Lincoln County contestants compete for college scholarships
This weekend, 16 talented Lincoln County women will compete in the 35th Lincoln County Apple Queen Pageant. The pageant is sponsored each year by Lincolnton’s Business and Professional Women’s Organization.
“Historically, it has always been the kickoff to Apple Festival season,” committee chair of the Apple Queen Pageant committee Cheryl Burgess said. “It’s a scholarship pageant that is open to the young ladies of Lincoln County that are residents, from rising high school seniors through college.”
In addition to the age requirement and resident status, participants must also have plans to further their education.
“The pageant offers the young women a chance to compete for scholarships, to financially support their education,” Burgess said.
Unlike some North Carolina pageants, the Lincoln County Apple Queen Pageant is not a Miss North Carolina Preliminary Pageant, and therefore does not have a talent portion for competitors.
“Our ladies do a fairly in-depth one-on-one interview with the judges,” she said. “They also have a business attire portion. As a business and professional women’s organization, BPW expect the young ladies to come in and be very professional. And then there’s a swimsuit portion as well as an evening gown portion.”
According to Burgess, the swimsuit segment is designed to highlight the participants’ commitment to staying healthy.
“The swimsuit segment is an opportunity to feature the girls,” she said. “It features their physical responsibility to their body in that they take care of themselves. We don’t want them to just take care of their mind; we want them to take care of their health as well. And then the evening gown portion also includes an on-stage question with the judges, and they are judged based on how well they respond there.”
The 16 participants, who represent all four of the county’s public high schools, will be judged by six judges this year, one of which is the current Miss North Carolina. According to Burgess, local businesses offer their support for the annual pageant by donating their services for the event.
“Not only do the local businesses support the pageant by buying ads in our program each year, but also, Fatz Café provides dinner for all of the judges the night of the event,” she said. “Hampton Inn provides accommodations for the judges to stay overnight because they do come from out of town, and there are several other businesses that contribute. The local businesses are just so loyal to this event, and they wrap their arms around it each year.”
In addition to these donations, First Federal Bank has also opted to donate two additional scholarships to commemorate the pageant’s 35 years of existence.
“Just to celebrate the milestone, First Federal Bank has stepped up and offered two additional scholarships this year that the girls are writing essays for, and First Federal will make that decision themselves, based on the essays the girls are writing,” Burgess said.
In addition to the First Federal Bank scholarships, the young women will compete for five scholarship prizes. The winner will receive a $3,000 scholarship; first runner-up will receive $1,500, second runner-up will receive $1,000; third runner-up will receive $750; and Miss Congeniality will receive $500.
While pageants can be cutthroat and competitive in nature, Burgess has found the participants to be both encouraging and respectful of each other.
“As the Committee Chair, I’ve had the privilege to go to some of the rehearsal, and you see these 16 beautiful young ladies from all four high schools,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see these girls that are competing against each other being such great friends to each other during the rehearsal. It’s not that typical competitive atmosphere where you can’t show all your cards at the table.”
A recent adoption to the county’s pageant has been the addition of an apprentice program.
“Each contestant has a young lady (9th-11th) that she chose to accompany her, and that offers these young girls an opportunity to experience the pageant without being in the pageant,” Burgess said. “Hopefully, that encourages them to want to compete when they’re old enough.”
Last year’s Apple Queen was Erica Miller, West Lincoln High School’s 2014 Valedictorian.
“Erica truly has been a wonderful and inspiring Apple Queen over the past year,” Burgess said.
Burgess encouraged all city and county residents to come out on Saturday to attend the pageant.
“We are playing a role in the furthering of their education and hopefully, they’ll come back to Lincoln County one day and be a professional businesswoman here in our own county,” she said.
This year’s Apple Queen Pageant will be held July 26 at the Citizens Center. Adult tickets are $10, and tickets for senior citizens are $8. Children under the age of 12 may attend for free. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the pageant begins at 7 p.m.