That was the advice last year's Miss SEMO District Fair pageant winner, Megan Nelson, told contestants on Sunday. And that advice was helpful to Kate Winzenburger, who won this year's title.
"I was real excited. I've never won a pageant before," said Winzenburger, who competed in her first pageant about three weeks ago at her hometown of Cobden, Ill.
The Southeast Missouri State University junior will represent the SEMO District Fair at the state's fair pageant in Sedalia, Mo., next year.
More than 60 contestants, ranging from ages 2 to 22, competed in this year's SEMO District Fair pageant, said Melody Hutson, pageant coordinator. The number of contestants has gone down, especially in the older division, during the last 10 years Hutson has coordinated the event.
Hutson said she would like to see more women compete in the 17 to 22 age division -- this year there were three entrants.
"The pageant is a really good opportunity for the girls. They build interview skills, and it's a great confidence booster," she said.
Most girls, like Mary Dodd, 13, of Cape Girardeau, enjoyed the opportunity to get dressed-up.
"I just do it for fun," said Dodd, who competed in the fair pageant the past three years.
Although she didn't place in the top three, Dodd's family from Steele, Mo., cheered her on and said they enjoyed watching her on-stage.
The pageant's 2- and 3-year-old contestants drew the most cheers from the audience. Many of the girls' mothers carried them on-stage and several broke down in tears.
Elizabeth Roy, 3, said she was nervous but went on-stage without the help of her mother, Kelly. "I was in a pretty dress," said Elizabeth, who placed second in her age group.
Kelly Roy said this was Elizabeth's second year to enter the SEMO District Fair pageant, the only pageant she competes in. And that's only if Elizabeth wants to enter, Kelly Roy said. "She's very much a girl and loves to play dress up," her mother said.
The younger contestants are judged based on their gown and grooming, as well as poise and self-confidence. The older contestants also have a separate interview portion, which is what Winzenburger plans to work on before the Sedalia pageant next year.
"I have a year to prepare so I plan on entering a few more pageants this year, just for the practice," she said.
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District Fair pageant winners
1st: Kelee Gromer of Clarkton
2nd: Elizabeth Roy of Cape Girardeau
3rd: Madison Hall of Bertrand
Little Miss SEMO Fair (Ages 4-6)
1st: Aleesia Holland of Cape Girardeau
2nd: Ashtyn Rains of Chaffee
3rd: Laney Koch of Oran
Young Miss SEMO Fair (Ages 7-9)
1st: Megan Porter of Scott City
2nd: McKenzie Goodson of Cape Girardeau
3rd: Leah Van Winkler of Chaffee
Pre-teen Miss SEMO Fair (Ages 10-13)
1st: Hannah Noe of Dexter
2nd: Hillary Green of Sikeston
3rd: Natalee Edwards of Cape Girardeau
Teen Miss SEMO Fair (Ages 14-16)
1st: Julie Motherhead of Scott City
2nd: Heather Beggs of Benton
3rd: Connie Dement of Sikeston
Miss SEMO Fair (Ages 17-22)
1st: Kate Winzenburger of Cape Girardeau
2nd: Danielle Harper of Sikeston
3rd: Kaleisha Walker of Cape Girardeau