Earns $4,000 scholarship; will work with autism groups in year of service
Article and Photos by Joshua Maloni
The 65th annual Niagara County Peach Festival closed Sunday night with the naming of Kirsten Ferree as Peach Queen. A 20-year-old North Tonawanda native and Buffalo State University senior, Ferree receives both a crown and a $4,000 scholarship courtesy of the Lewiston Kiwanis Club.
“It feels amazing,” she said following a round of photos with the other four finalists in the Academy Park Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Band Shell. “I'm so honored to be in this position to serve Niagara County and be an avid role model in my community; and I'm so honored to have received this.”
Ferree added, “I knew that it would be an amazing honor. … I am so excited to be in this position, and all the girls supporting me, around me, deserve this, as well, and I'm just so honored.”
As part of her responsibility as Peach Queen, Ferree must complete a year of service.
“I have always considered myself someone who wants to make a positive difference in my community; and I think we all have something to offer to the people around us,” she said. “One thing that I hold myself to every day is to continue to make a positive impact in every single person I meet, and I hope that others are inspired to do the same.”
She explained, “My platform is advocating for childhood autism. I truly am passionate about this, because I want to show people that they should be embracing their differences, and our diversity in our community should be spread more. I want to spread more awareness for the autism community. And I think, if everyone was a little kinder to each other, our community would be in such a better place. I want to support the autism community and really make a positive difference.”
Ferree intends to work with the Buffalo Autism Project and the Autism Society of Western New York.
The daughter of Rich and Kelly Goodman, Ferree enjoys soccer and babysitting, and plays the ukulele and violin. She served as varsity coach for the Northtowns Cheerleading group and helped run the Adams Fire Co. junior firefighter program.
Ferree was class president in all four years of high school and has gone on to be a dean’s list student at Buffalo State while pursuing a degree in interior design. She will graduate in the spring of 2024.
Scholarship program director and Upward Niagara Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Pauly said, “Kirsten is excited about her year! One of the first things she did after her crowning was ask for a glass of Peach Pop! (Pageant assistants) Ali Fitch, Jessica Onevello and I have had the opportunity to work with the contestants for the past month and a half, getting to know their personalities. Kirsten is genuine through and through, and we cannot be more excited for her and what she will do throughout the year!”
Kirsten Ferree receives her crown from outgoing Peach Queen Jordan Brooks and scholarship director Jennifer Pauly.
Each of the top 5 scholarship pageant finalists received a silver Peach Queen pendant.
Twenty-one-year-old Emileigh Mazurkiewicz of North Tonawanda finished as first runner-up and will receive $500. She also earned a $50 gift card for acquiring the most backpacks (76) at a recent fundraiser to benefit elementary school children.
The remainder of the top five included 21-year-old Molly Chiarella of Niagara Falls; 21-year-old Alaina Winkworth of Youngstown; and 19-year-old Elizabeth Teal of Lewiston.
This year’s Tara Laurie Miss Congeniality Award was presented to 19-year-old Hannah Sherman of Wheatfield. The award is voted on by the Peach Queen contestants, and honors both a friendly, charismatic entrant; and Laurie, a former Peach Blossom and Peach Queen finalist, who tragically died of a viral infection in her heart a few days before her 21st birthday in 2004.
The Bright Star award, given to a non-finalist who has earned the accolade’s title, was given to 21-year-old Marisa Forcucci of Niagara Falls. The award was recently renamed to honor the late Jeanette Collesano, who served as a pageant mentor for 30 years.
WGRZ-TV Channel 2 news anchor Maryalice Demler again served as emcee, accompanied by Pauly.
Other speakers included outgoing Peach Queen Jordan Brooks; Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Rebecca Wydysh, Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch and Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Broderick; and Kiwanians Gerry Gismondi and John Ceretto, who said the festival’s overall fundraising total may cross the $2 million mark this year.
Kirsten Ferree is congratulated (and hugged) by her peers.
The Peach Queen court. (Photo by Robin Clark)
Peach Queen Jordan Brooks with Peach Queen Kirsten Ferree. (Photo by Robin Clark)
Peach Queen Kirsten Ferree. (Photo by Robin Clark)
Brooks escorts the Peach Blossom and Peach Fuzz to the stage.
Maryalice Demler with the new Peach Blossom and Peach Fuzz.
Peach Fuzz Deacon Castro, age 5, is the son of Joe and Lisa Castro. He is in kindergarten at Starpoint Central School. Peach Blossom Emma Vigil, age 7, is the daughter of Jason and Maren Vigil. She is in second grade at Lewiston-Porter. (Photo by Robin Clark)