Friday, September 21, 2012

TOP STORY >> City’s beauty pageant turns 25

Leader staff writer

Next Saturday marks the 25th Miss and Mr. Cityfest Pageant in Jacksonville.

The pageant, which started on a flat-bed trailer with 25 contestants, now boasts 80 to 100. This year the pageant will be held at the Jacksonville Community Center.

To celebrate 25 years, a new style of trophy will be presented to winners and the winners of the older categories – Junior Miss and Miss Cityfest – will get round crowns similar to those given at the Miss Arkansas pageant. Unlike a tiara, which has a comb on each side, these crowns encircle the entire head.

Another change to the event includes a former winner, Emily Moler Neal, as emcee. “Her daughter won last year,” said Twitty. “It’s the 25th year and now these girls that were in the pageant 20 years ago have kids in the pageant.” Usually, the previous year’s Miss Cityfest winner emcees the pageant to get some practice in public speaking.

The annual event began in 1987, when Twitty was asked to host a pageant for the Jacksonville Junior Auxiliary. When the Cityfest festival name was changed to Mums, Music and Muscadines, Twitty got permission to continue using the Cityfest name for the pageant. With the cancellation of the Wing Ding festival earlier this year, the Cityfest pageant is now the city’s biggest event, aside from the Christmas Parade.

“It’s always been for charity,” Twitty said. Proceeds from the event benefit the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

A unique aspect of the pageant is that the Junior Miss and Miss Cityfest winners help Twitty and Lisa Bamburg with a Santa Shop for families and patients at Arkansas Children’s Hos-pital who won’t be home for Christmas. Bamburg, who helps Twitty with pageant paperwork, donates all the gifts for the Santa Shop. Families can shop for free. Only the Junior Miss and Miss Cityfest are allowed to help with the Santa Shop due to hospital restrictions.

“A lot of the families we service are there because of cancer, so they have very strict rules,” said Twitty. “It’s kind of emotional at first. You have to be strong for the parents. We’re fortunate to be part of it.”

“We used to do a lot of ribbon cuttings,” Twitty said about winners. “But due to the ribbon cuttings being held during the day, it was hard for the kids to get out of school to do them.”

Some notable pageant winners include Taylor Carlisle McGrew and brothers Daniel and Kris Allen, a winner of American Idol.

The pageant is open to all girls ages 18 and under and boys ages 3 and under. With a couple of exceptions, pageant sponsors are local businesses. Judges do not live in Jacksonville.

To enter, call Twitty at 912-9422 before Thursday.