Marina Inserra had even more reason to celebrate on Saturday night when she was crowned Miss California at the Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno.
Inserra, who competed as Miss Yosemite Valley, was shocked and excited to hear her name called, followed by the singing of "Happy Birthday" by the audience. Saturday's competition was the 90th annual Miss California pageant.
"It's hard to even believe I won. This is the best birthday present I could have ever asked for," said Inserra, who turned 24 on Saturday.
As the winner, Inserra receives a $12,000 scholarship from the Miss California pageant and advances to the Miss America pageant, to be held in Atlantic City, N.J. There, she will compete for the title of Miss America 2015.
The suspense built all evening Saturday as one young woman after another crossed the stage in swimsuit or evening gown, or demonstrated a special talent for singing or tap dancing.
Would they be among the final 12, the final 10, the final five, the next Miss California?
The cheers resonating throughout the Saroyan Theatre showed that the crowd was just as anxious as the contestants to hear the name of the winner.
The Miss California competition, which has been held for 22 years at the Saroyan, had 52 contestants this year, including seven with ties to the Valley: Miss Kings County Mackenzie Dias, Miss Tulare County Tara Broderick, Miss Merced County Danielle Diele, Miss Gavilan Hills Caelin Nieto, Miss Central Valley Blaire Bostwick, Miss Clovis Morgan Edwards and Miss Central California Regional Kathryn Faull.
A dance performance introducing all the contestants kicked off the pageant, followed by a surprise appearance by Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, who announced the top 15 finalists.
After the top 15 competed in the swimsuit segment, 24 former Miss Californias were introduced during a performance of "We Are Family."
The finalists then began the talent segment of the show. First was Miss County of San Francisco Emily Tom with a piano performance. Contestants' talents ranged from vocal and piano performances to tap dance acts.
Following the pageant's intermission, the contestants participated in the evening wear segment. Inserra donned a red gown topped with silver sparkles.
The stage was then littered with feathers when five former Miss California winners performed a ballet rendition of "Swan Lake." Miss California 2013 Crystal Lee also danced her final performance of her reign.
Then five finalists were named: Inserra, Miss East Bay Cities Felicia Stiles, Tom, Miss Orange County Bree Morse and Miss Sacramento County Ashley Ott. Ott was named first runner-up.
Preliminary events were held earlier in the week. Tuesday night's winners were Stiles for talent and Tom for evening wear. On Wednesday night, Miss San Francisco Jordan Krinke won the talent portion and Miss Bay Counties Caylynn Simonson won the evening wear event. Thursday night, Inserra won talent and Miss Hollywood Gabriela Garcia won evening wear. On the final night of preliminary events, Miss Tustin Emma Foss won talent and Stiles won the evening wear event.
The week of competition also included the crowning of Miss California Outstanding Teen.
The 2013 winner, Mikaela Harris of Fresno, crowned her replacement, Miss Orange County Kyla Reed, on Friday night.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6330, firstname.lastname@example.org or @SharonBMartin on Twitter.