LOCUST GROVE — There will be plenty of familiar faces at the 2014 Mr. and Miss Special Henry County Pageant July 19 but a handful of new ones, too.
Director Rhonda Towe said 38 contestants from Butts, Clayton, Fayette and Henry counties have signed on to strut their stuff in their finest evening wear to compete for king and queen titles.
“It’s just fantastic,” said Towe. “We are excited about this year’s competition and want everyone to have fun.”
Last year’s youngest contestant is also this year’s pageant baby. Amelia Oberst of Jackson was 7 months old when she claimed the Miss Baby Special Needs title. She’s a year older now and competing in the Junior Division.
Other contestants in the Junior Division are Kip Waggoner of Jackson, Charlize Higgins of Forest Park, Madison Wanzer of Hampton, Dakota Chamlee of Ellenwood, Garrett Howard of Locust Grove, James Holmes of Morrow and Kelvonte Usher of Jackson.
Holmes, 9, was crowned Mr. Little Special Needs last year. Chamlee won the 2013 People’s Choice Award in her category.
The oldest contestant is Ojo Miller, 42, and he’s competing in the Adult Division.
Other adult contestants are Kara Maker of Rex, Dominique Taylor of Fayetteville, Natasha Hemrick of McDonough, Ebony Fleming of Morrow, Cara Towe of Fayetteville, Elizabeth Hampton of Morrow, Nakisha Drayton of Morrow, Styvon T. Burke of Stockbridge, James McDaniel of Fayetteville and Mario Duffy of Fayetteville.
McDaniel was crowned king in the Young Adult Division last year.
Sandwiched between those two categories are the Teen and Young Adults divisions. Stockbridge sisters Stormy Fogg, 14, and Holly Fogg, 17, will face each other again this year in the Teen Division. Holly’s twin, Haley, won the Miss Teen title last year.
Also returning to the Teen Division are Rachel Nicholson of McDonough and Paige Thorpe of Locust Grove.
Newcomers are Chloe King of Covington, April Cozier of McDonough, Lacey Potter of Locust Grove, Taylor Flanigan of Stockbridge, Charlie Feldt of Hampton, Joshua Bryant of Jonesboro and Trey Morris of Locust Grove.
Kai Yee of Fayetteville, and Dermoine Davis Jr. and Ahmeerah Bagi both of McDonough are new to the pageant this year and will be competing for the Young Adult Division title.
Returning contestants in that division are Rebecca Heaton of Hampton, Leecy Cothran of Stockbridge, Caroline Parker and Jamie Waters both of Fayetteville, Brianna Martin of Jonesboro, and Lakedrin Lewis of McDonough.
Towe said a portion of the pageant will be dedicated to the late David McRee. McRee competed last year and was an active member of the special needs community. He died at 41 in April after battling pneumonia and sleep apnea.
The pageant is being held this year at Strong Rock Christian School, 4200 Strong Rock Parkway in Locust Grove. The Junior Division competition starts at 10 a.m., followed by the Teen Division at 1 p.m., Young Adults at 3 p.m. and Adults at 5 p.m.
Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door.
Donations from individuals or businesses are being accepted for the silent auction or contestant gift bags. Items such as gift cards or coupons from local businesses can be used for the silent auction, and business ads are available for the program.
The pageant, founded in 2003 by Lyndsey Mills, whose sister, Kristi was born with Down syndrome, is for males and females with developmental disabilities or autism.
It is believed to be the only pageant of its kind in the country.
Lyndsey Mills was active in pageants, which her sister adored, so she came up with the idea to create an event celebrating the special needs population.
Kristi Mills was crowned the first Miss Teen Special Henry County and won the adult title in 2008.
The special needs population in the Southern Crescent is active outside the annual pageant, most of whom participate in Special Olympics, an annual Easter egg hunt at Nash Farms, a fall festival in Locust Grove, Bingo games, joy prom, karaoke, spaghetti dinner, walk-a-thon and other fundraising events.
Pageant volunteers are always needed. Anyone interested can contact Towe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-986-4498 for information.