Julie Bush, then known as Julie Cilley, was crowned Miss Laconia as part of the city’s centennial celebration. She believes that pageants teach young girls many skills that will benefit them as adults. (Courtesy photo)
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
Julie Bush, then known as Julie Cilley, was a student at Laconia High School when the city celebrated its centennial in 1992. Bush had competed in the Miss America pageant system, so she was intrigued when she heard that there would be a pageant open only to Laconia students. She ended up winning the crown that year, and, within a few years, had committed to herself that she would make sure that the pageant would return for Laconia’s 125th.
Bush has made good on that promise, even though she now lives in New Jersey and is a parent of three. She contacted Pam Clark of Celebrate Laconia – who herself was a contestant in the pageant for the city’s Diamond Jubilee – and the two of them are working together to host the “Miss Laconia 125th Scholarship Pageant,” which will be held on Friday, Feb. 2 at the Laconia Community Center. The pageant is open any girls who live in Laconia and are enrolled in grades 9-12 in a school in Laconia or in home school. There will also be a “Jr. Miss Laconia” pageant for girls in grades 6-8.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, because I realized as a young woman that the people that helped me in my pageant were a huge influence for me,” said Bush. She received a scholarship from the pageant, and said that participating in pageants has taught her several skills – leadership, volunteerism, confidence, poise – that have benefitted her as an adult, but said that the city’s Centennial Pageant was a unique opportunity that she wants to carry forward to the young women of today’s Laconia.
“I always knew that I would do it because of the benefits I had – the priviledge of making a mark on history, and being part of history,” she said.
Bush and Clark met with students in Laconia High School earlier this week, encouraging anyone interested to sign up. The deadline to register for the pageant is Nov. 26, because a component of the pageant is a community service project. The “Miss Laconia” pageant will place a higher emphasis on volunteerism and community involvement, they said. Contestants will also compete in “Talent,” “Evening Gown,” “Fitness” and “Interview” categories.
Applications can be found at the Laconia High School and Laconia Middle School guidance offices, and at www.celebratelaconia.org.
The winner of the pageant will receive a scholarship, which Bush and Clark hope will be around $1,000, depending on sponsorship support. Once crowned, Miss Laconia 125th will have the honor of representing the city at events such as the World Championship Sled Dog Derby, the city’s “birthday gala” on March 24, and during the 125th Anniversary Parade.
Three businesses – Prescott’s Florist, Sanborn’s Auto Repair and Sawyers Jewelry – have already signed on as sponsors of the pageant. Private donations are also welcomed, such as the gift given in honor of The John W. Cilley Family of Laconia. Businesses or individuals interested in contributing may write checks payable to Celebrate Laconia and mailed to Celebrate Laconia, Attn: Pam Clark, P.O. Box 6502, Laconia, NH 03247. Gifts in all amounts are appreciated.
Pam Clark (at left) and Julie Bush (right) thank Jennifer Woods Maloney, of Prescott’s Florist, for sponsoring the MIss Laconia 125th pageant. Organizers of the pageant are hoping for more sponsors for the scholarship competition. (Courtesy photo)