Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

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July 22, 2011

Crowns bring confidence

GLASGOW — The newly constructed shelter at the Temple Hill fairgrounds was swirling with glittering dresses and wide smiles Thursday night as contestants for the Miss Pre-Teen, Miss Teen, Miss Barren County and Miss Barren County Fair pageants took to the stage in an effort to win the coveted crowns.

A total of 27 pre-teen competitors, nine teen competitors and 19 miss competitors turned out for the annual pageant. The evening ended happily for four girls who walked away with a crowns and titles.

Hailey VanArsdale, of Columbia, won Miss Pre-teen; Taya Cook, of Albany, won Miss Teen; Courtney Swindle, of Glasgow, won Miss Barren County; and Kaleigh Campbell, of Elizabethtown, won Miss Barren County Fair.

“I’m shaking still,” Campbell said just after her crowning. “I was in shock. I just came out for another night. I like to meet the girls. I love pageants.”

That love for pageants is what brought the 55 girls together from across the state. They each have their own stories about why they started pageants, and they may have different favorite parts of the event, but they all love to compete in beauty pageants.

“To me, it’s not about the winning, it’s about the fun,” said Kaylee Hale, who also competed for Miss Barren County Fair.

“I like it because I have fun and I like to win sometimes. I don’t mean that bad,” said Emma Harwood, who competed in the Miss Pre-Teen competition.

For many of the girls, competing in pageants has given them confidence. It has become a self-esteem booster.

“You have to have a lot of confidence and you have to believe in yourself,” said Cadylee Coffey as she stood behind the stage in her bathing suit before the start of the Miss Barren County Fair competition.

Her friend, Rachel Haynes, agreed.

“You have to be confident to get on stage,” Haynes said.

Both girls are relatively new to the pageant world, and said it was nerve-wracking at first, but continuing to participate in pageants has made them completely confident while walking across the stage in their bathing suits in front of strangers.

Hale’s mom, Debra, described her daughter as “meek and mild” before she started competing in pageants at the age of 15. She and her daughter said the pageants gave her self-esteem, and now she is at ease meeting new people at pageants.

“It just really brought me out of my shell,” Hale said.

Harwood said pageants also help her not to be shy, and she was calm as she waited backstage in her yellow ball gown before the Miss Pre-Teen competition.

“I have a chance. I have as much a chance as everybody else does,” said Harwood, who was later named first runner-up.

The pageant circuit is a family affair to most of the girls. Hale said her cousin got her started in pageants, while Haynes said her sister passed down her love of pageants.

Many of the girls work closely with their mothers throughout the process of each pageant. Campbell said she and her mother “have a heyday” shopping for a dress for each pageant, and that’s her favorite part.

Miss Pre-Teen competitor, Lexie Piercy, just competed in her 110th pageant at the age of 8, after her mother got her involved when she was 3 months old. It’s become a family addiction, according to Tara Piercy.

Miss Barren County Courtney Swindle credited her cousin with her newfound excitement over pageants. Her cousin taught her the ropes and got Swindle involved in pageants just at the beginning of this summer, and she was named Miss Barren County at the third pageant in which she participated.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ I was in shock,” Swindle said after the pageant.  

In order to compete in the Miss Barren County competitions, girls must be current Kentucky residents enrolled full time in an accredited Kentucky school system. They must never have been married and never had children, and girls who have already won a county fair title that year and are going to state cannot enter. Miss Pre-Teen is for girls ages 8 through 12 and Miss Teen is girls 13 through 15.

Miss Barren County must be 16 to 21, and she must live in Barren County. The winners of Miss Teen and Miss Pre-Teen Barren County go on to compete at the Miss Teen and Miss Pre-Teen Kentucky County Fair in October, and Miss Barren County Fair goes on to compete at the Miss Kentucky County Fair pageant in January. Miss Pre-Teen, Teen and Miss Barren County Fair each win a crown, trophy, flowers and a $200 cash prize to use toward participation in the state competitions. Miss Barren County receives a crown, trophy and flowers.

The contestants in Miss Pre-Teen and Miss Teen only appear in ball gowns, while contestants for Miss Barren County and Miss Barren County Fair compete in swimsuits and ball gowns.

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