For the first time in more than two decades, the Rose Queen will be crowned under the auspices of new organizers, who are bringing a few changes to the Roselle pageant that's a 54-year tradition for high school girls seeking scholarship money and the chance to serve as a fixture at events promoting the village.
Prime among the changes this year is a new name. A three-member volunteer committee has added the word "scholarship" to the program's official title. The 2013 Rose Queen Scholarship Pageant is Friday, March 15, at Lake Park High School West Campus.
If you goWhat: Rose Queen Scholarship Pageant
When: 7 p.m. Friday, March 15
Where: Lake Park High School West Campus, 500 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
"We thought it was important that the community knew, and that the girls knew, that this wasn't a beauty pageant per se, or something that they see on reality TV, but was actually an opportunity for a scholarship for their education," said Amy Reuter, a pageant committee member.
The Rose Queen receives a $2,000 scholarship, while the first runner-up and second-runner-up win $1,000 and $500, respectively. Another scholarship awards $500 to the contestant with the highest cumulative grade-point average.
The 2012 pageant was the last for Linda McDermott and Teri Hodgdon, a longtime team that stepped down after organizing the event for 25 years. Reuter, her daughter and former Rose Queen Kelly Baker, and Pam Mitchell shadowed the pair last year and took over the committee this year.
Among the changes this year is an earlier date for the pageant, formerly held in May, to accommodate students competing in sports playoffs or studying for final exams. That change came in response to feedback the committee received from last year's seven contestants.
Reuter says the new date allows the Rose Queen to participate in more events spotlighting Roselle, including those with the chamber of commerce.
The winner will appear in the annual Rose Parade and Taste of Roselle, assist with lighting the community Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, and hold the title of guest of honor at the Rose Queen Tea at the Roselle Public Library in the spring.
All nine contestants this year are students at Lake Park High School, from sophomores to seniors: Kelly Figley, Miranda Hagen, Hansini Krishna, Amanda Marks, Cassandra Metz and Angelina Rose of Roselle; and Margaret Fuchs, Alanna Gerardi and Delaney Thompson of Bloomingdale.
And all of them are active volunteers in food pantries, area churches or elementary schools, Reuter says.
"They're all doing volunteer work in addition to some pretty strenuous educational interests and classwork," the Roselle woman said. "It's very diverse. I think it's going to be a nail biter to the very end."
The emphasis on education and community involvement extends to a pre-pageant interview with five judges, one of five scoring categories weighted evenly. The others are sportswear, talent, formal wear and an onstage Q-and-A.
Students must complete an application two months before the pageant detailing their college and career choices, as well as their hobbies and volunteer work. The judges then interview the students based on their applications.
For the first time, a family member or friend will escort the contestants during the evening wear potion of the pageant. The students must write a brief essay to be read by the masters of ceremonies explaining why they chose their escort.
"We just thought not only to give the girls a boost and have them have somebody out there onstage with them during that time, but also to share another little piece of themselves," Reuter says.
She praised the skills her daughter, Kelly Reuter at the time, developed by competing twice in the pageant, finishing runner-up in 2004 and winning the Rose Queen title in 2005.
"She's earned interview skills and stage presence and speaking to a variety of audiences," Reuter said. "I can only hope that the other girls who are involved can do the same and be as successful as Kelly has been."
The pageant begins at 7 p.m. Friday at Lake Park High School West Campus, 500 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Tickets are $3.