Efforts afoot to bring back Miss Hilton Head-Bluffton pageant


When the Miss South Carolina competition, the state preliminary for Miss America, is held in Columbia June 26-30, there will be no title holder to represent Hilton Head Island or Bluffton.

That's because, for a number of reasons, the local competition wasn't held this year.

However, efforts are gearing up to bring it back.

At the helm is Josh Wall, choral teacher at Hilton Head Island High School and director of the Miss Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Organization, sanctioned to hold a preliminary pageant for Miss South Carolina.

The organization is the blending of two entities, the Miss Hilton Head Island Organization, which was rebuilt in 2012, and the Miss Bluffton Organization, which was started in 2015.

"In the fall of 2016, the board members of both organizations met and, after a successful discussion, it was decided to join forces," Wall said.

They held a pageant in early 2017, though some sponsors were still reeling from effects of Hurricane Matthew. After Tropical Storm Irma hit later in 2017, not enough sponsors were able to offer financial support for a 2018 event.

The organization's board of directors decided to call it off.

That news disappointed a number of contestants, among them Julia Herrin, 16, of Bluffton, who is the reigning Miss Columbia Teen. She has been participating in pageants since 2015.

"For most people this was a big shock because it was one of the largest in the state," Herrin said, "And for me personally, I had hoped to finally compete in it when I felt pretty good about doing well in it."

With Wall's blessing, Herrin has spoken recently to both the Hilton Head Island Town Council and the Bluffton Town Council, the Town of Hilton Head Island's Culture and Arts Advisory Committee, and appeared on WHHI's Talk of the Town.

"My hope is to rekindle a strong pageant here because, No. 1, there has been one in the past; No. 2, the rest of the state is wondering what happened to the successful Hilton Head presence; No. 3, our area is too prestigious not to have a presence in the largest state pageant in the Miss America Organization," Herrin said. Other reasons are the benefits to participants and to their communities.

And what are those benefits?

For the participants, there's not only personal learning and developing of life skills, there's also a financial incentive.

"It's important to know that Miss America is a scholarship organization," Herrin said. "Every local title holder wins a minimum of $500, and the opportunity to compete on state and national level. The farther you place, the more scholarships you get."

Miss America 2018, Cara Mudd, Miss North Dakota, won $50,000.

For host communities, the benefits can also be financial. "The title holder wears her (crown) and is encouraged and given opportunities to promote the town at statewide events," Wall said. When local title holders are successful at higher levels, the town gets even more positive attention.

To get the local competition going again will take some work, Wall said. "It takes a great deal of time, effort, and monetary support to produce a local preliminary," he said.

Wall is seeking volunteers interested in rebooting the local event.

"We are a small, but mighty board of workers that want nothing more than to see our title holders be successful - on and off the pageant stage," he said. "We are always looking for more hands and welcome any and all helpers. No experience is required."

For more information and to get involved, email Wall at misshhipageant @gmail.com.

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