By Alex Ewald
Times Staff Writer
Rachel McElmurry and Erin Wilcox were both all smiles (and some tears) after winning the Junior and Miss Fort Gibson pageant competitions.
Junior Miss Fort Gibson Rachel, 12, said there was only one thing she wanted to do right now after winning on her first try on the Fort Gibson High auditorium’s stage.
“I want to wear this all the time,” said the beaming eighth-grader, wearing both her winner’s sash and crown.
As the Junior and Miss Fort Gibson, Rachel and Erin will work together representing the town in official capacities (such as last weekend’s Corn Festival), overseeing a community service platform and “having fun,” as Erin said.
Rachel, a eighth-grader, and Erin, a junior, each beat out two other girls for their crowns, impressing the five judges in talent, evening gown and on-stage question portions.
Each portion counted for a percentage of possible points.
Erin competed with runner-up Gracie Vanlandingham, who won both Miss Congeniality and Crowd Favorite, and second runner-up Kadrian Shelton, who was Junior Miss Fort Gibson 2010.
During the talent portion, Erin, who studies classical ballet, performed a Russian ballet with a tambourine titled “La Esmeralda.”
Gracie performed the contemporary number “The Girl in 14-G,” originally done by Kristin Chenoweth.
Kadrian disco-ed up in a glimmering headband and jumpsuit — complete with bell-bottoms — with a rendition of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
Rachel performed an original comedic monologue about getting a “C” on an art project involving coat hangers. She competed with two other girls, Autumn Burroughs and Niki Fryer, both her friends from school.
“I’m very used to being on stage,” Rachel said. “I love acting because you can show your talent.”
Before the pageant, the six contestants also held private interviews with the judges.
Judge Alisha Tanksley, with the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce, said the hardest part is always making the decision because the judges spend all day with the girls.
“You have talented young ladies, and choosing just one is always difficult,” Tanksley said.
By the time the contestants perform, Tanksley said she’s on the edge of her seat hoping they do well.
“By then, you’ve already formed a connection with them and you’re cheering for all of them,” she said. “They all have goals they want to achieve and they’re all strong women, and I am thrilled.”
While wearing their gowns, the three Miss Fort Gibson contestants were asked by emcee Kris Copeland to present and explain their platforms for serving the community.
Erin, wearing a strapless lavender gown with a train, said as Miss Fort Gibson 2012, she would coordinate a volunteer drive for Clarehouse, a hospice care organization located in Tulsa.
The organization is entirely run on donations and volunteers, said Erin, whose grandfather received end-of-life care before passing away last month.
“I hope to make (the patients’) lives comfortable before they pass away,” she said.
Both winners received prize money, along with the crown and sash. Erin also received a $750 scholarship to Northeastern State University.
Though she said she hasn’t decided on a college yet, Erin said she plans to take concurrent classes while still in high school.
She emphasized that the most important part of being the new Miss Fort Gibson is serving as a positive role model for young girls in her community.
“Little girls look up to you,” she said. “It’s just a great way to set an example for them.”
Rachel said she definitely wants to try for the Miss Fort Gibson crown when she’s older.
She said she wants to be more involved in the community, with Erin as an example, but added that she “kinda loves the competition.”
By Alex Ewald
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