A few years ago, Victoria Piekut’s fledgling Westmoreland County fashion boutique caught the eye of the Miss America competition, which put her attire on its famed runway.
On Sunday, the spotlight turned to Piekut.
Standing alongside four fellow finalists, including a Westmont native, the 23-year-old Irwin woman was crowned Miss Pennsylvania 2020 during a packed-full pageant at Richland School District’s Performing Arts Center.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Piekut, describing the crowning moment as an out-of-body experience. “Honestly, when they said my name I think I blacked out for a minute.”
Dressed in a shimmering body suit-style evening gown provided by Celestial Brides in Johnstown, the Wight Elephant Boutique owner topped 14 finalists to earn the right to represent the state in the Miss USA pageant.
Standing just a few feet away in a black evening gown, 21-year-old Tristin Kresak, of Johnstown, finished as the event’s third runner-up, after advancing down to the final five hopefuls just a few miles from the neighborhood she grew up in.
“I never expected them to move this to my hometown. ... I felt like it was an opportunity to tell people about it,” said Kresak, a Point Park college student, who has competed in the event twice before.
The entire experience, she added, was “unforgettable.”
Alexis Barber, 20, of Johnstown, and Claire Letts, 23, of Windber, were also among the initial 61-contestant pool who competed in what served as a weekend-long event for the region.
The Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention Visitors Bureau were able to win the opportunity to hold the event – and estimated it brought 1,000 visitors to the area.
State Pageant Director Randy Sanders praised the community, Richland School District and the convention and visitors bureau Sunday for serving as first-class hosts.
In the teen pageant, Kiara Lin, of Cranberry Township, Venango County, was crowned Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA 2020.
She competed against 24 fellow hopefuls, including Alexandra Boyles, of Ebensburg, and Alexandra Barnhart, of Johnstown.
“I never thought this was going to happen,” Lin said. “I’m so thankful.”