COOS BAY — Twelve young women will compete for the 2018 title of Miss Coos County and Miss Pacific Shores on Saturday, Feb. 17.
In addition, six younger women will compete for the title of 2018 Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen and a little girl will be chosen at random to be 2018 Miss Coos County Outstanding Princess.
The pageant this year is themed "The Road Less Traveled," and will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Hales Center for the Performing Arts on the Southwestern Oregon Community College campus. All the contestants will be in the lobby beginning at 5 p.m. with displays of their platforms - causes they volunteered for over the past several months. The public is invited to come early to learn more about these important causes.
Outgoing 2017 Miss Coos County Brittany Crutchfield will crown two winners this year, and outgoing Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen Sammie Huffman will crown her own successor. The outgoing Miss Coos County Outstanding Princess is Kiara West.
The new Miss Pacific Shores crown will be equal to the Miss Coos County crown and one each will be awarded to the first-and second-place winners, explained Miss Coos County Executive Director Vicki Ericson.
"We're excited to be able to give two girls the opportunity to attend the Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant in Seaside and the opportunity to go to the Miss America pageant this year," Ericson said. "Our goal is to give more girls the opportunity to compete for scholarships at the state level."
Creating the new additional title was more responsibility for the volunteer Miss Coos County board of directors, Ericson added.
"We're grass roots and do our own fundraising and had to come up with funding and scholarships for both titles, plus for the one runner-up," she said. "the support from the community has been amazing."
The Miss Coos County program, for young women ages 18-25, is not just a beauty contest, Ericson has stressed for years. It gives young women confidence, poise and leadership skills that help them excel in their future endeavors. Ambitious contestants are seeking higher education and see the program as a way to earn much-needed scholarships. Last year, some $28,000 in scholarships were awarded, including tuition waivers to Southwestern as well as other colleges and universities, plus cash awards.
The Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen program, for young women ages 13-17, promotes academic achievement, creative accomplishment, healthy living and community involvement.
The Miss Coos County Outstanding Princess program is for girls ages 6-10 and gives them the opportunity to be mentored by a "big sister" and learn that "little girls with dreams become women with vision." The princesses perform a dance at the competition and escort the older girls onto the stage.
The program has been in existence since 1981 and this is Ericson's 30th year.
This year's Miss Coos County contestants are Mackenzie Basey, Lily Bergstedt, Oshian Dixon, Haley McDaniel, Amanda Merritt, Shauna Phillips, Caitlin Snuggerud, Keneley Tams, Kaila Tripp, Lindsay Varga, Allie West and Rylee Young.
Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen contestants are Rylie Edwards, Lilly Hanlin, Alyssa Hutchings, Aryana Mill, Kyla Toney and Jordyn Westfall.
Several of this year's group of contestants have competed in the past or were previous title holders, such as Kaila Tripp, who was crowned Miss Coos County in 2015. Tripp has graduated from Oregon State University and now wants to attend medical school so is taking some needed courses through Southwestern before she applies.
"Kaila decided on a different career path and we honor that," Ericson said. "There's no reason not to continue to compete. We try not to limit girls. If they are eligible and want to try, we encourage that."
Rylee Young, Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen 2016, is back to compete for the Miss Coos County title. Ericson said a lot of contestants have been involved in the program previously, with some even starting as princess participants.
"It's a lot of fun watching them grow over the years," Ericson said.
Contestants are scored from an interview with a panel of judges, their talent and poise on stage, as well as their answers to impromptu questions.
In addition, each girl also gives many hours to her community service project.
"We all work really hard tying to put on a fun community event and we have great community service projects," Ericson said. "Every one of these girls is just doing amazing things. It's really quite inspiring to me to work with girls who want to serve their communities. They're great girls. They are inspiring and funny and we laugh a lot. I never get tired of them."
The community is encouraged to see for themselves these accomplished young women, Ericson added.
Tickets are available online only and will not be available at the door - they must be printed out prior to the event. Tickets cost $15 each and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com. Search for the Miss Coos County event.
The Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant will be held June 27-30 at the Seaside Civic & Convention Center.