As the calendar ticks closer to the annual Miss Thurston County Pageant on October 28, the contestants are already well into their preparations for the event that will crown next year’s winner. With nine contestants this year, the competition has more young women than the pageant has seen in many years prior. And for two months leading up to the pageant, the girls have been busy with training and workshops every week.
The contestants, who range in 17-years-old to 22-years-old, learn how to interview with the judges, how to talk about current events, and discuss why they want to represent the community. Each young woman must pick what is called a social impact initiative, formerly known as a platform, and discuss how they would implement that initiative in their year of service, as well as how it might translate on a state or national level.
Many of these girls, about half of whom are seniors in high school and half are in college, have already been involved with their initiative for some time already. “We have one contestant that her initiate is child cancer awareness, and she’s been involved in that for a number of years,” says Krystle Ramos, marketing and PR board chair for Miss Thurston County. “Some of the others have things like Camp Hope for youth impacted by domestic violence, and another with suicide prevention. It varies depending on what the contestant is passionate about and what she can bring awareness to.”
Aside from their social impact work in the community, the contestants also participate in the Little Sisters Program, a mentoring program for girls 5- to 11-years-old. Each is paired with an older pageant contestant, taking the time to get to know one another while learning etiquette and gaining confidence. Though the Little Sisters Program is not a pageant, they do get to perform a group production number at the Miss Thurston County Pageant.
While the contestants spend a lot of time giving back to the community, they also have a lot to learn and gain from the pageant themselves. The girls get to attend other workshops in skincare, self defense, and CPR certification, to name a few. Each Miss Thurston County contestant receives a scholarship, plus additional scholarships are awarded to the second and first runner-up, and of course the pageant winner as well.
“I can say from personal experience, it was a life changing experience for me, and really did teach me skills that I took on to become a successful adult,” shares Krystle, who won Miss Grays Harbor in 1995. “And also, the scholarship money helped pay for school, which is amazing.”
She shares that although 51 percent of women have college degrees, they are still underrepresented in government and the board room. “This is an empowering program for young women and it does teach leadership skills,” Krystal says. “So not only are they getting scholarships and going to school, but they’re developing skills that will take them far in the community or even the country.”
The scholarship funding is provided by generous support from the community, whether that is from individuals, or from local businesses or organizations, like Steadman Properties, who have supported Miss Thurston County for a number of years.
The Miss Thurston County Pageant has been around for 43 years, but has changed over time, now with more of an emphasis on education and scholarship and less on beauty or outward appearance. Though the pageant still considers appearance, it has more to do with how contestants present or display themselves overall, Krystle says.
The competition still has a large emphasis on talent, which, in addition to the private interview, accounts for a good portion of the contestants’ overall scores. This year’s contestants have a variety of talents they will perform, with various styles of dance—jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and Tahitian—as well as vocal and even spoken word performances.
These Miss Thurston County Pageant contestants are surely going to impress not just with their talents, but also grow into confident, educated leaders in their community. “We’re just having a great time getting to know these girls, and we can’t wait to put the production on at the end of the month,” says Krystle. “We’d love for everyone to attend and get to know the title holder, and to recognize that they’re young women with goals and ambition and influencers in the community.”
A preliminary to the Miss Washington and Miss America pageants, The Miss Thurston County Pageant will take place at 3:00 p.m. on October 28, 2018 at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for Performing Arts at South Puget Sound Community College.