After a three-year hiatus, the Miss Winter Park Scholarship Pageant is back and ready to crown Miss Winter Park 2011.
There are 24 contestants competing on Saturday night, said Ross Amkraut, executive director of the pageant. Six of them are going for the Miss Winter Park’s Outstanding Teen title for ages 13-17.
Both titles are preliminaries to the official Miss America program. Winners of the Teen and Miss titles move on to the state-level pageant, Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Florida.
In previous years, Winter Park has sent girls on to win Miss Florida. In 1993, Leanza Cornett moved all the way up, winning the Miss America title.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how our program is going to change the lives of some women,” Amkraut said. “You can really see when someone is just brand new, the change that they go through, their maturity, how comfortable they are speaking in public.”
Amkraut and his board of directors spent a year putting together the nonprofit organization’s event, which is at Trinity Prep on Saturday.
“There’s such a positive change over the course of a year, and it’s pretty incredible to be a part of that,” Amkraut said.
A five-person judging panel will determine the winner and runners up, who will receive scholarships and prizes. Those scholarships and prizes can help improve the community and reward contestants, Amkraut said.
“The most important thing is getting the message out there of what our program is going to do for the community and trying to partner up with the local businesses to not only get sponsorships to fundraise those scholarship dollars, but it’s also about how we can get our winners into the community,” Amkraut said.
Meet some contestants
The responsibilities expected of Miss Winter Park include making appearances at community events as well as furthering their platform and working with the Children’s Miracle Network.
Music Meier, a freshman piano performance major at UCF, chose her platform — enhancing the lives of former service men and women through music — for her father, a Vietnam veteran. She plays piano for residents at a Winter Park nursing home.
“If I win then that will give me a better chance to expand my platform, because it’s easier when you have a title to go out and promote something,” Meier said.
Another contestant is UCF junior Sara York, former Miss UCF 2010 and Miss Florida contestant. Competing in pageants annually since her senior year of high school, York’s love for them is obvious.
“I’m trying to turn the pageant life into a lifestyle. Preparing for pageants is a lot of fun because essentially it’s improving each and every aspect of yourself,” Sara said.
Kim York, Sara York’s mother, hasn’t missed a single pageant since Sara began competing about three years ago.
“I never view these pageants as a competition between the girls,” Kim York said. “I see them as learning and growing experiences for Sara.
“The reason she went into pageants at the age of 17 wasn’t due to any competitive nature, but as way to be her best self.”
Miss Winter Park 2011 is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19 at Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park 5700 Trinity Prep Lane. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10 through a contestant or via MissWinterPark.com and are also available at the door for $15.
Teen Contestants: Samantha Janolo, Savannah Gribbins, Mary McGreggor, Ashley Innis, Rachel Strever, Erica Chemtob
Miss Contestants: Desiree Roberts, Amanda Harris, Kristina Janolo, Shekifira Hughes, Justina Freeman, Lauren Chase, Sara York, Nasha’ Smith, Rachel Register, Brittany Fornof, Alexa Schmidt, Jonecia Mahan, Erin O’Flaherty, Music Meier, Drew Dickson, Stephanie Ziajka, Kristen Lichtenthal, Veronica Adams