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Murray Journal

Could you be the next Miss Murray?

Feb 09, 2024 02:05PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen

Reigning Miss Murray, Dakota King and Murray’s Little Miss ride atop a parade at the Fourth of July Parade. (photo/Lindsay D. Smith)

The Miss Murray Pageant has changed a bit in the past couple of years. 

First, after the unexpected 2022 passing of Leesa Lloyd, the long-term supporter and coordinator of the pageant, the baton for the pageant has been passed to Lindsey D. Smith, Miss Murray of 2006, and the new Miss Murray Director. 

Smith is dedicated to continuing the tradition. However, unlike Lloyd, who worked at Murray High as a teacher and head of the Dance Company, Smith is not at the high school daily and can’t personally encourage young women to enter the pageant. But she urgently wants to. 

“Miss Lloyd left such a wonderful legacy in Murray, but unfortunately she didn’t leave a manual for this,” Smith said.

The Miss America Pageant has also changed somewhat. Consequently, so has the Miss Murray Pageant. There has been a change in age eligibility, increasing by two years, allowing more women to compete. To be eligible, a young woman must be unmarried and between 18 and 28 years old. The intent is to serve young women with scholarship money up to a doctorate degree.

In another change starting this year, Miss America has introduced “Herstory” as an option in the talent category. A Herstory is a 90-second story to inspire, captivate and entertain on the stage. This talent doesn’t have to be dance, an instrument or baton throwing. 

“For instance, Madi Marsh from Colorado just became the first active duty Air Force officer to be crowned Miss America, and she shared a story of her first solo flight at age 16 as her Herstory talent,” Smith said “I don’t want a young woman to hear about the Miss Murray Pageant and think, That could never be me,’ because if she participates, it really could be.” 

Who can run and what are the benefits?

Along with the age requirements and non-married status, participants in the Miss Murray pageant must live in Murray or have graduated from Murray or Cottonwood high schools. She may also be employed in Murray. There is no entry fee. Contestants can run more than once, and they are encouraged to do so.

The winner receives $3,000 for educational purposes, paid directly to a university or for student loans. First and second attendants and the talent winner also receive scholarship money. As a young woman progresses and wins more contests (such as Miss Utah or Miss America), the award money increases. The Murray scholarship money is donated to the pageant by city officials from city funds. 

Contestants must buy their own gown and provide photos (but in past years there have been donations to help fund these expenses). The contest is hosted by volunteers, and all funding received by the pageant goes back into the program. 

Throughout the year, Miss Murray will participate in many community events, from the Christmas-tree lighting, to events at the Park Center, to Murray Fun Days events, to riding on the Fourth of July parade float, to local business openings. 

“The skills acquired from participation, like public speaking, interview prep, resume writing and community service are tools that these women will take with them as they build careers outside of the program,” Smith said. “And the titleholder has the opportunity to spend the year serving Murray City and representing a Community Service Initiative that is near and dear to her heart.”

A little pageant “Herstory” 

Like Murray City, many Utah cities send winning contestants to compete in the Miss Utah Pageant, and Miss Utah is crowned in the early summer. Last year, the Miss Utah Organization had 47 contestants from across the state and offered $70,000 in scholarships to the young women participating.

The state winners then compete in the Miss America Pageant, which happens at the end of January. 

The origins of the Miss America Pageant started as an event called The Fall Frolic held in September of 1921, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This event was designed to bring business to the boardwalk. 

The event was so successful that local businesses planned to repeat it the following year as a beauty pageant or a “bather’s revue,” and it was scheduled to take place the weekend following Labor Day to encourage summer visitors to stay in Atlantic City. To find contestants, newspapers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C., were asked to sponsor local beauty contests. 

By 1940, contestants from all states competed and the pageant officially became The Miss America Pageant. In 1944, compensation for Miss America switched from “furs and movie contracts” to college scholarships, an idea that endures to this day.

Television viewership peaked during the early 1960s, when the pageant was the highest-rated program on American television.

Miss America 2005 was the last live-televised pageant, due to changing television audiences. Currently, the Miss America Pageant is streamed online. 

In 2018, the pageant adopted a new format where competitors were no longer judged on their physical appearance, resulting in the announcement that the event would no longer include a swimsuit competition.

“Traditionally, I think people associate Miss America with the bathing suit competition, but that was eliminated from competition several years ago,” Smith said. “Now, through a partnership with the American Heart Association, the competition has introduced a new Health & Fitness category to focus on the physical and mental health of the contestants.” 

How to become a contestant

Orientation for the upcoming Miss Murray Pageant will be held on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Park Center at 202 E Murray Park Ave. The pageant includes the talent contest and Herstory, a private interview, an onstage question that has to do with the contestant’s community service initiative, the health and fitness event and evening wear. 

Come to the orientation, or reach out to [email protected] with any questions, or follow on Instagram @MissMurrayOrg. λ