GLOVERSVILLE - In 1971, the price of gas hovered around 40 cents a gallon, 18-year-olds secured the right to vote through adoption of the 26th Amendment, and a tradition was blossoming in Fulton County.
On Saturday in the Gloversville High School auditorium, 23-year-old Kieren Sheridan was crowned 2011's Miss Fulton County on the pageant's 40-year anniversary.
Though Sheridan, of Johnstown, has held two other titles and last year competed in the Miss New York pageant as Miss Mohawk Valley, winning Miss Fulton County was a surreal experience that brought her to tears when 2010's Miss Fulton County Heather Shaffer crowned her.
"I've won two other titles and I never cried before," Sheridan said. "It's not that [the others] weren't a huge accomplishment, but Miss Fulton County is so huge in the community. It seems beyond belief right now."
Mike Bellotti and Lisa McCoy were the master and mistress of ceremonies. This year, as a special 40-year tribute, the pageant began with a slideshow by Joseph Constantino featuring first-year footage of the Miss America pageant and then images through the years of Miss Fulton County.
As Miss Fulton County, Sheridan was awarded a $5,040 scholarship - increased from previous years to commemorate the pageant's 40th anniversary - and a diamond necklace from J. Fine Jewelers.
Kieren Sheridan is crowned Miss Fulton County by Miss Fulton County 2010 Heather Shaffer at Gloversville High School on Saturday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
But the ultimate award, Sheridan said, is the chance to serve as the ambassador of the Miss America program to the community.
"It can be easy to lose sight of what the ultimate accomplishment is, and that's ambassador to the community," Sheridan said, thanking the Miss Fulton County Board of Directors for their support and encouragement and providing the opportunity.
"We had seven contestants here tonight, but we had over 600 people in the house. It's something that's so important to the community and I feel so honored to be their representative," Sheridan said.
This year, a total of $11,263 in scholarships were awarded. The first runner-up, Danielle Trumbull, a student at SUNY Oneonta, was awarded $2,040 while second runner-up, Amanda Boyer, was awarded $1,040 for that title. Boyer also won the talent and interview awards at $340 each.
Trumbull, 21, said she felt great that she did her best and credited her hostess, Jessica Fielding. Boyer said she already felt like she won after everything she accomplished and learned working up to the competition.
Sheridan credited a strong family connection as the key to her win. Both her sisters, Keelie and Courtney, hold several titles and all three competed against each other at Miss New York last year.
"The pageants have taught them to realize they're each other's best friends," said their father, Mike. "These guys have a constructive relationship. They love each other and they've grown through the losses, as well as the wins. I'm unbelievably proud of all they've accomplished."
The three sisters also have the support of their mother, Maxine Gasser, who sewed Kieren's swimsuit for the competition.
"She's worked so hard for this. I know she's very excited about being Miss Fulton County," Gasser said. "It's her last year to compete, so she's really thrilled."