Maple Leaf pageant returns
When the annual Maple Leaf Festival thunders into Baldwin City this October, there will be one notable addition. In an executive session on Sunday, the festival's board voted unanimously to hold a pageant at this year's celebrations.
Annie France, a board member for the Maple Leaf Festival, said the pageant would be a way for girls to develop their intelligence, talent and poise while at the same time earning money for college. The girls competing in the festival would have the chance to earn scholarships.
"The pageant-organizers are a non-profit group and their goal is to help girls by providing scholarships," France said. "We accepted because that's definitely in line with what the board wants to do."
France said that, contrary to popular belief, pageants do not judge girls based solely on their looks. The pageants are about cultivating confidence in young girls, while at the same time encouraging girls to go on to college, France said.
The winner of the pageant would earn the title of Miss Maple Leaf. In addition, the pageant would also serve as one of the preliminary events for entry into Miss Kansas, the winner going on to compete at the state pageant. The winner of the state pageant then goes on to compete in the Miss America competition.
France said she thought the pageant's tie-in with the Miss Kansas and Miss America competitions would be positive.
"We could produce a Miss America, and that's never a bad thing," France said. "Tons of area girls are talented and smart, and if they choose to follow this road, they could really benefit from it."
Misty Beck, associate director for Miss Kansas, said competing in the Miss Kansas competition and possibly Miss America was a huge benefit for area girls.
"Miss Kansas provides an opportunity for young women that is unparalleled," Beck said. "The Miss America organization provides more scholarship money for young girls than any other organization in the world. So, every pageant we have, that's just more women getting scholarships for college."
In addition to helping the girls, France said the pageant would offer benefits for other parties as well.
"It's going to help Baldwin City, too," France said. "It's a win all around. The girls get scholarships, and the festival and town get notoriety."
Beck echoed France's sentiments that having local festivals were good for the community.
"Particularly when you tie in the pageant with a festival, you get a lot of community support," Beck said. "With the winner going in to the state pageant, you're going to get publicity for the community."
France presented the pageant to the board after Erin Jackson-Legrif, a pageant veteran, approached her with the idea of holding a pageant in conjunction with the Maple Leaf Festival. Jackson-Legrif would play a role in helping to organize the event and lending her pageant expertise to the festival's board members.
"We couldn't see any objection to holding the pageant other than finding enough volunteers for it and increasing visibility, but with Erin helping us we don't think those will be problems," France said.
There are currently 21 other state-qualifying pageants held in Kansas, according to the Miss Kansas Web site. Currently there are no pageants in Douglas County, although there used to be a previous pageant called Miss Kansas University. The closest pageants are Miss Leavenworth County and Miss Kansas City Metro.
The festival had previously had a pageant competition but it eventually ended. Although she wasn't sure why the pageant competition had ended, France said she thought it had possibly been due to lack of interest, noting that only three girls competed in the last pageant.
The previous pageant had also not served as a preliminary competition to the Miss Kansas competition. France said she hoped having Jackson-Legrif organizing the pageant would help prevent interest in the festival from flagging this time around.
Although some of the specifics for the pageant have yet to be set, France said she would like to see the pageant held on Friday, the first day of the festival, which would allow the winner to ride in the next day's parade.
The pageant will rate girls based on different categories, such as conversation, written essay, conversation and talent.
Girls from within 25 miles of Baldwin City would be allowed to participate, which would bring in girls from places like Edgerton, Wellsville, Ottawa, and Lawrence, among others.
"People here are already proud of Baldwin City," France said. "The pageant will just be a way to add another feather to our cap."