Jackson Homecomers pageant focuses on confidence, poise

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Miss Homecomers contestants Mandy Whitlow, right, Marissa New, center, and Aimee Stockard rehearse Monday during the Miss Homecomers practice in front of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson. (Laura Simon)

Look at photographs of the Jackson Homecomers celebration from years ago and compare them to today. Not too much has changed.

Hailed as a traditional week full of family fun in the uptown area, the event is now in its 103rd year. Rides are often placed close to past locations. Many of the same foods are available, and most of the same stage contests are held.

Tonight's contest for the Miss Homecomers crown is one that has been around as long as the celebration, but despite the pageant's tradition, it runs a bit differently than other beauty pageants.

According to Merideth Pobst, the contest's organizer, judges aren't really looking to pick a winner for physical beauty but instead for good examples of confidence, poise and age-appropriateness. For that reason, she said, contestants are asked not to wear extravagant pageant-style dresses. What they are judged on is the ability to be themselves.

Mary Bauer, who competes often in pageants and was named second runner-up at the Miss Missouri pageant this year while representing Jackson, won the Miss Homecomers title in 2006. Bauer said the difference with the Homecomers pageant is that it gives girls an opportunity to show their community what kind of person they are.

Crews set the stage for Jackson Homecomers Monday in front of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse.

"It's more about getting to know the girls' personalities, and lets them get comfortable," Bauer said.

Pobst said while the pageant used to have a more traditional style, now elements like interviews with the contestants and wardrobe choice are geared more toward showing the judges each girl's individuality.

"They are asked to put together an outfit that reflects their personal style," she said. "One that represents what is appropriate for their age and reflects their creativity putting clothes together."

The judges base their interview questions on information submitted by the contestants. Pobst said the questions don't often have to do with a contestant's view of current affairs but instead focus on things relevant to girls their age, such as peer pressure or preparing for college.

Pobst said the interview is important for many contestants because it gives them experience with public speaking and preparing answers for situations they may find themselves in when they enter adulthood, such as job interviews.

On the night before the pageant, Pobst always helps prepare the contestants during a coaching session and rehearsal. While the coaching session does include teaching the contestants how to walk and pose on stage, Pobst said the information is really to remind the contestants how to stay comfortable in their own skin.

"A girl who looks like herself is what the judges are looking for," Pobst said.

Seven area teens in grades nine through 12 will compete in the contest at 8 p.m. today on the stage in front of the courthouse.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

Courthouse Square, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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