Whitehall’s annual Junior Miss Pageant has undergone one significant change since last fall’s event. For nearly the last half century, the winner of the event was known as Whitehall’s Jr. Miss, but this year’s winner will go by a different title.
Last year, national officials changed the name of the program to Distinguished Young Women to better differentiate the scholarship program from a beauty pageant, and now the Whitehall program will begin using the new name for the first time.
Governing members of the program felt the name didn’t accurately reflect the program’s mission to help young develop their academic, physical fitness and public presentation and communication skills, and was too often considered a beauty pageant so the change was made.
Other than the name change, little about the program has changed.
“Everything else has stayed the same,” Putorti said.
This year’s program, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22, has attracted 13 contestants, up from the eight contestants who participated last year.
The girls have been met several times over the past few weeks and will meet every Monday and Thursday in the high school auditorium up until the day of event.
The meetings are a chance for the girls to prepare and refine their routines, while having a little fun in the process.
“They’ve been practicing their talents and learning their physical fitness routines,” Putorti said.
Last Monday, contestants practiced their routine on the auditorium stage while speakers blared with Latin Music. Choral teacher Chris Palmer even stopped by, briefly demonstrating a few dance moves of his own.
On Oct. 22 the girls will vie for a number of titles and thousands of dollars in scholarship money. Last year nearly $5,000 in scholarships was presented to those who were involved.
Awards are presented to the top three finishers as well as the winners of the interview, talent and fitness routine portions of the event. There are also awards for scholastic achievement, self-expression, and spirit.
The event has become a tradition in the community with contestants following in the footsteps of older sisters, aunts and their mothers.
Putorti said 2011 marks the 49th time the event has been held in Whitehall; the organization was founded nationally in 1958.
Although this year’s event is front and center for organizers, they are already thinking about next year’s golden anniversary event.
“We are trying to contact past contestants and winners for next year’s event,” Putorti said. “We would really like old contestants to get a hold of us next year with their new addresses and new names.”
The girls participating in this year’s event are: Marissa Alexander, Emily Sweeney, Maggie Benjamin, Lia McKee, Rachael Kasuba, Chantel Baker, Marissa Black, Kate Barrett, Alex Abbott, Marion Gendron, Janelle Cahee, Patricia Snow and Melinda Trombley.