O’LEARY — The only word Janelle Perry could utter when her name was called was “really?”
The 17-year-old West Prince teen is this year’s Miss Potato Blossom Pageant winner.
It was humid, well after 10 p.m. and the young children had begun to get restless. On Thursday, at the O’Leary Community Sports Complex, 14 contestants and 400 observers filled the rink, all hoping to see someone they know capture the title.
Each contestant was asked to perform a talent. Perry played piano and brought some audience members to their feet.
Her nerves were overpowered by the excitement of being on stage.
“It felt pretty natural up there,” said Perry. “I was excited to be on stage and perform for the audience.”
Perry has been eyeing this event for years, and now that she was a graduate of Westisle Composite High School she fit the eligibility for the pageant.
“As a child I went to the pageants. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Winning was never the only priority for her, but it was certainly a nice bonus, she laughed.
“I was in this just for fun, never expecting any major recognition, let alone winning. I was shocked when they called my name.”
Perry is off to Calgary’s Ambrose University in the fall and will look to enter optometry.
She hopes the experience and confidence gained from winning the pageant will help her later in life.
That’s been the case for Miss Potato Blossom 2013, Bray Smallman.
“Ever since winning last year I’ve changed a lot,” said Smallman. “I have a new confidence and have improved at a lot of things, especially public speaking.”
Smallman said being in the pageant is something the girls will remember for the rest of their lives.
“It’s such a memorable experience. It’s thrilling to be a part of something like this.”
This year’s event was bigger than ever before, said Valene Gallant, chair of the pageant.
“We had five contestants last year. This year we almost tripled our number,” said Gallant. “The highest we’ve ever had was nine contestants, so this year’s event was the biggest by a far throw.”
The pageant is advertised throughout the girls’ school, but Perry said they don’t want anyone to feel pressured into entering.
“These girls are young adults and can make their own decisions. They signed the paper free willingly.”
Krystal Woodside signed her papers willingly.
“I’m so excited to be a part of this,” said Woodside. “When I was a little girl I always looked up to the pageant girls so I want to do the same for them.”
Woodside also wanted to be a part of the pageant because it’s one last chance to see classmates before everyone goes their separate ways. Along with friends, she had family in attendance.
“My whole family came. My cousin from Alberta is here and she brought her friends too.”
Woodside’s talent for the judges was public speaking. She told her story of a family trip to Dominican Republic.
It seemed like her family spent more time in the airport than actually on a beach, she said.
Delays cut the trip short, but added to the experience.
Woodside left the crowd with a message: the not so perfect, perfect vacation was perfect after all.
She came in second place in the pageant.