The annual beauty pageant held in conjunction with Ole Mills Days in the fall has been a success for the past few years in Hope Mills, and town officials are expecting similar results from the new Fourth of July pageant that will debut Friday, June 22.
The new pageant is part of the extended celebration of both the Fourth of July and the return of Hope Mills Lake.
The Fourth of July pageant will take place over a two-day period from June 22-23, both times in the gymnasium at the Hope Mills Recreation Center. Both events will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Kenny Bullock, who heads up the recreation department for the town, will oversee the pageant, which will determine winners in five different age groups.
The divisions will be 3-5, 6-9, 10-12, 13-16 and 17-22.
All contestants must be Cumberland County residents and pay an entry fee of $30 each. Entry forms are available at the recreation center
The deadline for entry is June 1, but this date may be extended if there aren’t enough entries in each of the five age groups
Bullock said they will be aiming for a minimum of five to six entries in each age group with a maximum of 20 per age group.
The entry fee is used to cover the cost of the competition since the town has not allotted any funds to cover the expense. Bullock said they will also seek outside sponsors to cover the cost.
Bullock said the gym at Hope Mills Recreation Center was chosen to host the pageant after the town was unable to find a local school where it could be held.
“We tried several schools,’’ Bullock said. “During the summer it’s hard to get into the schools because they are stripping and waxing the floors, trying to get schools ready. It was hard to fit the pageant in before the summer schedule.’’
In addition to issues dealing with regular summer maintenance at the schools, Bullock also said the summer schedule of the county schools is a problem since they are closed from Friday through Sunday during those months.
“It’s hard trying to get someone to come in, open the building and stuff,’’ he said. They also looked into using recreation or community buildings at local churches but were unable to find one suitable.
In addition to housing the actual pageant, Bullock said the recreation center also offers space to have dressing rooms for the contestants so they can be split up according to age group.
Bullock said the seating capacity of the gym, with bleachers and chairs set up on the floor, is 400. Tickets, which are $5 each, will be sold at the recreation center. Staff will keep count of the tickets sold to make sure capacity isn’t exceeded, Bullock said.
Each contestant will get one free ticket to give to a family member or friend.
Bullock said the pageant judges will be chosen from outside Cumberland County to try to ensure that none of them know any of the pageant contestants. He said judges will be sought who have previous pageant judging experience, possibly even at the national level.
The pageant will begin on Friday evening, June 22, with the competition for the youngest age group. “They get tired early,’’ Bullock said of the smaller children. “That night, they’ll be done, and they won’t be there until 10 or 11.’’
The remainder of the contestants will take the stage the following day. Bullock said there would not be a talent competition, but the contestants in the two oldest categories will have an onstage interview question during the competition.
We’re looking at natural beauty and stage presence,’’ Bullock said. Contestants are not allowed to wear fake eyelashes or wigs, only naturally-looking, age-appropriate makeup.
For any questions about the pageant, call 910-426-4107.