By Pete Zamplas- Five queens will be crowned Saturday night, Jan. 28 in three Miss America-affiliated pageants in Flat Rock Playhouse.
Miss Asheville/Blue Ridge Valley generates a winner for each, from a combined field of ten. This is open to the 16 westernmost counties in the state for those who live, study or work there.
Miss Hendersonville returns after a seven-year absence, also for those age 17-23. Seven are competing. Miss Outstanding Teen (age 13-16) contest yields winners for Blue Ridge Valley and Hendersonville. The six teen contestants can win either teen crown. In all, there are 23 contestants.
There will be a winner and at least two runners-up for each pageant. There have been four runners-up for each in recent years but may be fewer with Hendersonville joining the bill.
The triple-pageant extravaganza is sold out, starts at 5 p.m., is projected to last three to four hours, rotates groups, and honors 20 “Blue Ridge Valley princesses” ages 5-12. Pat’s School of Dance, some past Miss Hendersonville winners and the princesses are bonus entertainers.
The three pageants are WNC’s only preliminaries for Miss North Carolina then Miss America, noted Jon Vance and Jeff Jones. They are executive directors of non-profit Miss Hendersonville/Asheville/Blue Ridge Valley Scholarship Pageants, Inc. Scholarships are prizes.
Here in alphabetical order are the 10 young women competing together for both Miss Asheville and Miss Blue Ridge Valley:
Ashley Gossett’s platform is “Heart to Heart.” Alicia Green of Bryson City, who turned 19 earlier this month, is a Swain High alum. Her jobs include being a lifeguard. Her platform is about the American Red Cross.
Melody Hager, a UNC-Asheville psychology student, is a Charlotte Catholic alum. Her platform is “Music Therapy and Awareness.” Hannah Harvey, a North Iredell grad from Statesville, has a platform of “ Create, Innovate and Motivate Through Fine Arts Education.”
Candice Holden of Asheville works as a cosmetics consultant, and receptionist. Her platform is “Asthma Awareness and Support.” Jenna Huff, of Richfield, has a platform of “Sportsmanship.”
Savannah Maynor of Asheville is a 2012 Erwin High grad, now a Mars Hill University senior. She titles her platform “MoiPads: Empowering Girls from Start to Finish.”
Rachel Leigh Möwer of Kings Mountain, a Gardner-Webb nursing student, calls her platform “Breathe Hope: Raising Awareness of Cystic Fibrosis.”
Camille Tyler, of Waynesville, has a political science student at Appalachian State. Her platform is “Special Needs Awareness: Breaking the Stigma.”
Alicia Wierzbicki is an Asheville Police dispatcher. She earned a criminal justice degree at Alabama, in her native state. Her platform is “Educate Don’t Discriminate: Advocating for Pit-Bulls.”
Two of the six teen (ages 13-16) contestants are Hendersonville High School students. Kaitlyn Burns, 16, has a platform of “Kaitlyn’s Keepsakes.” She dances with Releve. Katelyn Ledbetter, via Pat’s School of Dance, was among halftime dancers at the recent Orange Bowl. Her platform is “Dance Therapy for Special Needs Children.”
The teen crown hopeful from Buncombe County is Marissa Price, an Enka alum. Her platform is “Alzheimer’s Awareness: Stopping it before it Starts.”
Jordyn Newell cheers for Tuscola. Her platform is “Caring Couture.” Maggie Effler, a clogging instructor, is a sophomore in McDowell Early College. Her platform is “Caught Red Handed: Heart Disease Awareness.” Skylar Rock, a McDowell High product, has a teen platform of “Body Positivity.”
As Jeff Jones puts it, “We decided to put on one big show” of three pageants with five titles. Kim Ball, who coordinates princesses, pledged “the show will be incredibly entertaining.” Ball of Canton and Tiffany Blackwell of Henderson County are co-business managers of the pageants.
The opening dance number includes all contestants, who then get introduced. The two main pageants will likely answer on-stage questions typically relating to their platforms and possibly on politics and social issues, Blackwell said. Talent and fitness are apt to be rotated among groups, she said. Then all are in evening gowns, including teens when they each answer their on-stage question such as about pop culture.
Contestants were asked to submit “selfie” self-photos, not professional shots, to get a truer sense of their look and personality, Ball noted.
Community service is a main role for pageant winners, and thus platforms are pivotal factors for contestants and to younger girls they mentor, organizers noted. “The platform is what they’re most passionate about,” Ball said after scanning lists. “I’m impressed with these girls’ stories.”
Blackwell, who does hospice work, is proudest of the service projects her younger daughter Jalon, now 11, did across the state as Junior Miss N.C. in 2015. Tiffany said Jalon realize what some people “don’t have,” and to better appreciate what one has. Jalon said she felt “sad” and “took things for granted,” but was very “happy to help other people.”
Carly Ball, Kim and Lee Ball’s youngest child who soon turns 9, is a princess. This summer will be her third year attending the Miss N.C. pageant in Raleigh, and dancing among 110 princesses. Carly said she most enjoyed watching the talent and evening gown segments, and seeing how the older girls move and act.
“It’s not pageantry. It’s mentoring,” Kim Ball said. “The princesses spend a year with the queens, in appearances. They can also volunteer. It’s awesome. We love the service aspect. It’s much more than pretty dresses and a fancy crown. It’s giving back to your community. Carly sees that, and takes that to heart. The girls mentor her. They’re wonderful role models.”
Carly volunteers in the V.A. Medical Center in Oteen. She spent her total birthday gift money last year on dog and cat food, which she presented to an animal rescue clinic in Clyde. And she passed out pizza and donuts at Special Olympics.
“Forever Queens” past winners will perform. One, Nicole Ledford Kiser, Miss Asheville 2007, was a two-time National Showstopper dance champ. Kiser and Kellie Pittman Jones, Miss Blue Ridge Valley 2014, will co-host the pageants.
For more on the three pageants including photos and platforms of all contestants, check their combined Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/miss.asheville.pageant/.