Jun. 20—HIGH POINT — The last time the Miss North Carolina Pageant was held somewhere other than Raleigh, Bert Parks was still singing "There She Is" at the Miss America Pageant — and he's been dead for nearly 30 years.
How, then, did High Point manage to win the privilege of hosting this year's pageant instead of Raleigh, which had hosted the pageant since 1978? Well, in pageant terminology, you might say we did it with our congeniality.
"It's really very nice to do business in a city that wants your business," said Beth Knox, executive director of the Miss North Carolina Organization.
"I think Raleigh is so large and they have so much going on that it felt like we were just another event when we were trying to plan, but we got a much different reception in High Point. We've been overwhelmed with the support of everyone there — the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the restaurants, all of the businesses."
The annual pageant, along with the Miss North Carolina's Outstanding Teen competition, will be presented Thursday through Saturday at the High Point Theatre, with the crowning of the new Miss North Carolina taking place Saturday evening.
The story of how the pageant ended up in High Point can be traced to 2019, when the city hosted the Outstanding Teen portion of the competition.
"We had outgrown Memorial Auditorium (in Raleigh)," Knox said. "... We decided to split off the teen competition, and we found the High Point Theatre. We held the teen competition there, and we really enjoyed working with everyone there in High Point."
The COVID-19 pandemic canceled last year's Miss North Carolina Pageant — the first time that had happened since World War II — and it looked for a long time as if this year's pageant would have to be held with only limited capacity.
"We knew if we had to hold something with only 30% capacity, there was no way we could afford to remain in Raleigh," Knox said. "We remembered what a wonderful experience we had in High Point, so we saw this as a perfect opportunity to return to the city that had welcomed us before."
Pageant officials aren't the only ones excited about the move to High Point. With some 2,000 visitors expected to attend pageant festivities, and a projected economic impact of just over $500,000, city representatives are thrilled to roll out the red carpet for the visiting queens and their guests.
"Hosting the Miss North Carolina Pageant is a big deal," said Nancy Bowman, director of sales and marketing for Visit High Point (formerly the Convention & Visitors Bureau).
"It's huge to be able to crown Miss North Carolina in High Point. We'll be filling our hotel rooms, not only with the contestants but also their families from across the state. They're going to be eating in our restaurants and spending their money here. So we look forward to welcoming them to High Point and ensuring they have a positive experience so they'll come back for many years to come."
That's certainly been the case for another pageant that calls High Point home — the Miss North Carolina USA Pageant, which High Point has hosted since 2001.
This week, 34 young women — including Miss Thomasville, Emily Pena — will compete for the title of Miss North Carolina, with the winner advancing to the prestigious Miss America Pageant. Another 31 contestants will vie for Miss North Carolina's Outstanding Teen honors, including Thomasville's representative, Avery Combs.
Because last year's pageant was canceled, the young women competing this week in High Point are the same ones who were eligible to compete last year before the pandemic forced the cancellation. That means the reigning Miss North Carolina, Alexandra Badgett, will relinquish her crown after a two-year reign.
According to Knox, the contestants in the two programs will be competing for more than $120,000 in scholarship assistance — "more than we've ever offered before," she said — as well as in-kind assistance from High Point University.
In addition to the competition itself, the Miss North Carolina Pageant will showcase High Point entertainers during the program:
—The Williamsons, a local "Americana soul" duo;
—Guilford, the brother-and-sister duo of Parker and Hannah Webb who perform Christian music; and
—Marcus Gause, the T. Wingate Andrews High School principal who surprised his graduating seniors — and then went viral — when he serenaded them with "I Will Always Love You" during their graduation ceremony.
Tickets are selling well but are still available through the High Point Theatre box office, theater director David Briggs said.
Knox is looking forward to it.
"I think it's going to be a great show, and we're excited to be coming back to High Point," Knox said. "I hope that we stay in High Point as long as we can."
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