It’s a spectacular comeback for one of the region’s top beauty pageants – one in which everyone who enters is a real winner.
The Pulaski County Miss Abilities pageant will be held this Saturday at the Rural Development Center. It is an opportunity for women with intellectual disabilities to compete to be crowned queens.
And even if there will be a first, a second and a third winner, each participant will leave with a trophy.
According to organizers Blake Roberts and Sheila Hamm Fields, around 90 women from across the region will participate this year, the highest number since the competition began in 2017.
Roberts said they started with 43 women that first year and the number grew steadily through 2019.
But COVID has put the kibosh on the contest over the past two years. Those two years were difficult for members of the community with disabilities, especially those living in nursing homes, as rules required they were not allowed to go out and socialize, Fields said.
“We didn’t think we would be able to give them the full potential of the contest with these guidelines,” Roberts said, which meant waiting for the COVID numbers to come down enough to hold the contest.
It just means the ladies are ready and eager to go this year, she and Fields said.
“They’re really excited and always asking about it. “When is the next contest?” Roberts said.
It’s a one-day adventure for these ladies, as they’ll be arriving at the Center at 11 a.m. to start getting ready.
It means eating lunch; hair, make-up and nails done; get photos taken by Crystal Clear Photography; followed by a crash course in stage presence and how to wow the crowd.
The winners of the local competition will explain to the ladies how to take the stage like a real queen. “They’re practicing the waves and the steps and building their confidence before the contest,” Roberts said.
Moreover, if a lady wishes, she can be accompanied on stage by one of the men who will be on site.
“Some of the girls just like to rock the stage on their own, but there will be handsome men there to escort them on stage if they choose to do so,” Roberts said.
Although it’s an exciting day for women, it’s a year-long process for organizers and volunteers.
The idea began in 2017, when Roberts, Fields and the late Debra Nolan sat around brainstorming how to help community members who have disabilities feel included.
Roberts said a lady she cares for, Brittany Osborne, wanted to enter the competitions at the fair, but while researching these, they learned that the competitions were all for children or young women.
The idea was born to give adult women in the community a show of their own.
“I feel like our goal is to give them that day where it’s all about them and making them feel beautiful and special and the center of attention,” Roberts said.
Since Nolan’s passing, his daughter Aubrey has stepped in to help organize, Roberts said.
This year they believe they will have 50-75 volunteers to help keep everything running on time.
The pageant itself begins at 3 p.m., but members of the public are welcome to join the women anytime after 11 a.m. Food will be available for the public.
Also on show will be Monticello’s Southern Apparel, which will screen print t-shirts on-site to customer specifications.
“People can pick any shirt they want,” Roberts said, “it doesn’t have to be contest colors. We’ll have tie-dye, sweatshirts, hoodies hood, different things that they can choose and have screen printed on site.
ConnieS CreationS will also be offering nail decals. Contest-themed decals will be an option for contestants who are getting their nails done, but members of the public can purchase their own.
Roberts suggested members of the public interested in purchasing merchandise bring cash to facilitate this.
There is no charge for members of the public to watch the show, but donations are always welcome, Roberts said.