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Story Last modified at 2:27 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Local gals are in the spotlight
Pageant success earns pair parade ride

Alaska Star


Miss Alaska's Outstanding Teen Hannah Rockwell, left, and Miss Birchwood's Outstanding Teen JoEllen Walters wave to the crowd during the Chugiak Fourth of July Parade. Rockwell will travel to Florida later this year to compete in the Miss Teen America Pageant.

Among the hundreds of people who participated in this year's Chugiak Fourth of July Parade, two definitely stood out.

Decked out in fancy gowns and tiaras, the two teen girls drew stares wherever they went, whether it was riding atop a fancy sports car or walking through the post-parade crowds.

"So many people want to come up to them and touch the princess," said Janine Walters, whose daughter, JoEllen, rode in the parade alongside her Chugiak High classmate Hannah Rockwell.

The two seniors-to-be, both 17, were among the big stars of the parade – and for good reason. Rockwell, the reigning Miss Chugiak-Eagle River Outstanding Teen, recently earned a trip to Orlando when she was named Miss Alaska Outstanding Teen at the 2011 Miss Alaska Pageant on June 29 in Anchorage.

Rockwell, who wants to become a surgeon, said winning the title was a dream come true.

"This is kind of the big one for me," said Rockwell, who won the teen Interview, Evening Gown and On-Stage Question awards at the pageant.

Walters, who entered the Miss Alaska Outstanding Teen pageant as the representative from Birchwood, won the teen Quality of Life award. She was also named Miss Bear Paw in 2010, her very first pageant.

"I was like, 'I'll give this a try,'" she recalled.

Walters and Rockwell said they loved riding in the parade, and even devised a strategy for parceling out their limited supplies of candy.

"We knew the ones at the end never get a lot of candy," Walters said. "So we saved it."

Though the two girls were the only pageant winners in the parade, they weren't the only Chugiak-Eagle River residents to make a splash at the Miss Alaska pageant. Also there was former Miss Bear Paw and 2009 Miss Alaska Outstanding Teen Veronica Temple, 17, of Eagle River. Temple, this year's Miss Chugiak-Eagle River, finished as the third runner up to Miss Alaska Katy Lovegreen of Anchorage.

Also at the pageant was Chugiak's Debbe Ebben, 22, who finished first runner-up to Temple at the 2011 Miss Chugiak pageant last October. Ebben earned the Children's Miracle Network Award, the Career Academy scholarship, Miss Quality of Life award and the top ad sales award.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, July 6, 2011.