During the pageants, which will be held at Cartersville's Woodland High School Performing Arts Center Friday and Saturday, the young women will be able to interact with other contestants from across the state and learn valuable leadership and interviewing skills, while vying for a shot at the crowns and numerous prizes.
In Friday's preliminary show, contestants will be judged equally in three categories: swimsuit, evening gown and interview. The semifinalists will compete on Saturday in swimsuit and evening gown, with the top five participating in an on-stage interview.
The winner of the Miss Georgia 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.
Seats will cost $30 for the combined pageants' preliminary shows Friday at 7 p.m. The final shows, which will cost $35 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. Tickets can be obtained at the Performing Arts Center prior to each show or by calling the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 770-387-1357.
While this will be the first time Cannon has competed for the Miss Georgia USA title, she is familiar with the pageant industry, having participated in about 15 contests since she was in sixth grade. Among her previous pageant accomplishments include placing in the top 15 in the Miss Georgia Teen USA pageant three years ago.
"It was just a really neat experience and I thought that I would try the Miss this year because I've prepared for it," Cannon said. "When I did the Miss Teen it was such a neat experience [that will last] a lifetime ... It was just a way to feel good about yourself and meet a lot of new friends.
"It's crazy. I met a girl in the Miss Teen and reunited with her when I was a freshman at West Georgia my first year of college. We've been best friends ever since ... So it's a way to meet new friends. It helps your self-esteem and [helps you] feel good about yourself."
Currently 21, the Cartersville resident is a full-time stylist at Hair Depot in Adairsville and a full-time student at Georgia Highlands College, where she is majoring in nursing. She is the daughter of Gordon and Beth Cannon of Cartersville.
If she wins the Miss Georgia USA pageant, Cannon plans to promote the Christian League for Battered Women nonprofit.
Formed in 1985, the domestic violence center and its shelter, Tranquility House, meets the needs of women and their children by providing a safe environment for them to temporarily stay and work toward future goals like securing housing, education or a job, if needed. Typically, the individuals reside at the Bartow County shelter for 30 to 60 days, during which a support group, legal advocacy and community resources are at their disposal.
"I really am interested in the Tranquility House in Cartersville," said Cannon, a 2008 graduate of Adairsville High School. "One of my dear friends, she helps to fund it and she runs it. After listening to a lot of what they go through and what they deal with with the battered women and the children, it's just really neat and I would love to help continue to let that [program] grow."
For VanHorn, participating in the Miss Georgia USA contest is a dream come true. Competing in pageants since she was 2, the Kingston resident's most recent titles have included Miss Cartersville and Miss East Cobb.
"It's always been my dream ever since I was a little girl," VanHorn said. "I'd watch Miss USA and Miss Universe on TV and I would get so excited for those girls and I wasn't even competing in it. So it's always been my dream to get on the stage and be one of those girls and hopefully one day be Miss Georgia and then Miss USA.
"[I am looking forward to] just the experience, the camaraderie with all the other girls, being in a production like this, the experience I will gain, meeting new people. The most challenging [part is] being disciplined -- not going out and getting a pizza, having to be very disciplined when it comes to training for it and not letting other things get in the way."
VanHorn, 21, presently is majoring in communications at Kennesaw State University and working at Slope's BBQ in Cartersville. She is the daughter of Gene and Debra VanHorn of Kingston.
Becoming Miss Georgia USA would enable VanHorn to have a larger stage to address a cause that is dear to her heart -- curbing childhood bullying.
"I'm really focused on bullying, especially with children," she said. "So that's what I'm geared toward because it's something I think we've put on the back burner for a really long time. We know it goes on. But I think with the Internet and other things like that, kids are being more influenced and they're committing suicide at early ages. They're really letting it be known now that it's a bigger issue than what we ever thought it really was."
On Friday, Rowland will make her pageant debut at the Miss Georgia Teen USA pageant's preliminary show. Encouraged by her friend's experience in pageants, the 16-year-old Cartersville resident is looking forward to the opportunity to grow as an individual and make new friends.
"This is actually the first pageant I've ever done," Rowland said. "I had a friend do one a couple of years ago that she got invited to do and she originally just did it to ... see how it went and maybe to get some scholarships [through] it. I was like, 'That sounds pretty interesting.'
"She ended up winning the state pageant and then going on and being first-runner [up] in the national pageant. And all her experiences that I heard from her was she made great connections and great friends. Just the way she talked about it just sounded like something that I really wanted to try and experience because it really seemed like something I could really benefit from, no matter what the outcome is. ... I'm just really looking forward to the experience. Now that it's coming so close, I'm just really excited to get to compete and get to meet all the other girls. I just think it's going to be a great opportunity."
Rowland, who is the daughter of Lori Pruitt, is a junior at Darlington School in Rome. At school, she is involved in several organizations, such as being a member of the Darlington Instrumental Music Conservatory, vice president of Junior State of America and president of the Wind Ensemble.
If she wins the Miss Georgia USA Teen pageant, Rowland would like to talk to adolescent girls across the state about increasing their self-esteem and reaching their full potential.
"I want to be there for people who have rougher childhoods because I went through the same sort of thing," she said. "My dad wasn't always around. So I want to show that no matter where you come from, you can be successful and you can be confident in who you are.
"I really just want to show other girls that no matter who you are, you should be proud of everything that you are. Be proud of your body. Be proud of anything that you accomplish in your life. Overall, I want to help girls boost their confidence and just be more comfortable in their own skin."
With this week's contest, Plott is looking to surpass her top-five finish in last year's Miss Georgia Teen USA pageant.
"Last year was probably one of the best experiences that I've ever had before," said Plott, the 16-year-old daughter of Michelle Queen of Cartersville and Johnny Plott of North Richland Hills, Texas. "You go into it and you have no idea what's going to happen or what anything's going to be like. There's so many new faces. You don't really know anyone. It's kind of one of those things where you fend for yourself but at the same time everyone wants to do what they can to help you.
"You learn a lot. You have to learn about time management because you're on a very strict schedule. I know a lot of people say this but it's true -- you find out a lot about yourself through the pageant experience. There's just so many things that you can learn about yourself that you never really knew. You really push yourself to the best that you can be during the pageant weekend. And I think it's good because sometimes you don't know what you're capable of until you kind of put yourself out there. I had so much fun last year and I'm kind of hoping with more help this year and more guidance that maybe I'll do a little bit better. And even if I don't, I know that I'm going to have a great time and I'm going to meet a lot of new girls."
A junior at Cass High School, Plott is involved in various school activities. She is the senior editor for the yearbook, a member of the art club, and she participates in a leadership program.
Through her pageant experience, Plott would like to assist her peers in some capacity.
"I definitely would like to do something [to help] out with other kids my age," she said. "I don't know exactly what cause I would help with, but I think it's so important that people have someone that they can talk to and look up to and someone to set a good example for them. Because these days, it's so easy to get caught up in the wrong path."