Life is really starting to take off for Tara Hoefig.
The Kent Lions Club named the future airline pilot as Miss Cornucopia 2017 on Friday afternoon at Town Square Plaza downtown to help kick off the three-day Kent Cornucopia Days street fair and festival.
Hoefig, 18, will use the $3,000 scholarship she received from the Lions Club to help pay for schooling at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., where she will train to become a commercial pilot.
”The Kent Lions helped turn my dream into a reality and a plan,” said Hoefig, a recent graduate of Kentlake High School. “I plan to come back to the Pacific Northwest and continue my dream as an airline pilot.”
Hoefig, of Black Diamond, was the only contestant in the event. She participated last year when Whitney Bowen, a 2016 Kent-Meridian High graduate, won the title.
“We had several girls send in information,” said Andi Lanxon, president of the Kent Lions Foundation. “Unfortunately, they didn’t want to participate fully to qualify to be Miss Cornucopia. But one girl did and she’s going to make an outstanding Miss Cornucopia. She is an accomplished young lady. I’m really proud of her.”
Five girls contacted Lanxon about the competition. She said two were too young and the others failed to complete all of the information. Contestants must write an essay and speak before the Lions Club. As many as 18 girls competed in the 2008 contest. Students at Kent high schools, Green River and Highline colleges are eligible for Miss Cornucopia.
Despite no other contestants, Lanxon said Hoefig certainly has the qualities the Lions Club looks for. They are judged on their strengths in community service, academics and public speaking.
“The judges gave her packet back to me said they didn’t think anybody can touch her,” said Lanxon even before judges knew there were no other entries.
For her community service, Hoefig ran the Santa program last year for the Lake Sawyer Community Club in Black Diamond, where kids who live on the lake get gifts delivered by boat.
Hoefig, the daughter of Brian and Sheila Hoefig, also earned a $500 scholarship from the Lions last year as a Miss Cornucopia finalist.
“Hopefully, we will get her in the air with that and look for her voice on an airplane,” Lanxon said.
It was only a couple of years ago that Hoefig decided to become a pilot.
“I know everyone has these stories ‘I knew when I was a little kid,’” Hoefig said during an interview after Mayor Suzette Cooke crowned her. “I didn’t know until my sophomore year. Kentlake and the Kent School District offer an introduction to aviation course and it allows you about five hours of flight time with an instructor. When I went on my first flight, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.”
Embry-Riddle offers a four-year program but Hoefig expects to graduate in about three years because she has more than 100 credits from the Green River College running start program offered to high school students.
It surprised Hoefig to be the only contestant.
“It’s a little different being the only one,” she said. “We bonded (last year). I wish there was more of us so the whole community could get a better idea about what Kent Cornucopia is. Just being one person it’s a little difficult to get the word out about what we do.”
Hoefig had a few ideas about how to boost participation.
“I know the scholarship is a little bit difficult to find online and a lot of people don’t know about it,” she said. “Maybe they could do more online advertising like Facebook and Instagram because so many kids use social media.”