STUNNING April Grant received the perfect birthday present this week after she was named Hastings Carnival Queen just days before she turned 18.
April beat more than 70 other hopefuls to take the coveted crown – which also comes with the Miss Hastings title – and admitted she was bowled over to win one of the most hotly-contested prizes in the competition’s history.
The 17 finalists went head-to-head at the East Hastings Sea Angling Association on The Stade on Sunday evening, with each girl being grilled by the judges before being interviewed on stage in front of the packed-out crowd.
And April, who turned 18 on Wednesday, told the Observer: “I was completely shocked when they read my name out. I have always wanted to be in the carnival and when they approached me in town and asked me to enter I thought, ‘This is my chance.’
“But I never thought I would win – there were some really pretty girls and they were excellent at the interviews. You can see by my face in the pictures how surprised I was.
“It was definitely a nice early birthday present but it’s pretty overwhelming,” she added.
The former Filsham Valley pupil, who now works at Sussex Coast College Hastings as an apprentice, had support from her mum, nan and granddad at Sunday’s final and admitted that her proud mum “shed a little tear” when the results were announced.
And with the news finally sinking in, April is looking forward to an exciting and varied year ahead.
“I keep putting my little crown on at home and I am really looking forward to it. You get so many opportunities – to go all over the place and be a huge part of the town - and I am going to grab them all.
“Despite some of the publicity it gets Hastings has a really nice vibe and a tight community, especially around events like the carnival and May Day. I want to show people that other side of the town.”
Organisers admitted the judges had a tough time deciding on the winners, but eventually they named Nicole Pavitt and Lucy Richardson as the princesses for this year, with last year’s winner, Tamara Gates, staying on as deputy Miss Hastings this year.
Lucie Hide, herself a former Miss Hastings, who organised this year’s event and will act as chaperone, said: “I think April’s natural charm, and genuine warm personality were key in her success in the contest and we wish her all the best for a fantastic year ahead.”
She also thanked the many local businesses which donated prizes and helped make the contest a success.