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home : top news : top news August 20, 2014

6/24/2014 9:10:00 AM
Poised For Pageantry
Photos courtesy of Michael Donovan
Brittany Sulham competes in the “Lifestyle and Fitness” category at Saturday evening’s pageant.
+ click to enlarge

Photos courtesy of Michael Donovan

Brittany Sulham competes in the “Lifestyle and Fitness” category at Saturday evening’s pageant.

Reagan Murphy is crowned 2014 Miss Littleton Area Outstanding Teen by last year’s title holder, Paige Reid, on Saturday evening.
+ click to enlarge

Reagan Murphy is crowned 2014 Miss Littleton Area Outstanding Teen by last year’s title holder, Paige Reid, on Saturday evening.

Leah Carey
Staff Writer

Brittany Sulham and Reagan Murphy have a lot of sparkly dresses and public appearances in their future. After winning their respective categories on Saturday evening at the Miss Littleton Area Pageant, both young ladies will spend a lot of time smiling and waving in the coming year, as well as completing a year of service and competing at the state level.

The basics

Before any crowns can be given, there's a lot of preparation.

There are two divisions -- the "Miss" category, which goes on to compete for Miss New Hampshire, and must be between the ages of 17 and 24; and the "Outstanding Teen" category, which goes on to compete for Miss New Hampshire Outstanding Teen, and must be between the ages of 13 and 17.

On the day of the pageant, the competitors are sequestered inside the Littleton High School building from 8 a.m. on. "It's about discipline. They've got to be here and they've got to work on their talent, they've got to work on the opening number," explained pageant director Dennis Hartwell.

"The actual pageant itself starts in the afternoon with private interviews with the judges," explained pageant director Dennis Hartwell. "Then at 7 o'clock the actual show begins and they go through talent competition and on-stage questions. For the older girls there's lifestyle and fitness, which is essentially swimsuit; for the younger girls it's sports and fitness, which is gym attire. And then they all do evening gown competition."

According to Hartwell there are 28 chapters throughout the state that feed into the two statewide competitions.

"These girls that compete, they all become a sorority," he said "I'll give it until mid-morning [Sunday], all these girls will be friends on Facebook. That's just the way it goes."

The reigning teen queen

One year ago Paige Reid was crowned Miss Littleton Area Outstanding Teen on this very stage. It has been a whirlwind year, she said.

"I've done many, many, many appearances," she said listing parades, car shows, fundraising events and more. Having just graduated from Berlin High School, Reid is looking at another year of firsts as she heads to Southern New Hampshire University for her first year of college.

But that doesn't mean she's done competing, and now she's eligible for the next age category. "I'm probably looking toward a local pageant -- the Miss Berlin/Gorham pageant or the Miss Littleton Area next year. There's also a lot of different ones in the southern part of the state as well. There's a Miss University Pageant too, so there's numerous options."

As long as she can keep it in balance with her schoolwork, she's excited to give it a try. "Education is really big for me, so I want to put my education first and make sure that I have a grip on everything before I start."

She also mentioned the sisterhood amongst the contestants and local title holders. "I have a lot of dresses, but I definitely bought some as I went on," she said. "I borrowed a lot from friends as well. It does get very expensive, but if you have friends that you can borrow dresses from -- or anything you can borrow from friends, I highly recommend it!"

'Smiling! A lot!'

Both Emma Bogardus, Littleton High School, and Julie Downs, Berlin High School, are competitors in the Outstanding Teen category.

"This is my first pageant," said Emma. "I'm extremely excited, but I'm nervous too because I really want it. ... I want to be the face representing my own town."

She said she's been working hard on her tap dance routine for the show. When asked what other preparation she's been doing, she laughs and says, "Smiling! A lot!"

Julie is friends with last year's winner Paige Reid, and said that's where she got the inspiration to put herself out on stage. "It's really great. I love it, working with all the girls, working with Dennis. The show itself is going to be great!"

Each contestant must choose a "platform" issue that she will dedicate a year of service to should she win. Julie has chosen Autism Awareness. "

"As my year of service, I'd like to actually hold nights at different communities and have people who actually have autism come and speak and have them have a greater understanding of what autism is," she said. "Whether or not I win my title, I still want to help out."

The panel

A panel of local figures of note make up the judging panel. Five men and women judge the Miss category, while three judges make up the Outstanding Teen panel.

After interviewing the candidates, the judges were full of praise for the young women.

"I think it's nice to see them come out of their shells and see them do something completely new," said Tara Giles. "A lot of the girls are so shy and they're just taking a stab at it like champs!"

"I'm impressed with the quality of the young people who are participating and how they have pushed themselves beyond their comfort levels. We should be very proud of these kids, no matter who wins or how the whole thing turns out," said Sen. Jeff Woodburn. "Exposing yourself to not winning is something that you don't do every day in our education system."

Carrie Gendreau was impressed by the passion the young women had for their platform issues. "They really and truly want to go out and make a difference," she said.

"It was amazing how passionate some of them were about their platform issues," said Christian Peck. "Most of them stemmed from issues in their personal lives and they just really decided to do something about it."

"I don't know how much experience they have with public speaking, but to talk in front of a group of people they don't know and be asked questions on the fly, that was impressive," added Melissa Poore.

The competition

More than 100 people filled the Littleton High School auditorium to support their favorite young ladies.

The cheering was especially loud during the live interview portion of the contest. Questions posed to the contestants ranged from gun control to gay adoption, violence in entertainment to peer pressure.

In answer to a question about whether the United States is ready for a female president, Miss contestant Ciara Ferland elicited a huge response with her answer, "I definitely think this country is ready for a female president. Us women are very confident, self-empowered, and ready to show the world what we're all about!"

In answer to a question about whether the United States should be involved in conflicts in the Middle East, eventual Miss winner Brittany Sulham answered, "I believe that the U.S. should stay focused on themselves first before they kind of stick their nose in other people's business, unless they are asked to help."


At the end of the evening came the moment of truth.

First, a People's Choice award was given in each category. Emma Bogardus won in the Outstanding Teen category and Ciara Ferland won in the Miss category.

Last year's winners came onstage to crown their successors.

First up was Outstanding Teen Reagan Murphy, whose platform is LGBT equality. For her talent she performed a dramatic monologue. She will be a senior at Gorham High School next year and is working this summer at Santa's Village. "Gosh I'm so excited!" she gushed after her big win. "I feel delightful!"

The Miss Littleton Area crown went to Brittany Sulham, who recently graduated from Profile High School. Her platform is to stop texting and driving and her talent was a modern dance. She will be attending White Mountain Community College in the fall. "It's fantastic!" she said. "I'm filled with emotions."

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