Eight years ago, I sang Our Song by Taylor Swift at a family party. Afterwards, when a family friend approached me, saying that I should run for Missette Butte County when I was old enough, I knew I had to do it. From then on, I watched the program throughout the years, and when I was 11 years old, I ran for Missette. After spending that year as Missette Butte County 1st Runner Up, I came back to compete again, and walked away as Missette Butte County. Little did I know that the family friend who convinced me to run when I was 5 years old, would be spending the year with me, serving as Miss Butte County. Hello everyone. My name is Melanie Cunningham and I am your 2016 Missette Butte County and Congeniality. This year has been too many words to describe. I’ve grown into a strong individual, and I owe a lot of it to my experiences here. I’ve gained confidence, public speaking skills, and lifelong memories. I’ve spent hundreds of hours volunteering in the community this year, and it has helped me gain a passion for community service. Some of my favorite events were the Making Strides Breast Cancer Walk in Chico where I sang the National Anthem and walked 5 miles through Bidwell Park, and the Salvation Army Bell Ringing, where Bri and I stood in the pouring rain and sang Panic at the Disco songs. But my year goes beyond fun memories. I will never forget the look on a little girl’s face when she points out my “princess crown” to her mom, or the smiles of gratitude from an event organizer. This program isn’t a pageant, it’s an opportunity for girls to grow as a person, and that is something I will always be thankful for. Mom and Dad - thank you for all that you have done for me in letting me take the opportunities that have come my way. Grandma and Grandpa Melton - thank you for sponsoring me last year and supporting my dream. Teri Garcia and Century 21 of Gridley - thank you for stepping in and sponsoring me to compete last year. I wouldn’t be here without you. KG - Thank You for laughing at my jokes when they weren't quite funny. Aricka - You've been the greatest friend ever. I'm going to miss you so much! This year was amazing with you! Don’t forget the Missette handshake. Bri, spending this year with you has been a dream come true and the best year ever! Thank you to the Butte County Fair Board for giving me the opportunity to serve you and for supporting the program all these years. Your support gives girls like me the opportunity to change their lives. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve as your Missette Butte County. I will never forget this year, and believe me, this isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of me.