Leila Sisson Case: Miss SAR 2019 Pageant is exciting, worthy tradition

Published 11:17 am Saturday, March 30, 2019

It was exciting to be among those in the audience at the 31st annual Miss SAR Pageant last Friday night, a Southland Academy event I haven’t missed since it was initiated by the late Teresa McNeill and the MOMS Club, mothers of Southland students, to provide high school girls an opportunity to develop personal grace, poise, and confidence, but most importantly to raise funds for academic scholarships that are awarded to deserving students.
Of course, the most exciting moment of the evening came when Miss Georgia 2018 Annie Jorgensen crowned Lydia Anne Love, a freshman, Miss SAR 2019 and announced her court. Lydia Anne also won the evening gown award; Hannah Mitchell won first runner up, Miss Congeniality, having been voted on by all the contestants as well as the interview award. Maddy Copeland was second runner up and Delaney Comer won the People’s Choice Award. The interview award is named in memory of Bett Glover Womack who was a vital part of the program for many years. This year’s scholarship funds, a total of $450, were divided among the top three winners.
The nine contestants were impressive as they competed on stage in sportswear, fitness, and evening gown. Earlier in the day they had a personal interview with the judges. Other contestants were Anslee Barnes, Sam Pinnell, Averi Smith, Mary Catherine Dean, and Hannah Atkins.
Congratulations ring out for the emcee Laura Kinslow, lower school director, and to Crystal Waddell, director, who guided and worked for months with the students in an effort to make everything perfect. She initiated a new feature this year, the Princess Camp, a group of 37 girls in K-fifth grade, who sang and danced on stage.
I applaud Southland for continuing this tradition for it is worthwhile and a win-win program all around. Proceeds, after expenses, benefit the Thomas Greene and Madeline Wildes Scholarships. Today the event is sponsored by FANS — a group of Southland parents and supporters.
Among those in the audience I know were Andy Shivers, the pageant’s official photographer, who has been involved since the beginning days of the event; Wilma Kinslow, who I sat with and Elaine Borders, Everett Byrd, Beth NeSmith, Susan Welch, Sally Peak Lanier, John and Tiffany Dean and her parents, Bob and Cathy Slaton of Meridian, Mississippi, Russ and Jarrett Barnes, Lee and Faith Pinnell, Jeryl and Marion Pinnell, Steven Pinnell, Danny and Lisa Atkins, Jason and Angie Love, Nathan and Mary Ann Hammack, Larry and Jane Comer, Brandon and Kim Comer, Jason and Holly Mitchell, and Melanie Copeland.
Another big event was the Smarr Smith Foundation’s third annual Paint the Town Blue gala, the foundation’s largest fundraiser, and proceeds after expenses go to law enforcement agencies and to the local colleges in the form of scholarships for students interested in becoming a police officer or for current officers that want to further their education, according to Nigel Poole, foundation president.
Board members that planned the event other than Poole were, Blake Dukes; Faith Pinnell, secretary; Jessi Simmons, treasurer; Jimmy Whaley, past president; Donnie McCrary, public relations chair; Stacee Fussell, Shannan Blanchard, Paul Blanchard, Chuck Hanks, Russ Barnes, Tracy Hall, Paul Johnson, and ex officio members Sumter County Sheriff’s Lt. Jay Lewis, Americus Police Chief Mark Scott, Sumter County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Col. Eric Bryant and Georgia Southwestern State University Police Chief Mike Tracy.
Eric Jones, a finalist on America’s Got Talent, performed several illusions using many different people from the audience. Afterwards the Swingin’ Medallions had everyone dancing the night away.
The theme chosen for the Sumter Federation of Garden Clubs’ March luncheon meeting was birds, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate with spring finally here. Following lunch hosted by the Azalea Garden Club, Phil Hardy, avid bird watcher and fellow columnist in this newspaper, gave a wonderful PowerPoint presentation on an excursion he made to Brazil several years ago and showed beautiful color photographs of rare tropical birds he captured in his camera lens.
Elsewhere, many locals are enjoying spring break at the beach and taking other trips. Shirley Litwhiler spent last weekend in Atlanta with her daughter and family, Missy and Matt Urda, and attended a performance of “The Jersey Boys” at the Fox Theatre. Also in the audience was Nick Owens. Sparky Reeves celebrated his 70th birthday this week — congratulations. Former residents Dick and Louella Pace of Dacula were here this week visiting Larry and Phyllis Tucker.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.