South Williamsport teen wins state title

RENOVO – From the moment that Michelle Hunter took the stage at Sunday’s coronation, it was obvious that the Pennsylvania State Flaming Foliage Festival and Renovo had captured her attention.

An hour later when a decision was made, it was just as clear that Hunter was holding the audience and judges’ acceptance as well, as the South Williamsport representative was chosen as the 68th annual festival queen.

As the contestants are introduced to the audience during the coronation and just before the judges render their final votes, the young ladies are offered the microphone.

When Hunter had a chance to speak, she immediately impressed all in the Bucktail High School gymnasium with her quick-witted humor as she summarized her weekend.

First she thanked the judges for “treating us like humans, not … animals.” Even Hunter laughed at her impromptu description.

She thanked committee member Maria Gentzyel for helping her after she fell when a clown approached her during the parade. She thanked another committee member, Mary Charcalla, for helping her get through the weekend’s menus – Hunter is a vegan.

After Hunter was chosen as the newest FFF queen, the accolades that others had for her and the ones that she had for Renovo just kept coming.

“This is awesome and she’s just awesome,” said her escort for the weekend, McGwire Molino. “I’ve known her since elementary school. She’s such a hard worker and she cares so much for others.”

“This weekend was super-fun,” Hunter said just after winning the title. “The parade was my favorite part; it was just a great experience.”

Miss South Williamsport explained that she was not certain how the parade crowd would go but she could not have asked for more from the people who lined the streets.

“I thought coming to Renovo that the people along the parade route would be biased, rooting for their hometown representatives, I thought they would maybe politely clap,” she explained. “It was nothing like that – they cheered and waved. They truly made me feel so welcomed to be in Renovo.”

The 68th annual parade could not have asked for a better mid-autumn day than it received on Saturday. Bright, sunny and temperatures around 70 degrees proved the perfect weather for the host town to display its yearly event.

Although the experience was certainly one that each person will take home for themselves, without question, a highlight for many was the inaugural marching of the Bucktail Alumni Band.

The hometown school had not been able to put a marching band together over recent years but, spearheaded by Bucktail alum Jesse Moore, about 30 members went through the streets of Renovo, marching to tunes inspired by Billy Joel.

Applause was a typical greeting and that pride continued into Saturday night as word spread that the alumni band took first-place honors in the bands under 50 members category.