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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 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 pageants 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 a thousand dollars to get ready for competition."

Jaclyn Roe, director of the Miss Cleveland pageant, believes the decrease in contestants is also 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. A closed pageant means all contestants must be from that city. An open pageant allows any girl from across the state to enter and compete.

Only 10 local pageants in the state are still closed competitions, according to the Miss Tennessee website.

'Local' titleholders:

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

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 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."

Tonight's Miss Tennessee pageant starts at 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central. Watch it online at www.eplustv6.com.

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