On Saturday, Sarah Stokely and Lilly Crouch leave for a week of hard work, adventure and competition - with the ultimate goal of being crowned Miss Tennessee 2013.
They will meet 34 other young women in Jackson for a hectic schedule of public appearances, rehearsals and competition that will culminate on Saturday, June 22, with the crowning of a new Miss Tennessee. The Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant is a preliminary to the Miss America Scholarship Pageant.
Stokely, of Newport, will be competing as Miss Greene County while Crouch, of Greeneville, will be wearing the Miss Johnson City crown.
Stokely has been participating in pageants since she was in seventh grade and placed in the top 10 of the Junior Miss division of the Fairest of the Fair pageant at the Cocke County Fair.
This will be her second trip to Jackson as she wore the Miss Northeast Tennessee crown her first trip in 2011.
Crouch has participated in exactly three pageants, all in the last year. Her first experience was the Miss Greene County Scholarship Pageant, which Stokely won. Her second experience saw her placing as first runner-up at the Watauga Valley contest. She then won the Miss Johnson City crown.
Both young women list the talent portion as their favorite part of the competition, and both are polished in their individual talents.
Stokely has been honing her powerful, melodious voice since she began to sing in church as a child, and moved on to musical theatre when she was a freshman in high school. She is employed as a server at Cracker Barrel in Newport.
Dancing has been part of Crouch's life for so long that she actually teaches dance at Main Street Dance. She is also employed as marketing coordinator by Rodefer Moss.
The finalists for Miss Tennessee are selected during three preliminary events on Wednesday evening, Thursday evening and Friday evening. All of which, along with the Saturday night finale, can be viewed online at 9 p.m. Eastern time at http://www.eplustv6.com/.
For the preliminaries, the 36 contestants are divided into three groups and work their way through all areas of the competition so the judges can select the top performers.
Stokely is in Group C, which means that on Wednesday evening she will compete in Swimsuit; on Thursday, in Evening Wear and Onstage Question; and on Friday, in Talent.
She will sing "Astonishing" from Little Women.
Crouch is in Group A, which means she will perform Talent on Wednesday, Swimsuit on Thursday, and Evening Wear and Onstage Question on Friday.
For her talent, Crouch will perform a tap dance to "Run Away Baby" by Bruno Mars.
During the Saturday evening show, the field of 36 contestants is narrowed to a group that changes in number from year-to-year, but the finale is always the naming of the top five.
The very important private interview with the judges is on Tuesday for Crouch and on Wednesday for Stokely.
To compete in local and state pageants with the Miss America Organization, each contestant must choose a "platform" and work her platform if she is chosen as a local winner.
Stokely's platform is "Commit To Your Community" and focused on encouraging everyone to become a volunteer. She chose volunteerism because "I have seen first-hand how one person can make a difference."
Making a difference is "simple," she says, and explains that contributions don't have to be large. As an example, she says, making a difference can be picking up trash along a road - no expense except the volunteer's time.
Crouch has chosen as her platform BUILD, for building confidence among teens and young adults.
As a relative newcomer, Crouch has already discovered that participating in pageants is "a good learning experience."
For those who wish to send a card to either young woman, simply address the card to her, with the mailing address of Signature Boutique Hotel, 1935 Emporium Dr., Jackson, TN 38305.