As the Miss Beloit Pageant celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the Beloit Daily News takes a look back at the history of the pageant.

The history of the Miss Beloit was compiled by Miss Beloit Executive Director Joanne Klett.

Before the Miss Beloit Pageant began, there was an Aqua Queen contest held at the Beloit College Field House during the Do It Yourself Fair. Fifteen women competed for the title, and Shirley Hanson won. Jud Allen, executive director for the Beloit Chamber of Commerce, announced that the Aqua Queen would compete in the Miss Wisconsin Pageant in Reedsburg.

The Miss Beloit Pageant began in 1960 by the Beloit Jaycees under the leadership of Lon Ciabitti and Pete Kosmopolus. The Beloit Jaycees were a group of men from the ages of 21 to 35 who participated in a lot of civic work. Starting the pageant was not an easy feat, and the men�s wives were very instrumental in getting Miss Beloit off the ground.

The first Miss Beloit was 24-year-old Mary Kay Dennis, a local actress and dancer. Throughout the first few years, the pageant continued to grow and was a big success. Crowds filled Beloit Memorial High School each year. During this time, Lon Ciabatti received the title of father of the Miss Beloit Pageant, and he chaired the pageant for several years. In 1964, the Jaycees celebrated the pageant�s fifth year.

During the 1960s and 70s, husband and wife Tom and Annette Smith provided a lot of leadership for the pageant. In 1967, Lisa Staley won the title of Miss Beloit, and the following year she crowned her sister, Michele.

Tragically, in May of 1973, Lon Ciabitti passed away. He would continue to be missed by his family and the pageant world, as he was a huge part of making the Miss Beloit Pageant a success year after year. The 1974 pageant was dedicated to Ciabitti. That year, Elaine Uechtman won the title, and Marilyn Sembell was first runner-up. The next year, Sembell won the title of Miss Lake Geneva and went on to become Miss Wisconsin 1975. The Miss Beloit Pageant was held in 1975, but it began to falter without the leadership of Ciabitti.

No pageants were held from 1976-1979. The pageant returned in 1980 under the direction of Barbara Carlson and was held at Beloit Turner High School. In 1981, Herb Holt, city manager, proclaimed the Saturday of the pageant as Miss Beloit Day. In 1983, the pageant moved back to Beloit Memorial High School. There was again no pageant from 1984-1989.

In 1990, Bobbi Smith, who had been a volunteer with the committee in the 1980�s, took over the pageant. Her first winner was Stephanie Klett, who went on to the Miss Wisconsin Pageant and took first runner-up. In 1992, Stephanie won the open pageant Miss Wisconsin Central and went on to become Miss Wisconsin 1992. Stephanie, the first cornet player in Miss America�s history, won the Bert Parks Talent Award at Miss America. The Miss Beloit Pageant faced rough times again after 1992, and no pageant was held from 1993-1994.

In 1997, Bobbi Smith turned the pageant over to Marie Hoffman. From that time on, the pageant stayed viable. There has been a pageant held every year since 1995. In 1998, Joanne Klett took over as executive director of the pageant, a position she still holds. In the 90s, David Gleichsner of Beloit Body and Fender became the official sponsor of the Miss Beloit Pageant. Gleichsner is still the sponsor of the pageant and has given much to the pageant throughout the years.

The pageant continued to be a success and began to grow even more during the 2000s. In 2007, Jon Wenger took over as president after Eddie Farr resigned to run his own open pageant, Mark Siekierski became treasurer, and Sue Siekierski took over arranging Miss Beloit�s appearances. Sue was recently promoted to vice president.

In 2004, the first Billy Amundsen Memorial Scholarship was given to each of the contestants. Amundsen supported the Miss Beloit program for many years, hosting reception dinners and volunteering in many other ways. In 2005, the scholarship became an essay contest sponsored by Vicki Bryden and Stephanie Klett.

The Miss Beloit Pageant added a new program in 2009 called the Miss Beloit Princess Program. Miss Beloit 2006 Sara Siekierski was appointed as director of this program, which is for girls between the ages of 6-12. The program, which has been a big success, gives girls the opportunity to be a princess for the six weeks leading up to the pageant.

This year, the Miss Beloit Pageant will crown its 37th Miss Beloit in a Mardi Gras themed event. Nine contestants will compete for the title of Miss Beloit 2010.

The Miss Beloit Pageant is fortunate to have the help of several local businesses, including Beloit Body and Fender, Culver�s, Crave Photography, Bryden Motors, Bud Weiser of Beloit, Caf� Belwah, Stephanie West of American Family Insurance, An Elegant Affair, Beloit Floral, Old Fashioned Bakery, First National Bank and Trust Company, Finley-Dencker, Beloit Inn, Stephanie Klett, Major Pattern, Pam Ruegger, Blue Chip Financial Planning and the Siekierski family, Elder-Beerman, Klett Insurance, Roscoe Chiropractor, Custom Fab Co., Koja Construction, Kathy Smith and the Rising Stars Dance Studio, The Press Printing Co., and William Tell Productions.