Miss Delaware Pageant marks 75 years

DOVER –– In its 75th year, the Miss Delaware Scholarship Organization is celebrating its history with a Diamond Anniversary theme at this weekend’s competition held at Dover Downs.

Fifteen winners of local Delaware pageants will take the stage competing in the areas of evening wear, interview, swimsuit and talent.

Nineteen-year-old Emalie Lawson of Hartly has already spent 15 years in the pageant world and is competing for the Miss Delaware crown a second time under her current title, Miss Sussex County.

Ms. Lawson first got into pageants when she was only 4 years old and said she was instantly hooked.

Emalie Lawson

Emalie Lawson

“A friend of mine was competing in Tiny Miss Dover and wanted me to compete with her. While my parents had never even thought of putting me in pageants they let me compete. I had so much fun and I ended up winning, and a pageant girl was born,” she said.

The rising sophomore at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia has chosen the platform of early childhood literacy.

“I chose my platform because ever since I was little, I loved to read. You can never find me without a book of some kind. While reading is not only fun, it is an essential part of life,” Ms. Lawson said.

Another love of hers is dance, an art she’s been practicing since before grade school. She’s bringing a contemporary jazz dance to the stage for her talent.

Twenty-two-year-old Miss Milford and University of Delaware graduate Rebecca Gasperetti, of Magnolia, is going into Miss Delaware with only three other pageants under her belt.

“I believe pageantry goes beyond the glamour –– I am very passionate about community involvement and I saw the incredible things previous Miss Delawares and local title holders have done, and the opportunities they were given to help make their voices heard, and I really wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

The issue she promotes with her title and plans to dedicate her energy toward is homeless awareness and prevention.

Her classic vocal talent has been half a lifetime in the making. While at the University of Delaware, Ms. Gasperetti had a minor in applied voice and has rehearsed an opera piece to perform as her talent at the competition, which gets underway tonight with the preliminaries.

The woman crowned Miss Delaware will have an entire year dedicated to service and promoting their platform, a big opportunity considering how passionate all the women are about their platforms.

“Being Miss Delaware will give me the opportunity to take my platform to schools across Delaware,” Ms. Lawson said. “When I was younger I really looked up to the Miss Delawares and I want to be able to be that role model for the next generation.”

Ms. Gasperetti has already taken a big step in her platform by founding Code Backpack but will ramp up her efforts if she takes home the crown on Saturday.

Rebecca Gasperetti

Rebecca Gasperetti

“This program provides backpacks filled with non-perishable food items, refillable water bottles, and seasonal clothing to shelters,” Ms. Gasperetti said. “The backpacks are refillable, so people may go to shelters to stock up on supplies.”

Due to the weighty issues that platforms bring to the competition, Miss Delaware isn’t a run of the mill beauty pageant.

“People who come will see that this is more than swimsuits and gowns. It’s about creating well-rounded women for both academic pursuits and the workforce,” said Brian Martinenza, president of Miss Delaware’s board of directors.

Although the winner receives a sparkling crown and a trip to the Miss America Pageant, all the contestants are winners when it comes to the scholarship aspect of the pageant.

The crowned Miss Delaware will receive a $10,000 scholarship and another $30,000 in scholarship money is up for grabs and awarded to winners of various segments of the competition such as preliminary talent and community service.

“The competition provides a whole host of opportunities for the girls but those opportunities require a lot of

Miss Milford Brooke Mitchell, of Selbyvile, was named Miss Delaware last year at Dover Downs. (Submitted photo)

Miss Milford Brooke Mitchell, of Selbyvile, was named Miss Delaware last year at Dover Downs. (Submitted photo)

fundraising throughout the year,” Mr. Martinenza said.

The board of directors of the Miss Delaware Organization is very new and still establishing its footing on the fundraising front and is pushing for strong ticket sales this year.

But as its the organization’s 75th anniversary, there is more to attract attendees than previous years. The history of Miss Delaware will be on display, showing off memorabilia ranging from previous winners’ gowns to newspaper clippings and even shoes.

A reception on Saturday afternoon before the finals will celebrate former Miss Delawares, also known as Forever Miss Delawares. Many of the Forevers will be in attendance, some of whom are currently involved in the organizations. The winners will span across two decades.

The reception is at 4:30 p.m. in Ballroom A at Dover Downs. It is free and open to the public.

The Miss Delaware competition will be held tonight and Saturday at 7:30 at Dover Downs. Doors open at 7 p.m. Crowning is at approximately 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tonight, all of the contestants will compete with the final eight in the spotlight Saturday.

Tickets are $40 for tonight’s portion of the competition and $50 for Saturday’s and are available at the door or can be reserved by calling 1-800-711-5882.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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