LORAIN — The Lorain International Festival crowned its new queen, who was representing Puerto Rico.
Alena Aguayo was awarded the title Thursday night at the 53rd Lorain International Princess Pageant. She is the first Puerto Rican queen since 2010.
Joining Aguayo on the court is first runner-up Manimone Sengvoravong, representing Laos; second runner-up Nicole Londo, representing Slovakia; and third runner-up Julianne Weber, representing Poland.
“This means so much to me,” Aguayo said. “Just growing up in Lorain and going to the festival every year and just how proud I am of my Puerto Rican culture and just being able to represent that tonight.”
She said she’s proud to represent both Lorain and immigrants from Puerto Rico, including her grandparents.
“They’re such a loving, hardworking people and we’re proud of who we are,” Aguayo said. “I know in times like this there’s a lot of division about race, but we’re proud who we are; we embrace all.”
Three judges from outside Lorain County selected Aguayo and her court out of 24 women, who represented 14 countries.
Each woman had a 10-minute interview with the judges Thursday morning and was scored on characteristics such as charisma and personality.
Natalie Rodriquez, the princess coordinator and chairperson of the pageant committee, praised the princesses for their attitudes throughout the process.
“These girls were incredible,” she said. “We really had a fun time with them at all the events. I really saw them shine at all of our community service events. … They enjoyed every aspect of it.”
Several former queens and runners-up were present at the pageant, going back to 1970. Aguayo is the fifth queen representing Puerto Rican heritage to be crowned.
Aguayo played the piano as a talent at the pageant, which is not a part of the judging but is for entertainment.
Ben Davey, president of the Lorain International Association, said in a letter that the pageant allows the princesses to explore their culture and educate others about it.
“Our diversity is our strength,” he said. “That is what we honor every year when we come together as a community to celebrate this great festival.”
The festival and bazaar at Black River Landing continues with opening ceremonies at 5 p.m. today, and goes until 11 p.m. It then continues from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $3 per person.
The International Festival Parade will be 11:30 a.m. Sunday and start at 21st Street and Broadway, proceed north on Broadway to West Ninth Street and then disperse along Reid Avenue between West Ninth and Fifth streets.
For information about the festival, visit loraininternational.com.