Second run at pageant title ends with crown

For her talent, junior Abby Feltner gave a soulful rendition of Etta James’ “At Last.”

Nicole Resler, Staff Writer

Junior Abby Feltner said she was excited when she heard her name called as the first runner-up in the Miss Starr’s Mill Pageant last year, but it was nothing compared to the emotions she felt when she heard her name called for the top spot this year.

Feltner joined hands with junior Camille Edwards and freshman Yuri-Grace Ohashi as the three finalists waited for the results.  “Standing up there with my best friend made it better than anything I could ever dream of,” said Feltner, referring to Edwards. “It didn’t even matter who won.”

For three days in early January, Feltner, Edwards, Ohashi and 29 other contestants competed for the coveted crown and scholarship money.

Edwards, who sang “Life of the Party” from the musical The Wild Party, was first runner-up, and Ohashi as the second runner-up made school history as the first freshman to crack the top 10.  Rounding out the top five were senior Kelly McCarty as third runner-up and junior Mariah Blanks as fourth runner-up.

“Going into the pageant, I was hoping for top 10. When my name was called for top five, I was shocked,” said Ohashi, who performed a Latin jazz dance for her talent portion.

Feltner, who has a deep, throaty voice, belted out Etta James’ soulful blues song “At Last” for her talent portion, wearing a classic black-laced dress with a tulled bottom. “As soon as Abby started singing, the crowd was in awe. Her performance was so well done, you didn’t want it to end,” said senior Merianna Pitts, who also competed in the pageant.

When Feltner heard her name called,  “I looked out into the crowd and thought I was in a dream. Mr. Spearman had to grab my hand and tell me to get it together and smile.”

David Spearman, who is the chair of the Fine Arts Department and the Drama teacher, has been producing the annual pageant for the last 14 years. “I love the pageant,” Spearman said.  “I think it’s three great evenings of entertainment.  The girls gain so much self confidence by participating in it and they walk away with a great sense of accomplishment.”

For those who have seen any of the school productions, they would not be surprised to see Edwards as the first runner-up. But Edwards admitted to being a bit nervous.

“I was 100 percent out of my comfort zone,”  Edwards said. “I had to believe I was in character when I was on stage.”

According to SMHS alumnus Zach Stutts, who is one of the pageant producers, Miss Starr’s Mill awards the most scholarship money of any high school pageant in the nation. The top five winners received a combined total of $7,000. Feltner won $2,000; Edwards, $1,500; Ohashi, $1,000; McCarty, $600; and Blanks, $400. 

To the audience, the pageant went off without a hitch, but because of snow days the first two days back to school after winter break, Spearman and the contestants had just one day of rehearsals to work out any glitches or kinks before the pageant began. 

Contestants had to rehearse more or less on their own.  Feltner said she practiced her song every chance she had and prepared her outfits and hairstyle ideas in advance.

“I looked at Pintrest for ideas and put an image in my head of how I wanted everything to go,” Feltner said. “The first night was an easy night for me. I had casual and evening wear.”

Last year’s winner junior Emma Wernecke placed the crown on Feltner’s head and gave Feltner some good advice.

“Emma told me to have fun and be confident. She was a great support system to have during the pageant,” Feltner said.

As part of her platform as Miss Starr’s Mill, Feltner wants to encourage girls to play sports.  Feltner, who plays girls lacrosse, plans to collect used sports equipment and donate it to girls who are unable to afford sports equipment themselves.  In June, she and Wernecke will attend the Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen Pageant in Columbus and represent Starr’s Mill.

After her victory sunk in, Feltner had no trouble smiling.  Feltner found herself holding a bouquet of red roses, wearing a sparkling tiara, and looking at a check for $2,000.