Small towns take pageants virtual during pandemic

Pageants going virtual

BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (WLBT) - Once upon a time in Brookhaven, Mississippi, there was a pandemic, but the people at the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce still wanted to crown a Miss Merry Christmas.

The yearly pageant involves waiting with other contestants during interviews with judges, something that it’s hard to do with safe social distancing in a small room. Along came Katie Nations, the Program Director at the Chamber, with an idea to save the tradition.

“Why don’t we do a video submission, we’ll set a time limit to it, and will have a point of view that we get them to submit that really gave them creative rein," said Nations. "So we asked them to tell a Christmas story.”

Katie Sproles was crowned the 2020 queen, but not before she submitted an application like no Miss Merry Christmas ever had before.

“We had to make a two minute video making up our own Christmas story," she said. "And we had to turn in a written application through email as well, and yeah, that was it. It was super easy.”

Some people wouldn’t think it was that easy. Sproles wrote her own Christmas story, which celebrates the Christmas lights in her hometown that she loves so much. When those lights go out after Santa snags a sleigh runner on them, an elf named Samuel is tasked with saving Christmas for Brookhaven. He is named after Samuel Jayne, the founder of Brookhaven.

Sproles' application video was of her reading the book she had written and illustrated with the Homeseekers' Paradise in mind.

Miss Merry Christmas 2019 Abby Smith says when she was crowned last year, she had interviews with judges. The contestants and their mothers all anxiously awaited the results in a room at the Chamber of Commerce. At the end of the judging, they were all called in to answer one more question to break a tie.

She said the idea of having autonomy in the nature of the entry is a good thing for a lot of contestants who think outside the box, like Sproles.

“I think it’s so cool that she had the freedom to create whatever she wanted through a video and she’s so creative, that gave her free rein,” Smith said.

Sproles says a virtual pageant may be a good idea in the end because there are things inside you can’t see by looking at people.

“I think in order to get something in life you really need that true inner beauty in yourself and that’s how you’ll truly succeed,” she said.

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