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Contestants for the Miss Crook County Scholarship Program and the Miss Crook County Outstanding Teen Program: FROM LEFT: Teagan Azbill (Teen), Tobi Hanes (Teen), Bethany Johnson (Miss), Jackie Nelson (Miss), Shelbii Fioravanti (Miss), Harli Bowers (Miss), Natalie Stenbeck (Miss), Jessica Stanley (Miss), Teresa Maldonato (Miss). Not pictured: Paisley Ford (Miss).
The Miss Crook County Scholarship Program is approaching its 12th year, and tomorrow night a lucky young woman will be crowned Miss Crook County 2013.
The local pageant qualifies the winning contestants to go to Miss Oregon in Seaside, Ore., to contend for the Miss Oregon crown. The contestants must be at least a senior in high school, and compete in evening gown, interviews, talent, onstage questions, and fitness (swimsuit). The young women also participate in community service prior to the event, and have several community obligations if they are selected.
“The values of scholarship and community service are equally stressed in the Miss America Program,” said Lexie Tombleson, Miss Crook County/Miss Prineville Scholarship Program Executive Director. “The girls have all been raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, as well as developing their individual platforms.”
She said that the platforms this year range from Heifer International to vision health for all ages. She added that the theme for this year is Red, White, and True. The girls have all been assembling gift baskets for a silent auction to be held immediately before the pageant tomorrow night. The money from the baskets, as well as the funds from the gate receipts, all goes towards the scholarship funds for future pageants.
The program guidelines require a minimum of four girls for each title to be awarded. In the past few years, there have been at least eight contestants, so two titles have been awarded—Miss Crook County and Miss Prineville. This year, there are six contestants, so there will only be the crown for Miss Crook County.
The contestants will be Jackie Nelson, Bethanie Johnson, Shelbii Sioravanti, Natalie Stenbeck, Harli Bowers, and Paisley Ford. Last year’s winners were Tasha Azbill, Miss Crook County, and Esther Wiechert, Miss Prineville.
Bowers said that her sister had been a contestant in the past, and it really helped her self-confidence. She also pointed out that it was a good scholarship program and Bowers thinks that it is a good investment of her time.
In addition to these benefits, she said she has made some good friends among the contestants.
“Everyone has something to offer,” said Bowers. “You learn something from everyone.”
Sioravanti is relatively new to Prineville, after moving with her family from Las Vegas, Nev. She grew up as a military child, and said it has been hard making new friends and being the new kid in school. Programs like Miss Crook County make it possible to become acquainted and befriend other people, reflected Sioravanti. She also likes the Princess Program.
“I always wanted to be a role model,” she said of the opportunity to be a mentor to her Princess.
“It’s a program that really helps young women grow in many ways,” said Tombleson. “It’s not just about looking good in a swimsuit or an evening gown. That’s part of it, but it’s only one small part of it.”
She stressed that there is sometimes confusion between the Miss U.S.A. Program and the Miss America Scholarship Program. The former is not based on local titleholders, but it is only based on state titleholders. There is only one gathering or competition in the Portland area, and Miss Oregon U.S.A. is selected from that group.
“In the Miss America Program, we have local titles who then go and compete for the state title,” noted Tombleson. “I feel that the strength of the Miss America Program is the local titleholders.”
Miss America is the longest-running scholarship program, and is a non-profit. All the individuals who work in the pageant in any capacity are volunteers.
Another important development this year is the inception of the Miss High Desert pageant. Co-Director for Miss Crook County Scholarship Program Ann Fisher, and Tombleson started the program for young women who reside not only in Crook County, but Jefferson and Deschutes counties. It also includes residents of John Day, Ore. Currently, the Miss Crook County Scholarship Program is the only competition as a prerequisite for Miss Oregon America that is held in Central Oregon.
Fisher has been involved since 2008, after her daughter Becca was selected as the 2006 Miss Crook County.
“I knew how much it helped her, and what it did for her,” said Fisher. “I saw what a positive impact that the program had.”
She said that the skills that she thinks are most important for the girls to work on for the competition are interview skills, stage presence, and confidence.
“It kind of takes them out of their comfort zone and doing things on stage, so it really builds their confidence. I believe anybody who can walk across the stage in a swimsuit and heels can accomplish anything.”
Fisher pointed out that in addition to the Miss Crook County Scholarship Program, this was the second year for the Miss Crook County Outstanding Teen program. These contestants are not required to make the commitment to go to Miss Oregon.
As with the Miss Crook County Scholarship Program, there has to be a minimum of four contestants to vie for a title. This year, there were four girls who came out to compete, so Fisher said they would be able to offer a title.
The girls who are competing for the Miss Crook County Outstanding Teen are Tobi Hanes, Teagan Azbill, Jessica Stanley, and Teresa Maldonato.
Fisher has passed her passion for the program onto her other daughter as well. Sarah Miller-Sampson is the co-director of the Crook County Princess Program, a mentoring program that was initiated three years ago. It pairs girls between ages six and 12 with contestants from the Miss Crook County and Miss Outstanding Teen contestants. Sampson-Miller’s daughter is also in the Crook County Princess Program.
The girls in the Princess Program serve their year of service with their Miss, and pass their crowns on to the a next group of Princesses the next year during pageant night. This year, there are 11 princesses, in addition to the current two titleholders.
Azbill, a sophomore, said that she made the decision to go out for the competition because her sister held the title of Miss Crook County last year, and she had a lot of fun in the program. She also went out because of the scholarship.
“I hope to increase my interview skills,” she noted. She is also hoping to improve her stage presence and make new friends.
Although she knew what to expect, she was surprised how much work it was to learn the opening number.
Stanley said that her sister had tried out for the Miss Crook County scholarship program two years ago.
“She didn’t win, but she had such a great experience through the whole thing,” she said.
She observed that it built up her sister’s self-confidence.
“I think that is what this program is about, it’s not a beauty contest, it’s about who you are inside,” indicated Stanley. “It’s not always about the outside, because beauty is not just skin deep.”
The pageant will be tomorrow, April 13, at the Crook County High School Eugene Southwell Auditorium at 6 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students. Children five-and-under are free. Special guest will be Miss Oregon 2012, Nichole Mead. There will be a collection box for cell phones for soldiers, and Soldiers’ Angels collection box for small toiletry items for service men and women — both in the commons area. Silent auction will begin at 5 p.m. in the commons.
This will be the first year for the Miss High Desert, a competition similar to Miss Crook County, except it is open to young women between the ages of 17 and 24 (seniors in high school through college), who live in Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes counties, and also residents of John Day, Ore. The event will be held at the Crook County Eugene Southwell Auditorium at 6 p.m. on April 20. For more information, call Lexie Tombleson at 541-350-4785.
Last year’s titleholders: Miss Crook County’s Outstanding Teen 2012 : Amy Desjardins
Miss Prineville 2012: Esther Wiechert (Princess Sydney)
Miss Crook County 2012: Tasha Azbill (Princess Mayzee)