"In February of this year, Feb. 7, I had back surgery and it was kind of a big deal for me," said Plott, the 17-year-old daughter of Michelle Queen of Cartersville and Johnny Plott of North Richland Hills, Texas. "I was like, you know what I'm never going to be able to compete in pageants again. I'm going to have a big scar.
"Now I feel like it's kind of up to me to compete again and to kind of let other girls look up to me [and say], 'Hey, she had surgery and she has a big scar but she's not afraid to get up there on that stage and be herself still. She's not ashamed of it.'"
During the contest, which will be held at Cartersville's Woodland High School Performing Arts Center, Plott will be able to interact with 79 other contestants from across the state and learn valuable leadership and interviewing skills, while vying for a shot at the crown and numerous prizes. According to Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau's data, Plott is Bartow County's sole representative for the Miss Georgia USA and Miss Georgia Teen USA pageants Friday and Saturday.
A senior at Cass High School, Plott is involved in various school activities. She is a mentor; editor for the yearbook; a member of the art club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, "Y" Club and student council; a senior superlative; and she participates in a leadership program.
"There really are so many great things about the pageant," Plott said. "I don't know if it's the fact that the whole entire weekend we're just surrounded by wonderful people and they're always telling me that 'you can do it' and 'to stick with it.' ... I'm just very thankful for the community coming together to help sponsor me still and that they're still believing in me three years later.
"My goal is always to beat myself, to be better than I was before, but I think the obvious [thing] is that I want to win. As long as I'm giving it my best then I think that's truly what counts."
During the pageants, the contestants will be judged equally in three categories: interview, swimsuit and evening gown. 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.
Describing the pageants as a character-building experience for the contestants, Regina Wheeler -- deputy director for the Cartersville-Bartow County CVB -- said one of the most motivational aspects of the contests is the VIP dinner's speaker, Dale Thomas.
"She really is a very energetic speaker," Wheeler said. "She does speak from past pageant experiences and really just encourages each and every contestant to be their best, to do their best. This year we have 80 Teen contestants. We have 50 Miss contestants. Out of those girls, one girl is going to go home with a crown [in each competition].
"But you know what? This is not necessarily [about the crown] for everyone. ... It could be about stepping out of your shell, doing something that you would not normally do. ... [Dale] Thomas always gives great wisdom to these teen contestants. My experience in hearing her year after year [is] I really wish a lot of teen girls could hear her. I wish that she was on the high school circuit, that she could go from school to school and just really lift up teen girls and encourage them to become all that they can be."
In its fifth year of hosting the Miss Georgia USA and Miss Georgia Teen USA pageants, the local CVB is expecting to see about a 7-to-1 return on its annual investment. The contests are expected to have more than a $200,000 economic impact on Bartow County.
Charged with raising $19,350, the CVB still is seeking financial contributions and in-kind donations to help cover the costs of the pageants. The top expenditures will include renting the WHS' Performing Arts Center, supplying transportation and providing meals to the contestants, which will cost about $6,700, $5,400 and $5,000, respectively.
"You have 130 contestants that are coming that are bringing their parents, their friends, their families, grandparents, supporters," Wheeler said. "They come into this community and they stay for about a minimum of three days. They are here. They are shopping. They're dining. It really does bring a lot into our community as well as our overnight stays in our hotels. But more importantly, it's an experience that they will never forget.
"They will always remember Cartersville as host city of these pageants. Win or lose, we want it to be a wonderful experience for everybody that comes and that's where we need our community's support to really shine, to really put on the best face that we have to show them all the wonderful things that we have -- the great attractions, shops. And genuinely, everything that we always hear from visitors [is about] our friendly people and we are very rich in that. So it's just a really great opportunity to make a lasting impression on many people that are residents of Georgia."
Seats will cost $35 for the combined pageants' preliminary shows 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.