New pageant offers an in to Miss America

POULSBO — It's not about the competition, it's about the opportunity, said Amanda Cheatham, executive director of the Miss West Sound Pageant.

The new pageant, formed within the last month, is a response to the Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap pageant parting ways with the Miss America organization in September. Michele Wasson, the executive director of Miss Kitsap/Miss Poulsbo said the breakup was based on finances.

Enter Cheatham, herself a 1992 contestant in Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap, didn't want young women in Kitsap County to lose out on the opportunity to present themselves on a national stage, so she stepped up.

"The people within the community of Kitsap County felt it important to continue sending a representative to future Miss Washington competitions," Cheatham said. She quickly pieced together a board of directors and a committee and established ties with the Miss America organization.

The Miss West Sound pageant will be Feb. 20, 2010. The application deadline is Oct. 31. Some applications have already been sent out, she said, though she is not looking to steal contestants from the already-established pageants in Kitsap.

"That's something we frown upon," she said of contestants jumping ship from their current programs.

If a contestant currently holds a title in a program, Cheatham would prefer they fulfill their current obligation and apply to the Miss West Sound program next year. If a contestant has the potential to win two titles she'd have to forfeit one, and that would do a disservice to both pageants, she said.

Contestants in the Miss West Sound pageant must be at least 17 and graduating from high school in 2010, but 24 or younger by Dec. 31.

As the Miss West Sound organization is affiliated with Miss America, there will be a swimsuit and evening gown phase in the competition. Cheatham is looking for sponsors for those categories.

Finding sponsors and volunteers is an easy sell for Miss West Sound, she said.

"The Miss America program speaks for itself," she said. "The Miss Washington program is one of the best programs in the country. It's very easy to approach people in the community. I don't think anyone hesitated when they were approached."

During its first 47 years, Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap was an independent pageant which selected young women to serve as ambassadors locally. It joined Miss America in 1999, a move that allowed its entrants to advance to state and national competition. Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap had success over the last decade, distributing $184,000 in scholarships to 112 young women in Kitsap County and enrolling 137 girls in its Little Sisters Program.

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