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Miss Independence pageant returns Saturday

BELHAVEN — A longstanding tradition during Belhaven’s Fourth of July celebrations, the Miss Independence Pageant has given generations of girls and young women the opportunity to showcase their talents and poise.

The ultimate prize in the friendly competition is a crown, the title of Miss Independence and a place of prominence riding in the Belhaven Fourth of July parade.

This year, the 2020 competition will continue, but look a little bit different due to COVID-19. The competition itself will maintain all the pageantry of the previous years, with modeling, on-stage interviews and exhibitions of talents and creative expression. The setting, however, will be outdoors this year, on the lawn of the Wilkinson Center.

LITTLE MISS AND JUNIOR MISS: This year’s Little Miss Independence pageant participants include (left row, top to bottom) Ava Boyd, Sadie Mann, Lemon Tetterton, Stella Smith and Caroline Manning, who are pictured alonside 2019 Little Miss Independence Lanna Stalls, as well as (middle row, top to bottom) Josie Radcliffe, Lydia Harris, Lila Bell, Brynlee Lynch and Arabella Blizzard. The 2020 Junior Miss Independence participants are (right row, top to bottom) Cecilia Pair, Lainey Warren, Lexy Tate, Blakley Thompson and Ella Boyd, pictured alongside 2019 Junior Miss Independence Marissa Jordon. (Kayla Harris)

“Social distancing is our top priority, and we put it outside so everybody can spread out,” said pageant organizer Kayla Harris. “The girls in the back are going to have more room to spread out rather than being in one tight space. I think we’re going to have a sanitation station set up outside and keep the mic wiped down in between contestants.”

The Little Miss and Junior Miss Independence pageants will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Young Miss and Miss Independence competitions at 5 p.m. A meet and greet reception with the 2020 winners will follow at 7 p.m., complete with a DJ at the market beside the Wilkinson Center. There will also be entertainment from local dancers and singers throughout the day.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on, as well as a donation, and hope for a gentle breeze that day. Overall, Harris hopes the event will be a positive experience for the girls and bring a small sense of normalcy to abnormal times.

“People are looking for some kind of normalcy, and they need that grounding of knowing life can still go on and we can enjoy the little things,” Harris said.