The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


October 16, 2013

Winner wonderland

United Way of Southern West Virginia kicks-off fundraiser with pageant style and substance

Typical beauty pageants have more baggage than can be accounted for by makeup cases and wardrobe carry-ons. There are entire television series based on pageantry’s shimmery shenanigans, from precocious toddlers in sparkly tiaras to the best oxymoron this side of bittersweet: Honey Boo Boo.

Miss Utah 2013’s clarion call (to men specifically) on how to “create education better” and Miss Teen South Carolina 2007’s revelation that ignorance in matters of the Middle East is due to a shortage of maps have each done their part in perpetuating unsavory stereotypes.

On the contrary, organizers of the Nov. 2 Wonderland of Trees Charity Festival Pageant to kick-off United Way of Southern West Virginia’s popular pre-holiday fundraiser are determined to build a better pageant.

The first Wonderland of Trees Festival Pageant began with the idea of getting residents of all ages interested in the United Way’s mission.

Jennifer Meadows, co-owner of Jean Ann’s Bridal and a fashion merchandiser with pageant experience, prefers events designed to benefit charity; she has helped organize and has competed in several pageants specifically created to help her community.

“I’ve been driven by working for charities since I was a little girl. When Margaret O’Neal (United Way of Southern West Virginia executive director) said she wanted to do a pageant, I immediately volunteered.”

Pageants have also earned the reputation of costing big bucks, but charity pageants like the Wonderland Pageant are meant to build, not bilk, a community, confirms Meadows. Just as Mr., Miss, Teen and Mrs. Wonderland will have to demonstrate compassion and initiative, so will the pageant delivering their titles.

“This is a competition; there will be winners, but all proceeds from the pageant after expenses will go to the United Way. Those who enter can even count it as a tax deduction. It is considered a donation,” Meadows explains.

Call it a win-win, as winners will abound at the Wonderland Pageant — including those who take top prize in their respective categories (0-12 years; 13-15 Teen; 16-21 Miss; 18 and up married Mrs.; and Grand Supreme winner) and the charities benefiting from the entry proceeds, determined by the United Way.

All participants will receive a crown or medal and winners in the Teen and Miss 16-21 categories will receive small but significant scholarships.

What co-organizer and Crossroads Mall Manager Kathy Housh is most excited about is being part of the first pageant in the area to have a Special Needs contestant category, described as “a pageant within a pageant,” and where every participant is truly a winner.

“They each get sashes and crowns and they all get to feel special. I just think it’s the coolest thing. We need to do so much more for our special needs residents,” states Housh.

The dreaded interview question will be in play for those main category contestants ages teen and above, but Meadows and Housh emphasize the questions aren’t meant to intimidate, but to serve pageantry’s original intent — to prepare the best spokespersons to speak out on behalf of their charity.  

“Our desire is to have a quality pageant that will give our participants some real opportunities. Winners will be out in the community hosting events and volunteering for the United Way,” describes Housh.

While there will be loveliness to spare on stage, she assures surface attractiveness will not have the final say in success.

“This is not a focus on vanity. This goes deeper.”

Meadows explains how the pageant is no less glamorous for its benevolent focus, describing how contestants compete in each of three segments: interview, a Sense of Style (featuring ensembles reflecting their personalities in red, green or gold) and in a traditional evening wear segment.

Winners will further their leadership skills by assisting the United Way at the Wonderland of Trees Grand Reveal event Nov. 7 and at the culminating tree auction Nov. 22. They will also maintain active posts at charitable initiatives throughout the year.

The pageant with integrity has gotten early entrants thinking about what they want out of life, about their desires for the greater good and about gaining experience at volunteerism. That, in keeping with the theme of building a better pageant for a better community, is what Housh and Meadows intended.

“I think this can really be a life-changer for some young women,” Housh adds.

— E-mail:

Text Only
  • 072314 Life CrossFit 4.jpg Crossfit Nation: Working out the WOD way

    Just as fashion trends come and go, so do fitness fads, and Cyndie Chinn had tried them all.

    July 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • downsize 1 Living large in smaller spaces

    How is it possible that as your nest gets emptier, your garage gets fuller? Living off the grid sounds tantalizing — the extreme version of paring down. But are you ready for solar panels and growing your own groceries or would a smaller home do the trick?

    July 20, 2014 3 Photos

  • Relishing the faith of little children

    July 19, 2014

  • Guns 1 ‘Guns’ for Life

    With the latest World Health Organization figures showing global life expectancy increasing from 64 years in 1990 to 70 years in 2011, staying healthy enough to add quality to the quantity of life is an important consideration.

    July 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • coconut 4 Crack open the power of the coconut

    Now let’s get this straight …
      We know about Parrotheads. And Cheeseheads. But when did Coconut Heads become cool?
    Move over, argan — you are so last season. Another exotic oil is taking lead role in everything from shampoo to weight-loss supplements. That cast-iron skillet seasoning, stretch-mark banishing essence of the hour is — coconut oil.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • Free summer serenade concert to be held

    Aurora Celtic, sponsored by Ivy & Stone, presents the free Summer Serenade concert Saturday at 6 p.m. on the Brown House lawn in Summersville.

    July 13, 2014

  • WVU Extension: Healthy summer eating tips for all occasions

    Summer and early fall are the times of year for family reunions, potluck picnics, pool parties and various other celebrations where we like to share food.

    July 13, 2014

  • new BAF fund Endowment still helping students attend college

    The “Beckley College, College of West Virginia, Mountain State University and University of Charleston-Beckley Alumni Association Fund” has the distinction of having the longest name of any of the 400 permanent endowments managed by the Beckley Area Foundation.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • My faith is an anchor to hold on to

    July 12, 2014

  • 062514 Life Piloxing 3.jpg Wellness Wednesdays: One-Two, Punch!

    In a fast-paced blend of pilates, boxing and dance, a popular group exercise class at the YMCA called Piloxing is a sure way to increase cardio and build long, lean muscles.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos