Melissa Chaty, competing as Miss North Coast, is named Miss California 2007.
A marketing assistant from San Diego won the Miss California crown Saturday night at Fresno's William Saroyan Theatre on her fourth try.
Melissa Chaty had been close before -- finishing fifth at last year's Miss California Pageant and placing in the Top 10 in 2005. She did not place in 2002.
Chaty, 23, said it was a surreal moment when she was named Miss California.
"I had to ask someone if the crown was on my head because I didn't believe it," Chaty said.
She said before Saturday's pageant that winning the crown was a goal, not an obsession: "I've learned this year the pageant revolves around my life. My life doesn't revolve around the pageant."
One of the Valley's seven contestants was picked as a top 10 finalist Saturday: Miss Fresno County Jaime Munro.
"I'm on a complete adrenaline rush," Munro said after Chaty was crowned. "This being my first year in the pageant, this is just insane for me."
Chaty, who earned a psychology degree from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, works for the Alzheimer's Association San Diego/Imperial Chapter. Originally from Ukiah in northern California, she competed as Miss North Coast.
Miss Sierra Nevada Cheri Gorin placed second Saturday. The other top five, in order, were Miss Hollywood Kari Johnson, Miss Southwest California Amy Yetasook and Miss Yosemite Valley Jennifer Lee.
Chaty said she wants to promote Alzheimer's awareness as Miss California. She said her grandfather died earlier this year after having the disease for 10 years, and that she and other family members helped with his care.
To compete in the pageant, Chaty said she had to take vacation time from her job. In the pageant's talent competition, she sang "The Jewel Song" from the opera "Faust" in French.
Saturday's finale wrapped up four nights of competition for 49 contestants, including Miss Atwater Holly Holt, Miss Clovis Chance Williams, Miss Kings County Michelle Spoelstra, Miss Merced County Brittney Rice and Miss Tulare County Meaghan Swinney.
Another contestant, Miss San Diego Mallory Spoelstra, also is from the Valley.
She grew up in Hanford, now attends San Diego State University and is Michelle Spoelstra's sister.
Chaty gets a $10,000 scholarship for winning and will now compete in the Miss America Pageant, which faces uncertain times. Country Music Television has dropped the show after televising the 2005 and 2006 pageants.
The Miss California Pageant has been held in Fresno since 1994.
Kurt Hegre / The Fresno Bee
Miss North Coast Melissa Chaty gets hugs from other contestants Saturday after being crowned Miss California 2007 in Fresno.