Pageant queens hoping to compete for the Miss America crown have a new opportunity to start the qualifying process.
The inaugural Miss Clayton pageant, an affiliate of the Miss North Carolina and Miss America pageants, will be held in March at The Clayton Center.
For the past two years, The Clayton Center has played host to Miss Capital City, an open competition for contestants from across North Carolina. Miss Clayton will be a closed pageant, meaning only contestants from Johnston, Wake and Wilson counties may enter, said John Norris, executive director of Miss Clayton and Miss Capital City.
During the recent Miss Capital City contests, Norris said, several area residents asked him to lobby for a more localized pageant. He took those requests to the Miss North Carolina Board of Directors, which approved the new competition.
The Miss North Carolina board recognizes 31 pageants as qualifiers for the state pageant, which feeds into the Miss America competition. Miss Johnston County is one of 11 other qualifying pageants that county residents may compete in.
For all of the qualifying pageants, contestants must be between ages 17 and 24, be single, meet residency requirements and be planning to attend or currently enrolled in college.
The Miss Clayton and Miss Capital City pageants also include contests for teens and children. Winners of both pageants get scholarships, in addition to moving on to the state contest.
“What’s neat to me is that it gives an opportunity to kids in area schools to get involved,” said Keith Branch, a local insurance agent and a pageant judge.
Branch, who also sits on the Johnston County Board of Education, said he hopes Johnston businesses will help sponsor contestants.
“Clayton, with it being the thriving and growing place that it is, there is definitely an opportunity there,” Branch said. “It will be good for the girls, the pageants and the businesses too.”
The deadline to sign up for Miss Clayton or Miss Capital City is Feb. 15. Contestant forms are available at www.missclaytonpageant.com.
Both pageants are scheduled for March 7 at The Clayton Center.
Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod, a pageant judge and emcee, said Clayton and Johnston County have a long history of producing quality contestants. He said the new pageant gives another opportunity for young women to cash in on scholarships.
“Also, for Clayton, it gives us the opportunity to highlight The Clayton Center,” McLeod said. “It gives folks from all around the ability to come downtown, have dinner and go see the pageant.”