Excitement builds for 2013 Carlinville Queen Pageant
By Rick Wade
As women in America continue to make significant gains in terms of equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunities, some feminists see “beauty pageants” as throwbacks to the days of the male-dominated society of the past.
Don’t say that to Ashley Vinyard of Carlinville.
“Women have made significant gains in our culture because of their self-confidence and not being afraid to take a stand for what they feel is right. In my opinion, I think pageants are important for young girls and young women because they teach you how to find and channel that confidence,” said Vinyard, pageant director for the ninth annual Carlinville Queen Pageant slated for 7 p.m. April 20, in the Carlinville High School Gym. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Sun Beach Tan for $10. Floor seats ($10) and Bleacher seats ($8) can be purchased at the door.
“We live in a world today where girls feel like they aren’t good enough, or can never measure up to what they see on television or in magazines. I truly believe pageants can be a great teaching tool for young women,” said Vinyard. “As contestants prepare for pageant day they are focusing on themselves and what makes them unique, what their strengths are, their likes, their passions, their motivations … As girls work on explaining those things to other people they naturally become more confident and proud of who they are. All of which is very relevant and important to today’s young girls and women.”
Vinyard says the Carlinville Queen Pageant is “absolutely beneficial” to participants, whether they are a Little Miss contestant, Junior Miss or Queen contestant.
“My goal as the pageant director is for each contestant to leave our pageant different than how she entered. Through rehearsals, they learn so much about themselves. Through the past nine years I have seen contestants in every age group transform through our time together. It’s a process that just happens and they don’t even realize it,” Vinyard said.
But it’s not just the former 2003 Miss Macoupin County who sees the transformation. “I receive letters each year from parents or family members of contestants saying how it has been a good experience for them and how they have seen such a positive change in their daughter,” said Vinyard.
Although the Carlinville Queen Pageant is not the oldest in the county, it’s the first in a series of pageants spread throughout the year.
“A pageant is unique because it is all about you,” Vinyard said. “Contestants have to learn how to talk about and present themselves to the judges. They have to have the confidence to showcase themselves on stage in front of hundreds of people.”
According to Vinyard, aside from weekly rehearsals, the girls help host two fundraisers: Krispy Kreme donut sales and a chicken dinner at the Elks.
“The one thing our contestants look forward to each year is our sleepover,” she said. “We pick the girls up at the high school after school dismisses and the whole night is a surprise. This year was the third sleepover … It builds camaraderie among the contestants and gives us a chance to spoil the girls by doing things they may not normally get to do.”
Diverse group of girls
In spite of what people not involved in pageants might think, there isn’t a common personality type among girls who enter.
“Absolutely not,” Vinyard said when asked if such a personality existed. “It is so interesting for me each year to see what girls decide to compete. Everyone is so diverse and come from different backgrounds”
She also dismissed the stereotype of the over-bearing “pageant mom.”
“I think TV has given the phrase ‘pageant mom’ a bad rap. Reality TV chooses to showcase extreme cases for its viewers. In my experience, I have seen that every ‘pageant mom’ simply wants the best for her daughter.
“All contestants are unique because some have very involved mothers while some have aunts, cousins or dads that are very involved. It is special for me to see those relationships and the fun they have preparing for the pageant together.”
There are some misconceptions and misunderstandings that people who have never been involved should understand, Vinyard pointed out.
“One thing I think everyone needs to understand is that a pageant isn’t just what you see on pageant night at 7 p.m. The interview portion of the competition is one of the most important segments that takes place earlier in the day.
“I feel pageants should be about an inner beauty. Contestants are judged on stage obviously, but their inner beauty and personality is what really shines through.”
“Everything from renting the venue, sound techs, lighting techs, judges, food, interview dinners, clothing, videographer, printing, stage decor, crowns/trophies, etc… There is a lot of expense that goes into a production like ours that most people don’t think of. The money comes from sponsors, contestant entry fees, and the two fundraisers our contestants hold each year” she explained.
“Those two fundraisers are what allow us to go the ‘extra mile’ with things we are able to do for our contestants and our production.”
There are also local sponsorships, from $25-$150.
“We are so thankful for our sponsors because we wouldn’t be able to do our pageant each year without them helping offset some of the expense. We also have many local businesses that donate gifts to our winners each year. We are able to present our new Queen, Junior Miss and Little Miss with many gifts because of these generous businesses.”
Vinyard was asked what the fact that there are so many local pageants in Macoupin County say about the region.
“I think it is more about what our Queen says about our community. As we work with our contestants each year we talk in detail about why they want to represent Carlinville as Miss or Junior Miss,” Vinyard commented. “The girls have to think about what it is they love about our community and be able to express that to our judges. Every contestant has a different perspective and it is wonderful to hear their thoughts.”
Besides the things the participants learn, Vinyard said a pageant is fun for the girls.
“The winners get to be mini-celebrities for a year. People in Carlinville know who they are and people in surrounding towns learn who they are as they travel. They get to experience many new things as queen.
“I remember all of the things I got to experience as Miss Macoupin and I am so glad to be able to offer those same experiences to local girls through our Carlinville pageant.”
During her year-long reign as Miss Macoupin County traveling throughout the state representing the county, Vinyard developed a greater understanding of what such pageants offered young women.
“I knew the impact that it had on me as an 18-year-old and I wished so badly our town had one of our own. So, after I gave up my title, I put together a letter explaining my desire to start a Carlinville Queen Pageant and sent it to the Chamber of Commerce asking them to simply support me. as I moved forward with it,” she recalled. “I was thrilled when they replied and said they would support me! I spent the next year planning and getting things ready for the very first pageant in 2005, which featured a Little Miss and Miss Carlinville competition.”
She said the Junior Miss portion was added in 2008.
“As we looked at our pageant we felt there was an important age gap that we were missing,” she recalled. “Those tween years. That age brings a fun energy to our pageant. The tween years can be awkward years as girls are coming into their own. I have seen firsthand how our pageant has helped bring girls out of their shell and make them more confident. The girls have a blast with it and are learning life skills at the same time.”
The following businesses have made monetary donations to the 2013 Miss Carlinville Pageant:
• Gibbel Appraisal Services
• Heinz Furniture
• Goodman Agency
• Scheldt Brothers
• Flowers Sanitation
• Dr. Bailey DMD
• Carl’s IGA
• State Farm Insurance
• My Sister’s Closet
• Kibbles N’ Klips Grooming
• Geninatti Gym
• Prairie Farms Dairy