Eleven young women walked down the runway in the Springfield Mall on Thursday, June 1, with the dream of becoming the next Miss Springfield. In the end, only one, Ashley Linder, wore the crown.
Linder's reign was short-lived, though, as the Board of Directors of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce asked her to resign as Miss Springfield on Friday, June 2. [See "Queen for a Day."]
Thursday night's pageant was the kick-off event of Springfield Days 2006. The Miss Springfield Scholarship Pageant saw the young women perform a short dance number and model evening gowns in the hopes of winning a $1,000 scholarship.
Over the past few weeks, the contestants had spent a lot of time together, said director Tammy Shapiro, who co-hosted the event with Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce member Vincent Stubbs.
After donning their evening gowns, the girls each had to answer a question.
“If you could see into the future, what would you want to know?” Shapiro asked 19-year-old Northern Virginia Community College student Shikha Bhasin.
“I’d like to see where I’ll be in 10 years, see how my friends and family are doing and how well off I’d be,” Bhasin said.
Bridgett Beard was asked if she thought a woman would make a better president than a man? "I think we need a woman’s point of view as president, not just men," said the 16-year-old Lee High School student.
If she were president, 17-year-old West Springfield student Reeny Eul said she’d like to “pass laws to stop poverty and hate crimes.”
The aspiring actress and news anchor said she’d like to “extend a hand of friendship to all countries, even ones we’re not friends with.”
SHAPIRO ASKED LINDER what she’d do if a friend told her she was thinking of not going to college or dropping out.
“I’d say that college isn’t for everyone, but you should at least try,” Linder said “College is the gateway to the rest of your life. You get experiences there you can’t possibly fathom without going."
When asked what she’d change about herself if she could change one thing, Shaina Simmions, a 17-year-old Hayfield student, said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’m pretty happy with myself,” she said. “It’s good to accept yourself the way you are.”
At the end of the night, the contestants, who were escorted on stage by members of the United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, selected Linder as their Miss Congeniality. Bridgett Beard was named second runner up and Lisa Rademacher was named first runner up before Linder received her crown from last year’s Miss Springfield, Natalie Saba.
“This is just indescribable,” said Linder, who had participated in the pageant twice before. “It’s such an honor to win, but also to be voted Miss Congeniality.”
Judges Benjamin Casiano, director of vendor relations, tenant and concierge services for Classic Concierge, Inc.; Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce executive director Nancy-jo Manney; and Ms. Virginia Senior America 1998 Annmarie Pittman had “ a difficult choice to make,” Shapiro said in choosing the winner of the pageant, but “they made a good choice."
Ashley’s a very sweet girl," Shapiro said. "These have been a great group of girls to work with.”
One of the sponsors of the pageant, Bob LeMay of LeMay and Company, said the pageant was well done. "I really enjoyed the enthusiasm they had in the competition," he said.
The pageant is a good way to kick of Springfield Days, a weekend-long series of outdoor events and activities, LeMay said. “The mall is always completely packed for this, which is a great statement that the community believes in its students.”