“It's not the crown that makes the girl, but the girl that makes the crown.”
That's what outgoing Miss Beloit 2008 Brittnay Wittnebel said before she crowned her successor at the 2009 Miss Beloit Pageant, held Saturday evening at Beloit Memorial High School.
The girl who took that crown was Beloit Memorial High School senior Jessica Johnson, daughter of Jackie and Michael Johnson. Johnson was overjoyed, wiping away tears as she took her first strides across the stage as Miss Beloit 2009.
Johnson said her platform was “Starting Healthy Keeps You Healthy.” She plans to go into elementary schools and teach children how to make healthy eating choices and stay active.
During the interview portion of the competition, Johnson said that children need to know what they put in their bodies. Years in the future, their choices will affect their health.
Johnson, who played piano during the talent competition, said she started practicing about two months ago for the pageant. What took so long to prepare for, she said, felt like it went by in 10 minutes.
“My favorite part was the practices and getting to know all the girls,” Johnson said.
The other Miss Beloit 2009 contestants included: Elizabeth Hill, Sara Hobson, Julia Froelich, Melanie Dunkin, Lakeia Jackson, Rebecca Clingan, Brooke Knoble, Caitlin Schober, Natalie DiChiria and Brianna Woodard.
The award for first runner-up went to Caitlin Schober, daughter of Tim and Dana Schober. Her platform was “Living a Healthy Life Through Therapeutic Lifestyles” and her talent was playing the alto saxophone.
The second runner-up was Sara Hobson, daughter of Wash and Sara Hobson. Her platform was “Self-esteem” and her talent was singing.
The third runner-up was Melanie Dunkin, daughter of Tom and Regina Dunkin. Her platform was “Addressing the Lack of Positive Self-Esteem and Self-Image Among Today's Youth” and her talent was dance.
The Miss Congeniality Award went to Elizabeth Hill, daughter of Jamie and Andrew White, and Richard and Barbra Hill. Her platform was “Better Community, Better Schools, Better Students” and her talent was dance.
The Billy Amundsen Scholarship Award Essay winner was Natalie DiChiria. Former Miss Wisconsin Stephanie Klett read portions of DiChiria's essay which told about being true to oneself, and discussed how the girl had once been homeless. DiChiria also won the Chairman's Award.
The Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit award went to Brooke Knoble, daughter of Dominic and Vicki Knoble. The interview award went to Johnson, while the talent award went to Schober. The non-finalist interview award went to Hill, while the non-finalist talent award went to Froelich.
Since February, the 11 hopefuls had been working with the Miss Beloit committee and Kathy Smith at Rising Stars School of Dance to practice interviews, talents and stage presence in preparation for the 2009 Miss Beloit Pageant.
Guests of the evening included pageant emcee Miss Wisconsin 2008 Briana Lipor, and Miss Wisconsin's Outstanding Teen Jennifer Dombrowski. As part of the new Miss Beloit Princess Program, 15 princesses were crowned on stage during the pageant and presented with sashes.
Former Miss Beloit 2006 Sara Siekierski, who directed the princess program, said the goal of the 6-week program was to help young girls develop self-esteem and to know what it's like to be a princess. Siekierski called the new program a big success.
The girls participated in a princess party, had a professional photo shoot and made photo frames with their crowns, and learned how to walk and wave like princesses. The girls were also paired with a pageant contestant who served as a mentor.
In her farewell address, Wittnebel thanked the community as well as her family for their love, patience and understanding. She said she made 107 appearances as Miss Beloit.
“It has changed my life,” Wittnebel said. “I fell head over heels in love with the City of Beloit.”