Beauty pageants may not be for everyone, but for those who choose to compete, they are like second nature and winning the opportunity to compete at the West Virginia Association of Fair & Festivals (WVAFF) annual convention is a top goal in their pageant career.

WVAFF is an organization representing over 200 fair and festival events and associate members throughout West Virginia. Together they are a vital part of West Virginia’s tourism economy.

The WVAFF will be hosting their annual convention, Jan. 10-12 at the Charleston Civic Center. As part of the convention activities, 83 young ladies, ages 16-21, from all over the state of West Virginia will compete for the title of 2019 Miss WVAFF Queen.

Jackson County is home to 11 of these beauties: Jamison Crawford, Jackson County Junior Fair Queen; Samantha Border, Miss Ripley Fourth of July; Sophia DeLong, Ohio River Festival Queen; Desi Rose, Regatta Fest Queen; Kelsey Hill, Parkersburg Homecoming Queen; Ashton Ratliff, WV Riverfest Queen; Daniele Ellison, WV Chocolate Festival Queen; Emily Wigal, WV Timber & Wood Queen, Sami Wagoner, Stars & Stripes Queen; Megan Stowers, Miss Oak Leaf Festival Queen, and Ramsie Monk, Miss Paw Paw District Fair Queen.

These ladies are in a for a three-day whirlwind once they arrive at the facility on Thursday afternoon. From the opening ceremony to rehearsal to preliminary events they will constantly be on-the-go preparing for the big event, the pageant itself on Saturday evening.

The Jackson County queens are no strangers to competition. Most have been competing in pageants anywhere from two to nine years. They have experience on stage, being in front of hundreds of people, and answering questions on the spur of the moment.

Pageantry is not just about hair, make-up, and a pretty dress.

“They are a great way to make friends, gain real-life skills, and build confidence,” Wagoner said. “My sense of style and my people skills have improved through pageantry.”

“Pageants genuinely help young women accept and express themselves,” Border added. “I am more confident because of them.”

Contestants must compete in several phases of competition, including an interview portion.

“Interviews are my favorite part of a pageant because they help prepare you for future job interviews,” Crawford said. “They have helped me break through my shell. I can talk to anyone now.

“Interviews give you the opportunity to show who you are as a person,” Hill commented. “They also help you to communicate better with others.”

“They have taught me about public speaking and provided me with many networking opportunities.” Monk said.

Pageants provide opportunities to build lasting friendships.

“You are given the opportunity to become friends with people all over the state. This is something you take away from pageantry even after you age out,” Rose said. “They are not just temporary friends, but friends for a lifetime.”

According to the Jackson County queens, one of the best things about being a pageant winner is being a role model to younger children.

“It gives me a sense of pride to be a role model for younger kids,” Wagoner said.

“When you go out to make appearances, little girls believe you are a princess and they tell you they want to be like you, I really enjoy that,” Rose said.

Entering a pageant for the first time could be scary for some, but these girls have good advice for those wanting to step out of their comfort zone and take the risk.

“Be yourself, you are amazing for just getting on the stage,” Border exclaimed.

“Don’t worry about what other people think,” Rose said. “You may not have the most expensive dress or the best hair, it is all about you being confident in yourself, that is all that matters.”

The anticipation of being at the WVAFF annual convention, competing in the 2019 pageant has the Jackson County girls on pins and needles with excitement. They are ready to make new friends while catching up with old ones.

They all agree that bringing home the title of 2019 Miss WVAFF Queen to Jackson County would not only be an honor, but a chance to experience great things in the state itself.

“It would mean that all of my countless hours of hard work has paid off and I could continue to make a positive impact as an ambassador for all people in WV,” Monk expressed.

“Winning this title would be a blessing that would provide me with an amazing opportunity to travel the state and learn about all the many fairs and festivals WV has to offer,” Wagoner said. “Promoting the WVAFF as the 2019 queen would be life changing.”

These girls have worked hard to make it to the stage at the WVAFF pageant. They have spent time and effort preparing for pageant day and hoping to take home that title.

“Pageantry is more than a pretty picture, crown, and sash,” Monk said. “It’s about being a queen in every aspect of life.”

For more information on the WVAFF, visit their Facebook page at West Virginia Association of Fairs & Festivals or their website for a detailed list of events for the upcoming convention at https://wvfairsanddfestivals.org.