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A Hamilton speaker won the Toastmasters Division A speech contest in Columbia Falls on Oct. 7.

Tricia Parks, president of the Bitterroot Toastmasters Club, took first place in the Table Topics competition. Table Topics are one to two-minute impromptu speeches on a topic provided just before the contestant speaks.

Parks said it is hard to think on your feet.

“It’s always a challenge,” she said. “But it was exciting to beat people who have gone to international competition previously and the top echelon of our whole district, which is three different states.”

Parks said she was ready for the challenge because last year she competed in the inspirational competition of Toastmasters and took third.

“I was two speeches away from standing on the world stage, so that was pretty fantastic,” she said. “It’s always a challenge but always a good challenge because it makes you grow as a person.”

The Toastmasters Division A competition was for 17 western Montana clubs representing about 285 members. Along with Parks' first-place award, other Table Topics winners are: second - Wayne O’Brien, City of Gold Toastmasters in Helena; and third - Elizabeth Depke, Kalispell Toastmasters.

The Toastmasters Division A speech contest is a stepping stone and Parks will advance to the district competition on Oct. 27 and 28 in Helena. She will compete against speakers from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Minnesota and Wyoming.

Parks said Toastmasters has been key to her self-confidence and personal growth.

“I’ve recently been elected as president of our club,” she said. “That has been such an integral part of my finding my voice as a leader. It has made me feel like what I say matters and it has changed my life.”

Parks said being in Bitterroot Toastmasters has helped her business.

She and her husband, Amos, own Glass Guy Bitterroot Valley Incorporated (BVI) located on the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 93 and Woodside cut-off.

“My husband was a former president of the Bitterroot Toastmasters,” Tricia Parks said. “It’s a fantastic organization to be part of.”

For more information on Toastmasters, or to find a club, visit on-line