Miss Douglas County and Miss Umpqua Valley competitors sashayed across the stage Wednesday night to practice an elaborate opening number for Saturday night’s pageant.
To prepare, the young women practiced the opening dance, walked onstage to be introduced and answered prepared questions.
Contestant Brooke Painter, 19, said she enjoys participating in pageants for the scholarship opportunities and the camaraderie between the contestants.
“It definitely gets you involved with all aspects of a community,” she said. “This is probably the best experience I’ve had. It’s refreshing.”
Women aged 17 through 24 are eligible to compete in the pageant.
Also this weekend will be the Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen competition, a sister program to the Miss pageant. The teens will perform Friday.
Organizer Shannon Sebastian said 67 women and girls signed up to compete in both programs, and the field was narrowed to 18 for the teen program and 13 for the Miss competition.
Contestant Shawnee Garza, 19, was second runner-up and won the Community Service Award last year.
She said she has paid for more than half of her UCC tuition through scholarships.
“It’s a great way to earn scholarship money,” she said. “It’s a tough competition this year. It’s not based on beauty. It’s more scholarship-based.”
Contestants raise money from businesses for the scholarships. Sebastian said last year donors contributed approximately $25,000 for the contestants, making the county number one in the nation for cash scholarships.
“We as a community are amazing,” she said.
The contestants keep 60 percent of the money each raises, and the remaining 40 percent goes into group awards, she said.
Sebastian said she supports the scholarship program because it helps contestants further their education.
“The love and the skills they’ve learned for the future, that’s what it’s all about for me. Not the crown,” she said. “It’s about making a difference and helping them get to college.”
Reigning Miss Douglas County Outstanding Teen Mason Seely, 16, of Roseburg, said the group has bonded and supports each other.
“Everyone is really friendly this year, and everybody appreciates what everyone else can do,” she said.
Seely said over the last year she has participated in a Memorial Day parade, Graffiti Weekend cruise and talked to Hucrest Elementary School students about melanoma awareness.
Miss Douglas County contestants will be judged Saturday in four categories: swimsuit, evening wear, talent and response to an onstage question. They also will be interviewed before the pageant.
The Miss Douglas County pageant is a preliminary round for Miss America. Both winners will continue onto the Miss Oregon pageant. The teen winner can continue on to a state pageant as well.
The teen contestants will be judged in five categories: interview, talent, lifestyle and fitness, evening gown and an onstage question.
Seely said the teen program is a good opportunity for girls to become more active in their community and build poise.
“I think every young girl should experience feeling beautiful for once in their life,” she said.
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.