Spearman to direct his last Miss Starr’s Mill pageant

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Contestants wrap up their after-school session with acclaimed pageant coach Thomas Barnette (center), who coached the reigning Miss Starr’s Mill, senior Abby Feltner.

Emma Smith , Staff Writer

With the 14th annual Miss Starr’s Mill pageant less than two weeks away, the contestants, directors and crew members have been hard at work to ensure the event’s success. Emceed by Drama teacher and pageant director, David Spearman, and the reigning Miss Starr’s Mill, Abby Feltner, the pageant will feature 29 girls from all grades who will compete for $7,000 in scholarship money.

“I cannot wait to see the other girls’ talent,” senior and contestant Sydney Johnson said. “Enjoying the experience with the other girls is what I’m most excited for.”  The three-day event will take place Jan. 8-10 in the Willie Duke Auditorium.

Because Spearman is retiring in May, this will be his last pageant, and he has recruited several professionals to make it the best it can be. It is already the largest high school pageant of its kind in the country.

Spearman brought in Gregory Ellenburg, owner of the Pageant and Special Occasion dress shop in South Carolina, for a weekend to provide the contestants with an opportunity to try on various evening gowns. Ellenburg sells gowns to pageant contestants around the nation. Spearman also booked a group makeup demonstration with professional makeup artist Kristen White.

One of the most exciting visits was from nationally acclaimed pageant coach Thomas Barnette. He worked with seniors Feltner and Emma Wernecke, Miss Starr’s Mill 2013, in preparation for the Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen pageant this past summer.

“My experience working with the contestants was amazing,” Barnette said. “All of the young ladies are so poised and willing to learn something new about how to present themselves onstage. It’s not a small thing to put yourself out there to be judged by a panel of unknown adults.”

Pageant rehearsals, which started Nov. 17 , were held after school in the Drama room and in the auditorium until 5:30 or 6 p.m. During rehearsals, the girls learned essential pageant etiquette such as how to walk properly and how to speak to the audience. “Walking in a pageant is different than your everyday walk,” Barnette said. “I helped them with poise and how to walk in a way that shows confidence and grace. They all did very well with the session.”

During the three-day competition, the contestants will be divided into two groups. On the first night, the 15 members of Group A will perform their talent portion of the pageant, and the 14 girls in Group B will model their casual and evening wear selections. The groups will switch roles the following night.

 On Jan. 10,  five judges will interview the contestants individually in the morning and afternoon before the show.  At 7:30 p.m., the Top 10 finalists will be announced. They will then reappear in casual wear, evening wear, and perform their talents once again. The evening will culminate with the announcement of Miss Starr’s Mill 2015.

This year’s contestants are Allessandra Harms, Morgan Evans, Alexa Echevarria, Sydney Golden, Erica Lantz, Sydney Johnson, Hollyn Shadinger, Jenna Gay, Michaela Hillman, Catherine Dorr, Lauren Scott, Ginni Gray, Sara Kuehn, Chandler Cummings-McBride, Dominique Dawson, Kelly O’Shaughnessy, Olivia Crew, Alyssa Falla, Danielle Ajayi, Anna Hall, Mariah Blanks, Yuri-Grace Ohashi, Lauren Bachkosky, Olivia Perry, Kailee Martin, Cara Clements, Jaclyn Liberg, Lydia Powell and Paxton Hayes.

 “I would tell the current contestants to soak up the experience. Take in every moment and enjoy the lessons you learn, the laughs you have, and the amazing people you meet,” Feltner said. “The Miss Starr’s Mill Pageant is an incredible opportunity to discover your own potential, build confidence, and step out of your comfort zone.”

 The pageant will begin at 7 p.m. Jan. 8-9  and at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 10. Tickets are $8 for Thursday and Friday and $10 on Saturday.