SHERIDAN — When the 2017 Miss Wyoming is named Saturday at the WYO Theater in Sheridan, the gleaming crown placed on her head will be a testament to more than beauty.
Yes, beauty plays a part, but so do character qualities like compassion, confidence and commitment.
The crown has four points for a reason. They stand for service, scholarship, style and success — pillars that will carry the platform Miss Wyoming has won the chance to promote.
Leading up to tonight’s pageant, five contestants built those pillars at home, at school and in their week of preparation in Sheridan. All five are passionate about community service, giving time already limited by jobs and school to coaching, mentoring and fundraising for organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Children’s Miracle Network.
While in Sheridan, contestants chatted with residents at Westview Healthcare Center, played with children at the Children’s Center, enjoyed barbecue with the Jaycees, served at the soup kitchen and visited every business on Main Street.
In addition to service opportunities, each day of pageant week was packed from dawn to way past dusk with workouts, pageant rehearsals, talent practice and mock interviews that involved hundreds of questions covering contestants’ platforms and social, political, cultural and historical topics.
“You don’t get this far because you were lazy,” Executive Director Serene Billings said.
Typically, contestants are in the top 10 percent academically and have done “400 percent more than the average twentysomething,” Executive Director Rikki Stewart said.
The driven schedule won’t end after the pageant — for the winner or the other contestants. The four women who aren’t crowned will return home and continue to live healthy, successful and compassionate lives. The winner commits to a year of volunteer service — and a tightly controlled schedule as far as jobs, living arrangements and public appearances — as Miss Wyoming.
“They’re going to use their position, their title, as somebody who now has a voice and will have an audience,” Billings said. “Everybody looks at it as, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky,’ but it’s a job. You volunteer a year’s worth of your time to promote what you’re passionate about.”
It can be stressful and exhausting.
Early in the week, Miss Sheridan County Cheyenne Buyert encouraged her fellow contestants with a quote by tennis champion Billie Jean King: “Pressure is a privilege.”
As the five contestants for Miss Wyoming step on stage at the WYO to complete the swimsuit, evening gown, talent, interview and on-stage question portions of the pageant, they will strive to remember that this is their chance to earn a platform for their passion.
Miss Southwest Wyoming
Platform: The Power of One, which talks about how one person can either change or destroy someone’s life with one action, gesture or word.
Community service: Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor; Sweetwater County Prevention, a suicide prevention organization; singing at nursing homes; school presentations about being smart with social media.
In her words: “A huge talking point is that I am a size 12 competing in a pageant system that generally has smaller women as their state winners, but my resting heart rate is in the same area as an athlete’s resting heart rate.”
Platform: Healthy Habits, Healthy Life, which focuses on fighting childhood obesity and helping kids and adults lead an active, healthy lifestyle.
Community service: Girl Scouts; after school groups; Healthy Pokes Organization, which helps kids lead active lifestyles; research at the University of Wyoming on rates of obesity in children.
In her words: “So many people think that exercise has to be hard and you have to break a sweat. But if you come outside to the park with your kid for 20 minutes and let them run around and play on the playground, that is enough activity to help them get a start on a healthy lifestyle.”
Miss Sheridan County
Platform: Winning with One, an effort to raise awareness about Type 1 diabetes, erase stigmas and stereotypes and address the mental health aspect of living with a lifelong disease that has no cure…yet.
Community service: Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor; walking dogs at the Dog and Cat Shelter; serving at the soup kitchen; preparing food at The Food Group.
In her words: “If anything, Miss America has given me a true passion for service, and I want to share that with other girls if I’m Miss Wyoming and I go to Miss America. But even if I don’t, you get out of it what you put into it.”
Miss Albany County
Platform: Let Them Know We Care, a call for people to send care packages to active military men and women and to veterans.
Community service: Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor; turtle conservation and trash removal in Costa Rica; starting an organization that will send care packages to members of the military.
In her words: “Especially with veterans, we need to take care of them because they have taken care of us for so long. But also with active military men and women, they need to know they’re appreciated.”
Miss Carbon County
Platform: Nurture Bright Futures, which encourages schools, communities and families to ensure children ages 0-24 have the tools and willingness they need to succeed.
Community service: Camp counselor at summer day camp and church camps
In her words: “The willingness is the biggest part for me because I see these kids who don’t want to try anymore, who feel like nobody’s going to care. That’s what inspired my platform was seeing that every day in the classroom as a substitute teacher. I want to make sure kids know every single option they have.”