Portsmouth River Days was held over the weekend, with a slew of entertainment, the state’s oldest continuing parade route, fair food and games, theme rides, and more. The embodiment of all this spirit and community-focused celebration is the Miss River Days Pageant, which was held Saturday, September 2 at Shawnee State University.
Perhaps no one is prepared harder than the Miss River Days contestants, who were all tying up platforms, getting their dresses perfect, working on floats, and polishing interview questions.
Of the twelve vying for the crown, they included Haylie Howard, East; Kara Carter, West Portsmouth; Mallory Cassidy, Clay; Madison Howard, East; Kaitie Rolfe, Valley; Jadelyn Lawson, Glenwood; Sabria Breech, Northwest; Savanna Vaughters, Notre Dame; Emily Cram, Minford; Alexis Smith, South Webster; Alyssa Steward, Wheelersburg; and Piper Cunningham, Portsmouth.
Ultimately, Minford’s Emily Cram took home the crown as Miss River Days. Portsmouth’s Piper Cunningham was named First Runner Up, Valley’s Kaitie Rolfe was named Second Runner Up.
Additionally, the following crowns were placed: Baby Queen, Penelope Perkins; Baby Princess, Renleigh Truitt; Wee Queen, Ella Foley; Wee Princess, Josephine Sherman; Toddler Queen, Dani Kay; Toddler Princess, Sophia Horner; Tot Queen, Chloe Fischer; Tot Princess, Evelyn Duncan; Tiny Tot Queen, Emberlee Stiles; Tiny Tot Princess, Rayleigh Travis; Tiny Queen, Lavela Mitilien; Tiny Princess, Izzy Rae; Little Queen, Kennedy Spriggs; Little Princess, Willow Mitchell; Little Princess, Ollie-Belle Darling; Junior Queen, Jasmine Truitt; Junior Princess, Mackenzie Bentley; Young Queen, Khloe Adams; Young Princess, Anneliese Rivera.
“I feel really proud and surprised, honestly. At the start of my journey, I wasn’t sure of how this would end, but towards the end I realized I had worked really hard for this, and my crew worked super hard,” Cram said. “Mostly, I’m just very proud and feeling super accomplished. I am looking forward to the year coming up. I love the first runner up and second runner up and I’m looking forward to traveling with them across Ohio.”
For some of the young women entering the pageant, this is a first for them, for others, they’ve competed in the past. However, after the experience of River Days, it is common for many to continue their involvement in pageantry.
“The girls who participate leave as women who have built sisterhoods and professional connections that will elevate them into the next stages of their lives,” Miss River Days Co-Director Regina Speas said. “It really shows them who they are, who they have in their corner, and forges bonds that last through time.”
One of those examples is Speas’ Co-Director, Amanda Crabtree, who also participated. She began her involvement in 1997 as a contestant, then entered as a court member, a pageant mom, committee member, and now serves as co-director.
“I had an excellent experience when I was in the pageant. I gained confidence and public speaking skills that have helped me throughout my adult life. I’m involved with the pageant because I believe it is imperative to invest in our youth and to empower them and to equip them with skills and confidence that will stay with them far after the pageant is over,” Crabtree said. “I get to watch the most positive transformations from when the contestant is selected to represent her school to the moment she steps on stage to compete for Miss River Days. Our committee is committed to ensuring that each contestant has the best experience. “
While some misunderstand the complexity of a pageant, the young women involved truly get takeaways from the program. They have the opportunity to acquire scholarships, go on to compete in bigger competitions, leave with skills and connections, and grow as individuals.
One of the biggest ways Miss River Days impacts the 12 contestants is through their community service platforms that raise money and awareness to various social causes.
“The platform portion of the contest is vital because it allows them to speak from their hearts about a cause they think is important,” Speas explained. “It teaches them public speaking and builds connections that follow them into their careers. They learn so much, from organization and communication to implementation. It builds leaders.”
Miss River Days built her platform on healing relationships and trauma through what she called the Lotus Project.
“My community service platform project was called the Lotus Project and was a mentorship program where I paired 24 girls with strong, female role models. We focused on how relationships heal trauma. Most trauma stems from a breakdown in a relationship and I wanted to build new and healthy ones for people,” Cram said. “We had women showing empathy and giving advice. We met for four weeks and focused on relationship building activities like art therapy and journaling and vulnerability prompts focusing on the lotus flower. The lotus flower starts in the mud and grows to the surface. In most cultures it is symbol of beauty and strength and overcoming.”
While this is only one activity involved in River Days, Speas says it is one of the most vital elements of the celebration.
“The River Days Pageant is the heart of the River Days festivities. I say that, not because I’m involved, but because it is true,” Speas said. “River Days may have music and games and rides and thrills, but, at the end of the day, it is about community. Our community. These girls embody this community, raise their voices to spread their platform, and show school spirit. They are this community, so we must champion them.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.