CLAYTON — Following three months of weekly practices, choreographing a dance routine that includes dancing in heels, the contestants competing in this year’s Miss Clayton High Pageant are almost ready for the competition.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the pageant. It is scheduled to take place at Clayton High at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23rd. Director Amy Plant has put together a special program, including a slideshow of photos from past year’s competitions to celebrate the history of the event. There will be a reception before the pageant for all past queens.
Twelve girls will be competing this year to be crowned “Miss Clayton High.” There will only be one winner, but the girls involved say it’s a friendly competition.
“I think all of the girls here really have a good chance,” said Bailey Coble, a senior at Clayton High, who is competing for the first time. She said the girls have been meeting since November to rehearse together for the group dance, and to prepare for the show. They’ve become friends outside of practice.
“I wasn’t friends with any of them before this and now we go to dinner on the weekends,” said Coble.
As the president of the Key Club and President of the Clayton Youth Club, Coble said she likes to be involved in the community and do community service. She was inspired by the opportunities that current “Miss Clayton High,” Hunter Rae Houston, has had.
Houston has done more than wear the crown. She has been active in community projects around town, according to Plant. Houston approached Plant about making her role as Miss Clayton High different than in years past. She wanted Miss Clayton High to be a figure in the community.
Houston hosted a back-to-school breakfast for teachers and staff at Clayton High. She sang the national anthem at a football and soccer game. And she worked as Santa’s helper at the Christmas tree lighting. She also competed in and claimed the title of Clayton Idol 2012 in September, which was separate from her role as Miss Clayton High, but also served to boost her role in the community.
To be a part of the competition, contestants are required to take part in a service project, and be in good academic standing, making at least a 2.0 grade point average. This year, the contestants helped collect more than 30 grocery bags filled with canned foods for Clayton Area Ministries. They helped stock the shelves with the food.
The girls will be competing in three categories: casual wear, talent, and evening wear. Last week, the girls practiced a group dance routine that they will be doing together as their debut in front of the judges.
“I’ve never danced in heels in my life and now I’m doing a whole opening number in heels,” joked Erin Murray, a sophomore who is competing. For Murray’s talent, she will be reading a poem about Alzheimer’s that her grandmother encouraged her to share.
“I just wanted to try something new this year,” said Murray. “I wanted to try it last year but I was afraid and now that I’m a sophomore I’m braver and I want to venture out.” Murray writes for the school newspaper and volunteers with Circle of Friends, a group that meets weekly and spends time with students with special needs. Murray also said that one of her favorite parts of the pageant has been getting to know the other girls. At practice last week, the girls laughed and joked together, building a camaraderie that seemed to be able to outlast the competition.
Past queen, Debbie Williams, served as Miss Clayton High in 1971, though the title then was “Ms. Clahisco.” She said she plans to attend the event this year with her husband. She’s curious to see how it has changed over time.
Similar to Coble, who is competing this year, Williams said she enjoyed getting to know the other girls in the pageant. But “back that the school was much smaller, and everybody already knew everybody,” said Williams. She said that she thinks it’s good for the girls this year to be able to meet each other and make new friends, since they are all part of a bigger school.
For her, the best part of the pageant was that “it helped give me self confidence.”