Maria Castillo crowned Miss Nation Ford 2013

dwalker@fortmilltimes.comFebruary 11, 2013 

— It was Saturday evening in the Nation Ford High School chorus room, and 37 anxious contestants and a number of Future Business Leaders of America volunteers joined hands in a circle to pray before Miss Nation Ford High School Pageant began.

This year’s pageant would be the last one sponsored by the club, and the participants hoped to make their final pageant together a success.

“Remember, ladies, we want people to notice what’s in our heads because that’s what this is all about,” said Lynn Marsh, an FBLA advisor, before praying. “We’re not just pretty faces, we have brains and we’re here to save the babies.”

The pageant’s theme this year was Save the Babies to raise money and support for March of Dimes, an organization that aims to serve future mothers and promote healthy, full-term pregnancies. Contestants shared personal stories and historical anecdotes about the charity, and the audience was encouraged to wear purple in support of March of Dimes. Later in the evening, while the judges deliberated, a check for $1,200 was presented to March of Dimes, bringing FBLA’s total donations to the charity to $2,000.

Donations were also collected by student volunteers after the pageant.

“It’s been an awesome experience preparing for the event and helping with their cause and saving the babies,” said lighting designer Zeinab Caskey, a senior at Nation Ford.

Before the pageant could touch the hearts – and wallets – of its audience members, some minor technical difficulties had to be overcome.

The production began at 7 p.m., as scheduled, but the contestants were not a minute into their opening dance when the sound system cut off. The girls finished their dance for a somewhat confused but supportive crowd and Nation Ford Principal Beverley Bowman took the extra time to thank parents and sponsors. After a 10 minute wait and some technical work backstage, helped along by audience member and NFHS graduate Eli Patterson, the sound came back up and the show restarted.

“You can never be prepared for a pageant,” said Forrest Holloman, a senior at Nation Ford and the South Carolina FBLA president, just before the show began.

The minor setback did not discourage the volunteers and contestants, though.

“When the sound went out I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we were caught off guard, but when we continued dancing without the music, it really showed no matter what we were going to have a great time,” said Ashley Trull, a senior in the pageant.

After all the nerves, sound equipment, and preparation were put to the test, the judges’ panel, consisting of a former dancer, Disney Imagineer and college admissions recruiter, chose the winners. CeCe Hensley was freshman runner-up and Christal Ross was Miss Freshman. Caitlin Montgomery took the title of Miss Sophomore and Kelsey Barrow was sophomore runner-up. The junior runner-up was Michelle Doan, and Miss Junior was Briana Iorio. Senior runner-up was Abigail Tummers, Miss Senior was Hayley Leslie, and Miss Nation Ford 2013 was Maria Castillo. Ashley Hudgins, Samantha Krebs, and Amber Wesson tied for Miss Congeniality, and Brouke Flynn won Most Ad Sales.

Though winners were awarded scholarships ranging from $50 to $1,000 from funds donated by community members and sponsors, the real winners of the night were the mothers and babies supported by March of Dimes Foundation, officials said.

“To be in a pageant that supported the March of Dimes sincerely meant so much more than a normal pageant because we were out there for a cause,” senior contestant Ashley Trull said.

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