Miss Heart of Illinois pageant is back

Nick Stroman
Brianna Fitzgerald of Dunlap is a contestant in the Mills Illinois Pageant.

More than a dozen girls from throughout the state will be competing at three different pageants at Five Points Washington on Sunday.

After a seven-year absence, the Miss Heart of Illinois pageant will be returning to the area as a local preliminary opportunity for girls to make it to Miss Illinois in June, and then possibly move on to Miss America.

Miss Heart of Illinois is for high school senior girls to 24 years old.

The day will also include Little Miss Heart of Illinois, for girls ages three to seven, and Miss Heart of Illinois Outstanding Teen, for girls age 13 to high school juniors.

Roni VanAusdall, executive director of the pageant, said the idea to bring in a new regime and start up the pageant again was inspired by her own experience.

“I used to compete in the Miss America system along with the assistant director and we really gained a lot from it. We use what learned in both our personal and professional lives and I hope to offer the same opportunities for these girls,” VanAusdall said.

The last Miss Heart of Illinois pageant held in this area was in 2002. In the five years of its existence, it awarded more than $25,000 in scholarships to young women in Central Illinois.

The winner of Miss Heart of Illinois receives a $250 scholarship, while the Outstanding Teen and Little Miss winners receive $250 and $100 savings bonds, respectively.

VanAusdall said the community has been very supportive of the pageant system’s return to the area.

“All of the girls are getting free hair care for a year, skin treatments, fitness center passes and cars are being donated for all future appearances. The prize package is very large, and that’s due to all of the community donations,” VanAusdall said.

VanAusdall said Sleep Inn is also donating rooms for the pageant judges, as well as for Miss Illinois Katie Lorenz.

Lorenz is speaking to students at Washington Middle School on Friday, and staying for the weekend to perform and preside over pageant on Sunday.

VanAusdall said the girls have been practicing since January at Crossroads United Methodist Church in Washington.

“They’ve been at it every Sunday for three hours at a time. Our theme is ‘Tribute to Broadway’ and I think it’s going to make for some interesting talents that night,” VanAusdall said.

VanAusdall said there will be singing, dancing, monologue, belly dancing, color guard and instrumental selections on the flute and piano.

The Miss Heart of Illinois contestants will compete in five categories — private interview, swimsuit, evening gown, talent and onstage question.

The eight contestants for that pageant are: Ashley Murray of Washington, Kristen Slamar of Glenview, Brittney Simpson of Pekin, Alexandria Reynolds of Peoria, Kristy Maag of Peoria, Brianna Fitzgerald of Dunlap, Alexis Newport of Glasford and Jennifer Carr of Chatham.

The Outstanding Teen contestants will compete in the same categories, except replacing swimsuit with sportswear.

The four contestants for that pageant are: Denisha Womack of Peoria, Molly Smith of Dunlap, Alison Seys of Orion and Aleigha Welty of Washington.

The Little Miss contestants will compete in onstage interview and party dress.

The four contestants for that pageant are: Elise Bozarth of Holiday Shores, Brienna Destinies of Creve Coeur, Alyssa Escobar of Peoria and Hailey Hibberd of Chillicothe.

Brooklynn Teague of Washington was the only contestant for Miss Heart of Illinois Pre-Teen, so she will be crowned and dance for the crowd on Sunday as well.

The Little Miss and Outstanding Teen Pageants will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday at Five Points Washington, 360 North Wilmore Rd.

The Miss Heart of Illinois pageant will be at 7:30 p.m.

A pageant after-party will be at 10 p.m. at Knickerbocker’s in East Peoria and is open to the public.

For more information or to purchase tickets to any of Sunday’s pageants, visit www.missheartofillinois.org or www.fivepointswashington.org.