By Linda Dillman
The Miss Canal Winchester Pageant is proceeding with a restructured event this year due to the ongoing pandemic and the news that the 2021 Labor Day Festival is cancelled for a second year in a row.
Following a year’s hiatus, the pageant will be held at David Lutheran Church on Aug. 21. The change was made to accommodate Governor Mike DeWine’s small gathering COVID restrictions.
In addition, casual wear modeling for junior and miss contestants will not be held and, only for 2021, graduating seniors are invited to register for the Miss category. Junior contestants are asked to wear dressy or tea-length dresses, but no floor-length formal gowns.
“In the past, there was a registration fee which is waived for this year because we want to include all girls in Canal Winchester,” said Miss Canal Winchester Director Melanie Boise. “COVID has been hard on everyone, but this is a time to come together as a community and support Canal Winchester events. We are encouraging the contestants to use the Community Closet for possible pageant dresses and accessories and the Chamber of Commerce is also helping us raise funding for the pageant.”
Boise said the success of the pageant is largely because all court members are heavily involved in service projects. They participate at Christmas in the Village, Art Stroll, Music and Art in the Park, Summer Movie Nights in the Village, Ring the Bell for Salvation Army, Shop Hop, Blues and Ribfest and other community events as requested. The court also travels to other festivals throughout the surrounding areas promoting Canal Winchester and inviting visitors to city festivals.
Held since 1962, according to Boise, the pageant has evolved into a strong, service-related organization. In prior years, contestants wore swim attire and the pageant was held at the community swimming pool. It was a traditional beauty pageant where girls were judged solely on physical appearance. The pageant also took place on a stage at the Labor Day Festival and in the Oley Speaks auditorium in the Canal Winchester Education Center.
Today, younger girls wear dresses and are judged on personality and public speaking ability. Older contestants are also judged on personality and public speaking ability, as well as personal character attributes as displayed through interviews, submitted essays and reference letters.
“When girls participate in the pageant, I’ve heard many parents have told me how much it increased their daughter’s confidence, especially when speaking to an audience,” said Boise. “The most important fact about our group is that we are a service-related organization. The young ladies in the Miss Canal Winchester court learn how to serve our community and enjoy participating in the events that are offered.”
According to Boise, in 2018 the pageant became The Miss Canal Winchester Pageant—A Community Scholarship Pageant. In 2018 and 2019, contestants asked community members for a donation towards a scholarship for high school contestants.
The pageant was previously known as the Miss Canal Winchester Peggy Wood Scholarship Pageant with post-secondary scholarships awarded to the winners. In 2017, the Peggy Wood Foundation opened up the scholarship program to graduating seniors from Canal Winchester.
“In 2021, we are proud to have Pat and Cindi Lynch sponsor the college scholarship,” said Boise. “Our numbers have steadily increased over the years because our community doesn’t see them as traditional beauty pageant contestants. We’re getting away from that stigma. In the past three years, we’ve had 50 to 60 contestants in total.”
Cindi Lynch said as the community has changed, so is the Labor Day Queen’s Scholarship pageant evolving.
“As a teenage single mother, I understand the importance of education as well as helping all girls succeed regardless of their economic states. The skills given to our Canal Winchester girls through this pageant is fantastic,” said Lynch. “Both our granddaughters have participated. Neither of them won, but they learned to lose gracefully and congratulate the other winners. They learned confidence skills and public speaking. This pageant is not a beauty pageant—it’s scholarship. The foresight in this from the Woods Family is great and appreciated.”
There are four different categories: Tiny Miss, grades K-2; Little Miss grades 3-5; Junior Miss, grades six through eight and Miss Canal Winchester, grades 9-12. In each category there is a queen and three attendants.
In the Miss Canal Winchester category, there is also a Miss Congeniality position which is voted on by fellow contestants. In total, there could be as many as 16 to 17 girls on the court.
An informational video is being released on May 15 that outlines all the details of the pageant process.
On Aug. 7, there is an annual “Meet the Pageant Contestants/School Supply Drive” at Stradley Park, 9 a.m. to noon, where community members can stop by to visit with the girls and donate school supplies. Following that, a Pageant Bootcamp is scheduled.
“Amanda Lemke volunteered to help the older girls with interview skills, manners, etiquette and how to present yourself in an interview,” said Boise. “Mikayla Brown, 2012 Miss Canal Winchester, will be working with the Tiny and Little group with walking on stage, making eye contact and practicing speaking in public.”