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There She Is, Miss Greater Springfield

James Madison University student Dana Vaughn claims the second-ever Miss Greater Springfield crown.

The newest member of Springfield royalty ascended to her throne on Saturday night at the culmination of the second annual Miss Greater Springfield pageant

Dana Vaughn, a third-year student at James Madison University, parlayed her ballet skills and pageant experience into victory, as she claimed the crown in the second-annual pageant, a feeder in the Miss America system. The pageant took place in the Greenspring Square Auditorium at Greenspring in Springfield.

"I've wanted this my entire life. I'm so happy I'm finally here. This has been my dream for so long," said Vaughn, minutes after it was announced she had edged out runner-up Melissa Bradby, a George Mason University grad, and second-runner-up Gillian Ramsey, a West Springfield High grad, to move on to the Miss Virginia pageant in Roanoke next month.

"The opportunity to go to Miss Virginia is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an opportunity to promote your platform to a wider audience, and a phenomenal opportunity that I can't get anywhere else," said Vaughn. "I'm so excited to be here right now, you have no idea."

Eight young women competed in the pageant and were assessed by a panel of five judges in the areas of talent, swimsuit, evening wear, on-stage question and a pre-competition interview, which held the most weight. In its second year, the pageant expanded from five contestants a year ago. Pageant president Duane Hollein said he was pleased with the event's progress in one year.

"Being a new pageant last year, nobody had any faith in us. The first year we were crawling, the next year we're kind of standing up this year and being recognized," said Hollein.

THE PAGEANT is open to women, ages 17-24, who live, work or go to school in the state of Virginia. It is one of a number of pageants throughout the state, which offer scholarship money to the top four finishers.

"We are the grassroots of the organization. If you see a young lady competing in Miss America, could be from the cornfields in Iowa, she comes from somewhere," said Hollein.

For winning the Miss Greater Springfield crown, Vaughn claimed a $1,000 scholarship, along with a variety of sponsor-donated merchandise. She credited her success to years of competition, beginning in the Tiny Miss Virginia pageants.

"It was time to step up to the next level," said Vaughn, a Luray, Va., native studying to become a secondary history teacher. Vaughn performed a ballet number to the popular Josh Groban song "You Raise Me Up." Other contestants sang, played the violin and performed jazz dance routines. Contestants took part in a four-hour orientation the day prior to the competition, and showed up at Greenspring on Saturday, at 11 a.m., for a run-through, interview and lots of sweaty palms.

"The nerves backstage are always jittery right before the opening number, but after you go on and say your name, honestly it feels like a different person on stage," said Ramsey, a junior at Shenandoah University who attended Orange Hunt Elementary and Irving Middle School. "You just kind of let your adrenaline take you."