense and anticipation among those in the centre were obvious as the final two — Eddings and Miss Pierce County Elyse Umemoto — stood together waiting for master of ceremonies Rick Gilbert to reveal their destiny.

The response from the audience was deafening as Eddings won the crown.

“This is truly an extraordinary surprise and blessing and something I’ve worked (toward) for four years,” Eddings exclaimed after the ceremony. “This is such a blessing. I cannot think of a better state or group to be a part of.”

Eddings’ mother Anita recalled her own thoughts of elation, pride and honor the moment her daughter was crowned.

“It was kind of a surreal feeling,” Anita said. “I felt like I wasn’t even standing.”

Eddings — a 2006 Seattle Pacific University grad who majored in political science: international affairs — was surrounded by many of her college friends following the ceremony.

“We knew it all along,” college friend Jessica Whitehead said. “We were screaming like crazy.”

Tiffany Rand, Eddings’ college roommate, was screaming so loud she lost her voice.

“We were roommates during our senior year, I knew I picked a good one,” she said with a smile. “She deserves to be up there. She has a passion for the organization and more importantly a passion for serving people. She’s going to do an awesome job.”

Eddings was surprised at the last minute by the attendance of her older brother Ben. A wildland firefighter, he was in Idaho and took a redeye flight home to ensure he would be there for his sister.

“(He’s) what gave me that extra drive,” she said.

Eddings gave thanks to her local community saying, “I’m probably the most supported local title holder apart from (Miss Poulsbo) Brenna (Gardner-Brown).

“The town of Silverdale will receive a Miss Washington like no other,” she said. “I’m so thankful to all of the Rotaries ... I am so thankful to all of the people on the mock interview panel. I’m so thankful to my community. I’m a born-an-raised product of Silverdale.”

During Thursday evening’s preliminaries and the finals the next evening, Eddings’ confidence in herself and in her performances was evident.

This year marked her second time Miss Washington pageant. She won Miss Poulsbo in 2002 and placed in the Top 10 at the state competition. She also received the People’s Choice award that year.

And this time around, Eddings was obviously prepared for anything that would come her way.

One of her on-stage questions Thursday evening was, “They say people work well under pressure, do you work well under pressure?”

Without a second’s delay, Eddings answered, “Absolutely, look at me now.”

She went on to explain how pressure has helped her to accomplish many feats in her life, including college.

She added, “Miss Washington has never won Miss America and I’m about to change that.”

The on-stage questions counted for 5 percent of the contestants’ total scores with evening wear counting for 20 percent, talent for 35 percent, lifestyle and fitness swimsuit were 15 percent and private interviews with the judges for the remaining 25 percent.

Eddings impressed the judges with her soulful rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life,” taking home the preliminary Talent award Thursday evening — and it’s $1,000 scholarship award.

“I am thrilled beyond belief,” said Michele Nilsen-Wasson, executive director of the Miss Kitsap Scholarship Program on Thursday evening soon after Eddings’ Talent award win was announced. “She’s worked so hard and genuinely loves performing.”

As Miss Washington, Eddings receives the top cash scholarship of $10,000 as well as numerous awards including a $1,000 in cash, a $500 wardrobe grant, a mink jacket, spa services, a luggage set, a personal trainer, official Miss America photographs, $200 in Rucinni Designer Jewelry, a $500 pearl necklace from Ben Bridge Jewelers, a cashmere blend evening coat from Item House, a Waterford crystal vase, winner’s trophy, teeth whitening from Dove Family Dentistry, roundtrip transportation to the Miss America pageant, a Miss Washington gold/diamond crown pendant from Hartley Jewelers of Olympia and more.

A banquet and awards ball immediately followed Friday evening’s event where the recipients of additional awards were announced. Eddings won the Overall Best Interview award — another $1,000 scholarship award.

Eddings will compete in the Miss America competition in January 2007. Although a location has yet to be verified, it’s rumored to be in Las Vegas.

Now that Eddings has been named Miss Washington, she plans to follow through with the goals she set in the event she was crowned. She plans to launch a national campaign for international education — her platform issue — and intends to become the national spokeswoman for International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) USA. She also plans to team up with Rotary International to promote the organization’s student exchange, group study exchange and internationally focused education programs.

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