Twenty-two McDowell ladies will compete for the title of 2019’s Little Miss McDowell (LMM) at East Middle on Saturday. The theme for this year’s pageant is “The Wizard of Oz.”

The 45th annual Little Miss McDowell Pageant is hosted by McDowell High School’s NJROTC, and has served as one of the student organization’s biggest fundraising events. The pageant in turn helps cadets reach out into the community and bond with those they may have never met otherwise.

This year, 22 girls from ages seven to 12 will compete in talent, evening wear and interview. The contestants will be scored based on their performances by a panel of judges. This year’s judges are Stephanie Pritchard, Ric Luther, Ashley Butler, Carla Tompkins and Morgan Proctor. Regina Dean is the mistress of ceremonies.

2018’s LMM Kayleigh Freeman will perform with the 22 contestants in their opening number and perform her own solo routine, plus give her final walk as LMM. Carolina Dance Company will perform during intermission. Former and visiting queens will also be present.

Contestants will compete for the titles of Miss Congeniality, Second Runner-Up ($200 savings bond), First Runner-up ($300 savings bond), Little Miss McDowell ($400 savings bond).

Forty-five years ago, LMM was started by a group of young cadets as both a community service project and a unit fundraiser. Over the past 16 years, LMM has received help from volunteer Lynn Lewis as pageant director. Other volunteers part of making the pageant a success is Jennifer Dover, Courtney Dockery, Andy Ferguson, Wilma Elliott and Monica Elliott.

Curing the week before the pageant, contestants team up with a female cadet from NJROTC to act as their big sister. They help them with homework, and other needs they may have as they prepare for the pageant. This year’s Big Sisters from NJROTC are Hailey Raines, Skai Gathrite, Michelle Effler, Sandra Toms, Trinity Parker, Raegan Harris, Dora Montes, Katlyn Davis, Karlie Pendley, Riley Chapman, Tristan Bradshaw, Haevynn Wedel, Serenity Harrison, Makalya Evans, Rebecca Hall, Kearsten Pendley, Kaylee Harris, Jewly Day, Rose Smith, Shaquoia Largent, Alyson Kelly and Alyssa Morrow.

Cadet Amanda Harris serves as the pageant director, and Cadet Victoria Thomas as the assistant.

The show starts Saturday at 5 p.m. in the auditorium at East Middle. Tickets are $10. Kids six and younger are free. Program books are $8 each.

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