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“Sparkleheads” celebrate 75th anniversary of Miss New Westminster program

New Westminster Hyack Ambassador leadership program celebrates 75th Diamond Anniversary.

Decades of Hyack ambassadors recently gathered to celebrate the diamond anniversary of the Miss New Westminster title.

Hyack Ambassador program alumni returned to New Westminster from across Canada and the United States to reconnect with fellow “sparkleheads”, in celebration of the program’s 75th anniversary.

The celebration honoured all the New West women who have represented and served as Miss New Westminster, Hyack Ambassadors and members of Team Tiara.

The April 26 to 28 celebration – A Royal Weekend of Remembering Then and Rejoicing Now – included a Princess Pub Party, a Diamond Dinner gala (which included the retirement of Miss New Westminster Jadyn Gibson and her Team Tiara 2023) and a farewell buffet brunch.

Through archival materials, the Hyack Ambassador Program was able to trace records of Miss New Westminster back to 1948.

As the 75th Miss New Westminster, Jadyn Gibson and her 2023 team – Hyack Princess Janel Falbo, Miss Friendship Ella Pitkin and ambassadors Eshnoor Cheema, Sophie Duprey-Steinman, Nikka Patel and Sienna Ziemlanski – celebrated the culmination of their term.

Members of the 2023 team were presented with certificates of completion for contributing more than 1,700 volunteer hours over the course of 20 months. During their time as ambassadors, the group worked with local organizations including BC Farmers’ Markets, Don’t Go Hungry, the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver, the Queensborough Special Programs Committee, the Royal City Gogos and more.

Ziemlanski also won the Spirit Award, which was presented to the participant who most embraces the “spirit” of the ambassador program. She earned an additional $500 scholarship (sponsored by the Fuoco family) on top of the base $2,000 Hyack Festival scholarship awarded to each team member.

The gala raised funds in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, in memory of Eva Markvoort.

Markvoort, a Hyack Ambassador alumna and Miss New Westminster 2002, became known for her blog and documentary film, 65_redroses which raised awareness about this disease and organ donation. Since Markvoort’s passing in 2010, the ambassador program has maintained a close relationship with Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s B.C. chapter, as the program’s charity of choice.

Early titleholders in attendance at the weekend gathering were Merren (Mackie) Conner (1958) and Judy (Collyer) Walker (1966).

Organizers say local VIPs attending the sold-out event at the Anvil Centre included New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside, Coun. Paul Minhas and New Westminster’s 152nd May Queen, Alessia Preovolos.

“This program does a fantastic job of pushing young women just a little bit outside of their comfort zone,” Whiteside said in a news release from event organizers. “And by stepping out of their comfort zone, we see their remarkable growth.”

At the end of the evening, an unofficial title of Ms. Diamond Alumni was awarded to a past ambassador program participant. Conner, the earliest Miss New West in attendance, was selected (by a random draw) and crowned Ms. Diamond Alumni.

On hiatus

The Hyack Ambassador leadership program’s organizing committee and past ambassadors are thankful to the many sponsors, community supporters and New Westminster families who have contributed to the program during the past 75 years.

“So many incredible women have dedicated their lives to this program to keep history alive and continue to make an impact on our youth,” said Kaylin Brown, Miss New Westminster 2011. “I hope they know the ripple effect of their dedication and the impact it's made in hundreds of young lives.”

The Hyack Festival has put the ambassador program on hold in 2024.

Dr. Patricia Celan, who was among those attending the 75th anniversary celebration, said the program has been full of tradition and community for women’s empowerment. She’s sad to see it come to an end.

Celan, who was a Hyack Princess in 2010, has gone on to become a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry.

"The Diamond Anniversary gala was a beautiful, elegant way to commemorate a fantastic youth leadership program,” she said in a statement to the Record. “Women are still underrepresented in many male-dominated areas, so I appreciate that the Hyack Ambassador program created a safe space to empower young women. Statistically, a young immigrant girl with my underprivileged background and many adverse childhood experiences is less likely to grow up healthy and successful.”

Since her involvement in the Hyack Ambassador program, Celan has gone on to participate in a number of pageants. That includes being named Dr. Universe 2024 and Mrs. Universe Canada 2022.

“Every single pageant I have competed in has opened my eyes to bigger dreams while connecting me with inspiring female leaders and mentors who have encouraged my journey,” she said in a statement to the Record. “I am thankful for everything I've experienced and learned in my 15 years of competing in pageants, since entering this program in 2009, being named Hyack Princess in 2010, and having the opportunity to serve our community and represent our Royal City."