Young women throughout Lincoln County decide to enter into the Lincoln County Apple Queen Pageant for varying reasons. Of course, there’s the chance to win scholarship money. With more than $8,000 available this year, that’s a big draw, but many enter for the experience and to gain confidence. Many have dreamed of being the Apple Queen since they first had one of the reigning queens visit their elementary school.
This year, there are 13 contestants who will be judged in the categories of interview, how they answer a surprise on-stage question, pageant swimsuit, business attire during the interview and evening gown. The winner will represent Lincoln County throughout the following year in several events and activities, including the Lincoln County Apple Festival. This year’s Apple Queen Pageant, sponsored by the Business and Professional Women of Lincoln County, will be held on Saturday, Aug. 3.
Pageant director and 2013 Apple Queen Erica Miller and others have been busy behind the scenes planning and coordinating the pageant and working with the contestants. As the director, Miller makes sure the pageant runs smoothly. Lots can go wrong so every small detail needs to be covered. No matter how much planning there is involved, catastrophes can happen, like a judge cancelling the day before the pageant, which happened two years ago.
“We had to scramble to find a qualified replacement judge on such short notice, which is hard to do,” she said. “That was probably the biggest debacle we had to deal with.”
Miller has continued to be the director for the past five years because she is so appreciative of what she got out of competing in the pageant. Despite having been involved with so many pageants, she’s never able to pick the winner. When she saw the 13 girls who are competing this year, the first thing that she told them was, “there are 12 of you in this room who are going to be losers, but you’re not losers, there’s something to gain from this experience whether you win it or not.”
“I remember when I competed, I told my mom the day before the pageant that I was so glad that I competed because I gained so much,” she said. “I want to pass that on to each of the girls that do participate in the pageant. I hope that they enjoy doing the pageant whether they win or not.”
The oldest contestant this year, at 22 years old, is Bailey Beam, a 2015 graduate of Lincolnton High School and a 2019 graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University. She is competing for a scholarship to help with graduate school. Beam is planning to return to L-R to obtain a master’s degree in teaching.
At one time, according to Miller, older girls would be the most likely ones to win. The age limit for the pageant is from high school seniors to 23 years old but, most recently, the contestants have been predominately high school girls. Prior to 2012, she said, it was common for girls to take a few years after graduating to gain experience before competing because it was always the older girls that won.
“I’d never been interested in doing pageants until I did the school pageant at Lenoir-Rhyne and I had so much fun with it,” Beam said. “I figured I’m going back to school and the scholarship money wouldn’t hurt. Plus I thought it would be a fun thing to do for the summer. I was really scared at first but I got to know some of the girls and am having a blast now.”
The experience of the pageant and friendships developed is something that most of the winners say they enjoyed most about the pageant. In Mary Field’s instance, she came back for another shot at the crown. A 2019 graduate of North Lincoln High School, Field is planning to attend the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in the fall. She competed in the pageant last year and was the third runner up and winner of the Apple of My Eye award.
“They were all like family to me,” she said. “I wanted to experience it again because I loved it so much last year. My plan is to win this time though.”
This year, Field said that she’s changed her interview approach as well as her walk. She’s also trying to keep up more with current events and has taken a college class on public speaking. Field plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then further her education and obtain a second degree to work as a neonatal nurse practitioner.
From the West Lincoln High School class of 2020, Alexa Bieberich decided to enter the pageant to make an impact on young Lincoln County girls to let them know that it’s okay to go on after losing a parent. Bieberich lost her father when she was 13 to alcoholism
“I’ve always been kind of a shy kid so when I lost him it felt like everything was falling apart,” she said. “I had to come out of my shell and push through the bad stuff. I still had my mom but I had to grow up a bit. My mom pushed me to do this pageant saying it would be good for me.”
An avid barrel racing competitor, Bieberich has also been active in sports while in high school. She plays varsity basketball, runs varsity cross country and track. She’s not a “girly-girl” and didn’t wear heels much so the “walk” was something she had to work on.
“I only wear heels when going to church or prom,” Bieberich said. “I rodeo.”
Bieberich hasn’t decided on what college she’ll attend but she wants to be in the medical field as a profession.
“I guess watching what my dad went through has pushed me to it a little bit,” she said. “I want to be able to help people.”
The Lincoln County Apple Pageant will be held on Saturday, Aug. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the James W. Warren Citizens Center. Tickets are $10 and available at the door. The citizens center is located at 115 West Main Street in Lincolnton.