The scene at Mitchells of Westport on Friday night was almost like a senior prom where all the girls were crowned Homecoming Queen.
At the 16th annual Varsity Vogue Fashion Show and Auction, senior members of the Staples High School cheerleading squad modeled the latest fashions from Mitchells spring collections before a crowd estimated at more than 500 people, easily exceeding last year's figure of about 300.
"I've been doing this a long time. This is the biggest crowd we ever had," said Marce Petroccio, the coach of the Staples Wreckers football team.
Avery Watson, the head coach for the cheerleading squad, said the annual event raises funding for the Staples squad, as well as other community causes. "It helps support our team for the following year. It can get expensive," she said.
Proceeds go to training clinics for the cheerleaders, who also make donations to the Westport Police Athletic League cheerleading program and the St. Vincent's Medical Center cancer center, the latter in honor of the Mitchell family.
"It's a unique experience celebrating the seniors. They look forward to it for four years. It's their crowning night. It's very special," Watson said.
"We don't wear the Mitchells clothing as juniors," said Zoe Googe, 17, a senior cheerleader and co-captain of the squad along with Olivia Stanley, 17.
The seniors' only responsibility for Varsity Vogue is to look good and walk the runway. "Our moms do most of the work. Our moms are amazing," said Stanley. Linda Googe and Beverly Stanley served as co-chairwomen of the event.
"They set up the whole thing, organized the auction and picked out the clothing," Zoe Googe said. "We have a low budget at school for cheerleading so we use the funds to benefit our team. We need money for transportation, uniforms and maintaining the mats," she said.
Olivia Stanley said the squad won one competition this season, placed ninth at the state competition and seventh in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference competition.
Among the dozens of silent and live auction items was a Forevermark "Center of My Universe" diamond pendant featuring a three-quarter carat center diamond surrounded by a halo of pave set diamonds in 18-karat White Gold that has a retail price of $7,500. Also on the block were a day of race-car driving at Monticello Speedway, a day with WFAN sports-radio personalities Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, and producer's seats at a Broadway show.
Bill Mitchell, a former owner of the clothing store, temporarily made the Mitchells clothier the dividing line between Red Sox Nation and New York Yankees empire. Auctioning some of his own tickets to a New York Yankees and a separate Boston Red Sox game, Mitchell asked the crowd for their sports affiliation.
"Let's see if your check book and your cash match your enthusiasm," he said. In this venue the Red Sox came out on top. The winning bid for the Yankee game tickets was $700 while the Red Sox package -- including a tour of Fenway Park and meeting the players -- went for $1,600.
Petroccio auctioned a signed basketball autographed by Staples players and a team-signed football. He drove up the price of the football after reminding the crowd that the Wreckers have won three of the last four FCIAC gridiron championships. The winning bid was $1,050.
Junior cheerleaders escorted the football and basketball players on the runway, and underclassmen cheerleaders performed for the crowd. When the fashion show ended several young girls -- including Hayley Buckman, 9, and Lauren Davis, 10 -- practiced walking the runway anticipating their senior year as Staples cheerleaders in about eight years.