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Scholarship competitions feature ties to Miss America
Brenda Edwards
Brenda Edward is the director of the Miss Springfield and Miss Atlantic Coast scholarship competitions. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Something new and exciting is on the Mars Theatre runway. 

The Miss Springfield and Miss Atlantic Coast scholarship competitions are set Aug. 6. The events are affiliated with Miss America.

“We’ve got at least seven girls who have signed up already” Pageant Director Brenda Edwards. 

Each contest will feature two divisions — Miss (18-26) and Miss Teen (13-17). Edwards said 10 entrants in each one is optimal for a one-day show.

“Once you start getting past 15 girls (in each division), that’s a long show. You’d spend all night here,” Edwards said. “That’s when you start moving into preliminaries.”

“We want this opportunity to be available for people,” Mars Theatre Director Regina Clontz added. “If that means we have to do this more than one day, we will do it more than one day.”

Edwards moved to the area from Florida just over a year ago. She led pageants there for 17 years and was encouraged to do so here.

“The Miss America organization has gone through so many transformations,” Edwards said. “It started out in 1921 as a bathing beauty contest in Atlanta City, New Jersey. That’s when swimsuits were these long wool dresses and knee socks.”

Miss America dropped the swimsuit portion of its pageant in 2018. Today, the organization’s focus is on the contestants’ community service, talent, stage presence and interview skills.

“The program now opens up with the young women talking about their volunteerism. It’s called their social impact statement,” Edwards said. “When a young lady wins a Miss America title, she spends approximately two months leading up to her local competition preparing for competition, getting her wardrobe, getting her act together, doing all the things that are required — but she will spend a year once she’s crowned advocating for her social impact initiative.”

Social impact initiatives are causes or organizations that contestants are passionate about. Edwards cited alcohol awareness, breast cancer awareness and Boys & Girls Clubs as examples.

“... Girls choose a social impact statement,” she said. “How can you make the world, your community or your society better?”

Clontz said news about the local competitions, licensed through the Miss Georgia organization and sponsored by Brad Cherney State Farm, spread quickly as soon as it was posted on the Mars Theatre Facebook page.

“People in the community are very excited about this opportunity,” Clontz said.

The Miss Atlantic Coast title will be bestowed the same night Miss Springfield is crowned.

“Your license actually qualifies you for two titles,” Edwards said. “Our parent organization is Miss Springfield because the (City of Springfield) through the Mars is our main sponsor. The second title is Miss Atlantic Coast, which is a regional title.

“We are looking (for contestants from) Bryan County, Bulloch County, Liberty County , Screven County and, of course, Chatham County.”

The Miss Springfield and Miss Atlantic Coast winners will compete for the Miss Georgia crown at the River Center for the Performing Arts in Columbus in 2023. The current Miss Georgia is Karson Pennington, an Augusta native who advanced to Columbus by winning the Miss University of Georgia Pageant. Her social impact initiative is ROAR: Reach Out and Read.

“We’re not putting a cap on (participation),” Edwards said. “Come on everybody!”

“The Mars can seat 223 people,” Clontz added. “To have as many candidates as we can have would be great.”

Edwards said contestants will find the experience beneficial. She competed in the Miss Black America circuit in the days of segregation.

“The one most valuable thing I took away from competing is that I learned to be able to sit and speak to people, talk to people, think on my feet,” she said. “Right now, if you look around the country at some of the women who are on national TV who are spokespeople, most of them came from pageants. It’s just a good fit.

“... That’s what this competition does. If oftentimes puts women in positions that they ordinarily wouldn’t have been exposed to and they end up with a lifelong career.”

Edwards hopes to have the contestant lineups set 4-6 weeks in advance of the pageants. There is no charge to enter but the title hopefuls are encouraged to get financial sponsors to help defray costs.

For more information, call Edwards at 954-609-3334 or emial The event website can be found at