Connellsville girl crowned Coal Queen

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 6:09 p.m.

For the first time in the 60-year history of the Bituminous Coal Queen Pageant, a Connellsville Area High School representative has been crowned queen.

Marina Stefano was named the 2013 Bituminous Coal Queen at the Annual Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Show held in Carmichaels.

This was the first time Stefano, a senior at Connellsville, and daughter of Patrick and Christina Tesauro-Stefano of Bullskin, participated in a pageant.

“The competition was a new experience for me. As candidates for queen, the other 11 girls and I did a lot of things together, so we got really close. It took me by surprise to realize how much talent there was. When I went to rehearsal it was awesome. It was one of my favorite parts because we all had bonded. We were all nervous,” Stefano said.

During the three-hour pageant, a court of five was selected from the girls representing high schools throughout the tri-county area.

Stefano's talent portion of the competition was a musical theater number, “Spanish Rose,” from the Broadway hit, “Bye Bye Birdie.”

“I have never done that show, but it is one of my favorites in the world. I had my costume made at The Barre Room in Uniontown so I got to design it myself and help see the vision through,” Stefano said.

As 2013 Coal Queen, Stefano worked at the weeklong festival. This year the theme was King Coal — A Diamond Celebration. She did many things, including making funnel cake, calling bingo, judging the pet show and riding on the queen's float with her court in the annual Coal Association Parade that proceeded along Route 88. Her duties will continue throughout the year at various functions. She will speak to the Pennsylvania Legislature and meet the governor during her reign.

Stefano, 17, has been involved in musical theater since she was very young. She studied with Koza and Company dance studio and later the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Academy. She is a vocal student of Ricardo Tobia of Pittsburgh and has studied privately with Levi Graft and John Wagner Jr.

A senior at Connellsville Area High School, she is a member of the National Honor Society, student council, chamber ensemble and Thespian Honor Society. She is active in community theater and has had roles in the annual high school musical productions each year.

Both sides of Stefano's family have been active in the coal mining industry. Her paternal great-grandfather, Steven Susa, was a coal miner before working his way up into management in one of the Frick mines. He followed in the footsteps of his own father, who also worked as a coal miner. Her maternal great-grandfather, Stanley Squirek, also worked in the mining industry in Lemont Furnace.

Her future plans include attending a performing arts school to become a dance instructor and after that to earn a nursing degree in the field of plastic surgery. She uses dance as therapy working with an autistic youngster and would like to continue in that area.

Stefano's court is composed of fourth runner-up Gabrielle Omatick, daughter of David and Lori Omatick of Connellsville, representing Geibel High School; third runner-up Jenna McCracken, daughter of Chad and Jennifer McCracken of Waynesburg, representing Waynesburg Central High School; second runner-up Kendall Lewis, daughter of Mark and Jeanette Lewis of Carmichaels, of Carmichaels Area High School; and first runner-up, Chelsea Feudale, daughter of Beth Hutson of McClellandtown and James Feudale of Leechburg, representing Albert Gallatin High School.

In addition to being crowned Coal Queen, Stefano was selected to receive the Community Bank Most Photogenic Award and took the category of top talent with her “Spanish Rose” performance.

Nancy Henry is a contributing writer.

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