Pageant moves personalities to center stage
For 50 years, the Miss Oshkosh Scholarship Pageant has featured young women in the community who possess outstanding values of service, style, scholarship, and success. In the Alberta Kimball Auditorium on March 1, 11 young women were given an opportunity to show the community their best. Competing for the crown was West’s own, senior Bethany Johannes, who earned fourth runner-up in the event.
“I went to the informational meeting in early November,” said Johannes. “I went with my friend just to see what it was about, and they had me sign up for a tryout right then and there,” she said. “After making it through the audition process, I went to weekly meetings for the pageant.”
The contestants were able to forge unforgettable friendships due to the amount of time spent practicing and striving for perfection.
“My favorite part was meeting all of the contestants because I made 11 new friends and we all got to really know each other,” Johannes said.
Winning first runner-up was West alumni, MeKenzie Lund, also cherished the unique ties the contestants forged.
“Returning to the pageant, I rekindled many of the friendships that I made two years ago,” she said. “It’s both interesting and rewarding that I keep a close relationship with the contestants and the people who bring us all together.”
Contestants are scored on stage for artistic expression in talent, on-stage question, presence and poise in evening wear, and lifestyle and fitness in swimwear.
“I got the impression that the scariest part would be lifestyle and fitness, so I practiced swimsuit blocking, which is just the swimsuit walk, in front of my mom a bunch,” said Johannes. “I was encouraged to be sassy and have fun with it, which takes a lot of self-assurance to feel good about yourself in a spotlight on a stage in the middle of winter. After I spent time practicing, I felt better and it actually ended up being one of the best parts.”
Criteria for fitness and swimwear are based on how well the contestants take care of themselves, their presentation, and confidence.
“Bethany really rocked it in swimwear,” said senior Macy Koch. “She looked beautiful and she truly did great in every part. I’ve been her friend for many years, so supporting her was unreal. I felt like she was a celebrity for a little bit, and when she was on stage I got overwhelmed and excited and I kept screaming. She definitely had the loudest fan section.”
Prior to the pageant, contestants chose platforms that featured something that can serve their fellow community members; and are then questioned on that topic.
“My platform was safe driving habits,” said Johannes. “I decided to do it because my grandmother recently passed away due to a car accident and that drove me to inform people on how to drive without distractions and what the consequences are. To save one person who means the absolute world to someone is really important.”
Johannes wasted no time in getting her message out into the world. She took initiative and went out into the community to start educating people about drivers safety.
“I made presentations for the drivers ed classes and career choices classes,” she said. “I hope it made an impact on them and it definitely helped me get used to talking about it.”
On stage, contestants were asked a single question that they had to respond to immediately, in an attempt to demonstrate their powers of articulation and improvisation skills. Freshman Alissa Arneson has been coming to the scholarship pageant for years, observing the aptitude needed to be a viable contestant.
“They have no idea what question they will be asked,” she said. “Some questions seem harder than others because they range from politics to celebrities and they have to come up with a pretty decent answer on the spot that pleases everyone.”
Time spent rehearsing pays better than most jobs for teenagers. Miss Oshkosh is one of the top three local pageants in Wisconsin. Since 1992 every contestant wins money and this year they all earned $400 in scholarship money provided by the Women’s Division of Oshkosh. Miss Oshkosh is a serious competition that serves as a stepping stone to Miss America, requiring diligence among competitors.
“Until I went this year, I didn’t realize how much effort and talent the contestants need to have to be on the stage,” said senior Casey Kaderly. “I was so proud to see Bethany do it because I personally experienced how much work she put into the pageant. It made the chances of her doing a great job unquestionable in my mind.”
The pageant gave Johannes a sense of real accomplishment, and she left the competition with a valuable life lesson. She learned that pageantry and true competition can have a lasting impact on both community and self.
“Now I am more confident with who I truly am,” she said. “There is no way a person can just fake their way through the pageant. People shouldn’t make it their goal to win, because then they won’t be happy in the end. It gave me a chance to show people who I am, and I doubt there are a lot of teenagers who would be comfortable doing that.”
By: Kaylyn Stanek