Soddy-Daisy's Stefanie Wittler, Miss Tennessee 2009, will crown her successor this evening in Jackson, Tenn. But she won't be relinquishing her title to another Chattanoogan.
There are no local women among the 37 contestants competing tonight in the Miss Tennessee 2010 pageant, an occurrence local pageant officials believe is a first for this area.
The closest hometown tie is Miss UT-Knoxville Shelby Thompson, daughter of Miss Chattanooga 1977 Eunice Belew Thompson.
"This year, a lot of directors had to open their pag- eants because the contestant count was low," said Mardi Boone, director of the Miss Hamilton County pageant. "I think that can be attributed to the economy.
"For these girls to compete, they or their parents spend upward of $1,000 to get ready for competition," she said.
Jaclyn Roe, director of the Miss Cleveland pageant, believes the decrease in contestants also is because "times are changing."
"Girls are involved in more things now, from jobs to sports," said Ms. Roe, a former Miss Cleveland. "There is still a lot of interest in pageants, but now it's about having people become more aware of what the Miss Tennessee program is about."
Until three years ago, the Miss Chattanooga and Miss Hamilton County pageants were closed contests, meaning all contestants had to come from those areas. An open pageant allows any woman from across the state to enter and compete.
Only 10 local pageants in the state still are closed competitions, according to the Miss Tennessee website.
Six titles are awarded in Chattanooga each fall during one large competition: Miss Chattanooga, Miss City Lights, Miss Cleveland, Miss Hamilton County, Miss Scenic City and Miss Metropolitan.
According to Ms. Boone, 15 young woman competed for those six titles in November. Of those, only three were from this area.
Ms. Boone said the local pageant uses two panels of judges: one women, one men. All contestants receive a composite score from preliminary rounds and a judges' interview, which is tallied by auditors. The six top-scoring contestants are the winners, and they are randomly assigned one of the six titles awarded.
"We need to work on getting the word out in our area," Ms. Boone said. "That's our goal, to recruit more girls from the city of Chattanooga in the future."
Miss Chattanooga: Nicole Mazzio, of Clarksville, 21 Miss City Lights: Ivy DePew, of Memphis, 19 Miss Cleveland: Brooke Stegeman, of Dyersburg, 19 Miss Hamilton County: Katie Kendall, of Gallatin, 18 Miss Scenic City: Kaley Schwab, of Nashville, 22 Miss Metropolitan: Lacey Alford, of Seymour, 22
Source: Miss Tennessee website