During the contest, which will be held at Cartersville’s Woodland Performing Arts Center, the Kingston resident will interact with other contestants from across the state and learn valuable interviewing skills, while vying for a shot at the crown and numerous prizes. According to Greenwood Productions’ data, Lewis is Bartow County’s sole representative for the Miss Georgia USA and Miss Georgia Teen USA pageants Friday and Saturday.
“I always thought it was a way to inspire young girls,” said Lewis, about wanting to compete in the upcoming pageant. “In my previous pageants, I’ve always had little kids and their moms come up to me saying such sweet things. It’s just motivated me so much to this point.”
A senior at Cass High School, Lewis is involved in various school activities, such as FBLA, DECA and Cass High Ambassadors. The current Miss Bartow County Teen also is a peer member at Trinity Chapel Church of God. Her future plans include attending Georgia Highlands College, then transferring to Georgia Southern University to major in business administration and fashion merchandising.
If she were to win the title, Lewis — the 17-year-old daughter of Mary Lewis and Bryan Benham — will bring awareness to the issue of teen suicide.
“It’s been in my high school for a long time. ... So I think just giving young girls and boys the information and knowing that there is a brighter light at the end of the tunnel [is important],” Lewis said.
In the pageants, contestants will be evaluated equally in three categories: interview, swimsuit and evening wear. The winner of the Miss Georgia USA competition will advance to the Miss USA pageant, the precursor to Miss Universe. The Miss Georgia Teen USA winner will compete in the Miss Teen USA pageant.
“What Kim [Greenwood], the pageant coordinator, really strives for is introducing all of these young ladies to their individual possibilities, that they can come out for an event and be their best self,” said Regina Wheeler, deputy director for the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “They really focus on beauty and fitness but also compassion for today’s world, to really be active and to contribute to the community and to the broader world.
“The speakers that Greenwood Productions bring in really focus on it’s not about winning, it’s about being your best. I think every teen girl certainly really needs to hear that and they can look up to other role models because in every pageant every year we have seen that there are contestants that are brand new to the pageant scene [and] there are others that have been striving for this goal for a long time. So it’s a real good mentoring situation as well. They get to interact with contestants who have competed before who are striving once again to achieve the crown and can really learn a lot from the people around them. So I think it’s a good experience.”
In its sixth year of hosting the pageants, the CVB is expecting to see a 7-to-1 return on its annual investment, with the contests anticipated to have more than a $200,000 economic impact on Bartow County. With the CVB charged with raising nearly $20,000, the top expenditures for the pageants will include renting the theater, supplying transportation and providing meals to the contestants, which will cost about $6,700, $5,000 and $5,000, respectively.
CVB officials also believe Cartersville will continue to reap the financial benefits for years to come. Through publicity that the event will generate and introducing the contestants and their families to county attractions, the CVB looks to promote return visitation. On average, each overnight visitor in Georgia spends $107, which includes expenses, such as lodging, meals, gas and tourist sites.
“For the community, it brings in a lot of dollars,” Wheeler said. “Without a doubt, it’s great statewide exposure. This is a captive audience, if you will, for three days. These girls don’t come alone. Their mamas are not far away.
“They are not allowed to stay with the contestants throughout the weekend but you can bet that they are here in other hotels. They are out shopping in our shops and eating in our restaurants. So they are spending money. ... So it does bring a great deal of money into our economy.”
Seats will cost $35 for the pageants’ combined preliminary show Friday at 7 p.m. The final shows, which will cost $40 each to attend, will be conducted Saturday at 3:30 and 8 p.m. for the Miss Georgia Teen USA and Miss Georgia USA competitions, respectively. Admission will be half-price for youth ages 13 and younger at every show.
Tickets can be obtained at the Performing Arts Center prior to each competition or by calling the Cartersville-Bartow County CVB at 770-387-1357.