Elizabeth Fechtel was Miss Florida. That is until the pageant officials discovered they had made an “error in the tabulation process” and crowned her mistakenly, and thus, the crown has gone to the runner up in this, the second major Miss America pageant blunder in recent days.
This year for Miss America contenders is become one of stranger than fiction. Who would have ever believed that two different states this year would crown two different women and then take their crowns away. And particularly not for anything the beauty queens themselves have done. No, there are no sex scandals, no nude pictures leaking to the Internet, no previously hidden arrest record. Nothing of the sort. This time we must put the blame on organizers.
Just days after we learned of the 24-year-old Amanda Longacre, formerly Miss Delaware losing her crown because she was “too old” according to pageant rules, now Miss Florida, 20-year-old Elizabeth Fechtel is no longer such. She too has lost her crown over a counting error. Yes, and in Florida of all places! Florida of the “hanging chad” drama of the 2000 Presidential election.
While it may be stranger than fiction, it’s heartbreaking for Elizabeth Fechtel of Leesburg, Florida as she is no longer the titleholder. That honor has now gone to runner up Panama City resident Victoria Cowen.
Now in the aftermath of this fiasco comes another impassive statement from pageant organizers. This time saying, in part, “to protect the integrity of the Miss Florida Scholarship Organization it is imperative to make sure that the contestant who received the highest overall score is officially named the winner.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, pageant officials visited Fechel’s family in person with the news and the explanation of what happened. The former Miss Florida’s mother, Dixie Fechtel, told the newspaper that they were told that one of the judges had drawn lines, reversing his vote within the last 15 seconds from Fechel to Cowen.
As for the Elizabeth Fechtel biography and background details, a pertinent fact emerges. According to the Tampa Bay Times, quoting Vince Fechtel, her father, a former Florida state senator and state representative, the beauty queen was a student at the University of Florida and had dropped out in order to compete in the pageant.
While at the school she was involved in school activities serving as as student senator as well as a recruitment chairwoman for Alpha Delta Pi, her sorority. With the loss of the crown, is also the loss of thousands of dollars in scholarship money.
In the aftermath, Fechtel herself has spoken out on Facebook as well as on her new blog which she has started. She said in part, “I appreciate your support more than words can say. I am grateful to have people who stand by me because of who I am, not what I do.”
The grace and the prevailing positive spirit are quite admirable. As is so often the case in these circumstances, the former Miss Florida has received the international notoriety that she may not have as just another contestant in the Miss America pageant in the fall. One hopes she can parlay the attention to her favor, even as she must come to grips with the disappointment.
You can see a video report and a full gallery of Elizabeth Fechtel pictures below.
Photos: Elizabeth Fechtel
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