Following the Portsmouth River Days parade on Saturday, was the 45th-annual River Days pageant at Vern Riffe Center for the Arts, at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth. The pageant is an annual local tradition, as girls from all local schools compete for the Miss River Days crown. But the fun isn't all for the Queen's event. The pageant also has several other categories for girls of all ages. "We have a Tiny Miss Queen, which is a penny per vote. We have a Little Miss Queen, which are kids kindergarten through second grade, and we crown a queen and a princess in that category. We crown a queen and a princess in grades 3-5, that's Junior Miss, and then we crown a Teen Miss Queen from our girls 6-8 grade," said Lori Lowe, of the pageant committee. "Our hopes are, as kids keep participating in the competition, that the skills they build along the way change. We expect more from the Junior Miss than we do the Little Miss, and the Teen Miss Queens onstage questions become a little more difficult." There were a total of 33 girls participating in the pageants this year. Of them all, judges crowned 12 winners from all five categories - two tinies, two littles, two juniors, three teens and three Miss River Days ( the queen and the two runners-up). Lowe said judges are looking at poise, carriage, personality and responses to on-stage questions. Aside from winning the coveted crown, Lowe said this also was a scholarship pageant. "We believe our girls get so much more because the No. 1 fear of adults is public speaking. So we get kids speaking in front of large crowds of people at the age of 3 and 4 years old," she said. But it's not all makeup and dresses. Lowe said the girls spend the summer doing services around the community. She said these services help the girls learn responsibility, organization and planning. After a long, tense evening of competitions on Saturday, the winners finally were called. Last year's Miss River Days Queen was there to greet this year's winner, in the ceremonial passing of the crown. "Last year's queen was Casey Stapleton, and she was from Clay. She was only the fourth girl to ever win from Clay, and it had been 24 years since they had a winner," Lowe said. Also Joining Stapleton were last year's first runner-up Courtney Haller, and second runner-up Annie Glockner. According to Lowe, this year's Miss River Days Pageant winners were Ali Thompson, of Green (queen), Megan Miers, of East (first runner-up), and Kaci Webb, of Wheelersburg (second runner-up). "It was a really great experience. I'm really glad I did it. It was a lot of fun," Thompson said. "I gained a lot of friends, and I gained confidence for speaking, and such." Miers said she was so nervous, she didn't even realize the judges had called her number. Like Thompson, Miers and Webb both said they made a lot of friends and gained a lot of confidence through the event. Webb also said she gained a lot of time-management skills, by staying so busy all the time. "All 12 (Miss River Days) contestants were amazing, and I said backstage before anyone got crowned that whoever gets it this year absolutely deserves it, because each girl has worked her butt off," Miers said. The excitement wasn't all on the Miss River Days candidates, though. Mikala Thompson, of Wheelersburg, won River Days Teen Miss Queen. She said she made "a ton" of new friends, and said she might like to participate in the Miss River Days pageant when she's old enough. She also said she wanted to be an optometrist after high school. Alexandria Logan, of Wheelersburg Middle School, placed first runner-up in the Teen Miss River Days category. She said she plans on participating in the Miss River Days pageant when she's old enough, and said she has big plans for when she graduates high school. "I want to be a meteorologist, and maybe someday take over Al Roker's job on the "Today" show," Logan said. Mackenzie Horsley, of Valley, won second runner-up in the Teen Miss River Days pageant. "It was very nerve-racking, but now I'm pretty excited," she said. Lisa Potts, of Portsmouth, was there with her 3-year-old daughter, Ebbie Potts, who won Princess in Tiny Miss River Days category. Little Ebbie is so tiny, in fact, Lowe joked about the tiny sash still being too big for her. Her mother, who adopted Ebbie from China in 2005, said this was her first pageant. "Her biggest goal was to be a princess and ride in the parade, and she accomplished that, so she's happy about that," Lisa Potts said. Little Ebbie said her favorite part was wearing the pretty dresses and riding in the parade. Her favorite things of all to do is ride horses. Mary Beth Thompson, of Valley, won Little Miss Princess category, and Bailey Crabtree, of Wheelersburg, won Little Miss Queen. Both girls said the parade was their favorite part. Crabtree also said she would like to be in the "big girl" pageant when she grows up. The three Miss River Days winners will be attending all the festivals and parades, representing Portsmouth. On Sunday, all of the winners made an appearance at River Days along the Ohio River, and at the Kid's Festival at York Park. Later that evening, they participated on the soundstage. also, and said they are looking forward to attending the Wellston Coal Festival next weekend. "We want the girls to be recognizable by the people in this community, because they are representing the community," Lowe said. After the pageant, Lowe said everything went great. She said the event sold more that 1,600 tickets, and the money raised from those sales will go back into next year's pageant. Next year, she said the pageant may try to reincorporate judge's private interviews, but have them done onstage for everyone to see. "It's a very tiring day, but in the end, when you see the girls smiling with great confidence, then it's made all the time worth it. The crowd was awesome, and the girls did an awesome job in all divisions," Lowe said. A complete list of contestants was unavailable on Monday.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.