This past weekend, Elaina Rampey passed the torch to 11-year-old Addison Cunningham, of Marion, who was crowned Little Miss McDowell for 2017, and also received the title of Miss Congeniality.

Cunningham is in the fifth grade at Marion Elementary School.

She was one of 20 talented young ladies that competed in the 43rd Annual Little Miss McDowell Pageant. Approximately 250 friends, family and supporters were at East McDowell Middle School Saturday evening to encourage and support the contestants.

“The Little Miss McDowell pageant was an amazing opportunity. It has been fun meeting new girls that, like me, enjoy competing. I was so happy and surprised when they announced that I had won! I was filled with joy,” Cunningham said in a news release. “I was excited to look out into the audience and see everyone cheering me on. This year, I plan to promote McDowell County in a positive way. I hope to meet new people and also inspire young girls to follow their dreams.”

All of the contestants competed in talent and evening gown categories, and also had to complete an individual, formal interview with the panel of judges prior to the beginning of the pageant. Cunningham performed a lyrical ballet to “Read All about It.”

“It takes quite a bit of poise and maturity for a girl this age to perform in front of such a large crowd,” said Pageant Director Lynn Lewis.

Each winner received money toward the purchase of a savings bond and a trophy. Additionally, a crown and a sash were provided to the queen. A trophy was also awarded to each winner.

Cunningham received $400 toward a U.S. Savings Bond. First runner-up was Raigan Crummie, 7, who received $300 toward a U.S. Savings Bond. Second runner-up was Kaylyn Fairchild, 11, who received $200 toward a U.S. Savings Bond.

Regina Cunningham, Addison’s mother, said in the release she believes the pageant was a positive experience for all of the young girls involved from the contestants to the cadets.

“Addison is so excited to get started representing McDowell County for the upcoming year as Little Miss McDowell. She loves these mountains, her home, and the people that make up our community,” said Regina. “I love the confidence that competing has given her. It's something she will carry throughout all the stages of her life and help her to be brave, follow her dreams, and know that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to with hard work and perseverance.”

Rampey who served as LMM for 2016 said the experience is one she will never forget.

It has been an honor to represent McDowell County as Little Miss McDowell this past year. I have been able to attend numerous events and meet many people. My advice for Addison Cunningham is to enjoy every moment,” she said in an email to The McDowell News. “The year goes by very fast, wear the crown as much as you can! I will miss attending the events as Little Miss McDowell and representing the county, but I know Addison will do a great job!”

The annual pageant provides NJROTC Cadets an opportunity to practice leadership and organize a major event. Additionally, this pageant also serves as NJROTC’s major fundraising event for the year. Over 1,000 man hours of planning, rehearsals and practice by the contestants and cadets from the NJROTC Unit resulted in a successful pageant.

The interview portion of the competition is valuable in helping the girls develop strong interview skills. Even at this young age, it helps prepare these girls for scholarship and scholarship and college applications, as well as prepare for jobs later in life. Pageants are character building resources for young women that are often underutilized.

“We are grateful to both the spectators that attended the Pageant and also to the local businesses that provided support. Strong community support provides a strong partnership with the NJROTC Unit resulting in an event that is always successful and also fulfilling our unit’s fundraising efforts,” said Cadet Pageant Director Cadet Lt. Commander Amber Bartlett.

 More about Little Miss McDowell 2017 Addison Cunningham:

Her hobbies include competition dance, gymnastics, acting, Captain of the Robotics Club, Battle of the Books, jump rope team, Good News Club and learning to cook new recipes. Math is her favorite school activity. Addison’s accomplishments include Lifetime A honor roll, lead role in the Velveteen Rabbit, and performing in several other community theatre plays. She competed at the county science fair and placed second in her school talent show.

Judges’ Comments:

Addison Cunningham was well spoken in the interview and when asked about her county, the one that she would be representing, she knew some places she could take someone visiting our county. Her talent was beautiful and the emotion she showed while dancing defines lyrical dance. She was genuine. She was well poised and confident during evening gown. She carried herself like someone twice her age. She will do well representing McDowell County as Little Miss McDowell 2017.

The rest of the contestants were fantastic as well. Just to have the confidence to get on stage and literally bare their soul testifies to their strength. From youngest to oldest these ladies are amazing. All were winners Saturday!

 Judges:

Tyler Young, of Connelly Spring

Patti Jensen, of Mitchell County

Howard Smith Jr., of Old Fort

Ciji Dellinger, of Burnsville

Ashleigh Phillips, of Kings