“I do think it was a great success,” said Regina Wheeler, deputy director for the local CVB, which was charged with raising about $20,000 for the pageants, with the top expenditures including renting the venue, providing meals and supplying transportation to the contestants. “It was our seventh year, so some things are very routine to us by this point [but] there’s always little issues that come up. We kind of go around putting out fires and are happy to do that for any event that comes to our community and to be helpful and be hospitable. That is certainly part of our scope.
“... It was one of the most well-attended events. We have near-sellout shows but the Woodland Performing Arts Center is such a large and beautiful theater that we still had some seats available. So we have not yet sold that event out, but we did come close. So that brought a lot of people into our community to experience it. We hope that they were out and about shopping and dining and just enjoying their time with us.”
On Saturday, Miss Monticello USA Tiana Griggs was crowned the 2014 Miss Georgia USA, with the following being named finalists — Miss Heart of Georgia Keila Diaz, Miss Peachtree City Brooke Fletcher, Miss North Marietta Jamie Kelton and Miss Spalding County Emanii Davis.
According to a news release from the local CVB, “Lauren Edmund, Miss Heart of the South USA, was honored by her peers as Miss Congeniality. Miss Henry County USA Amy Brady was chosen as Miss Photogenic. Receiving the People’s Choice Award chosen by monetary votes benefitting Cartersville’s Tranquility House was Miss Milledgeville Brittany Miller.
“Crowned Saturday afternoon was Miss Georgia Teen USA, Noelle Hughley, Miss Arabia Mountain Teen USA, age 17 of Lithonia. She accepted her new crown and title from the reigning Miss Georgia Teen USA Julia Martin. Runners-up were Miss Fulton County Teen USA Ansley McGhee, Miss Augusta Teen USA Mary Calkins, Miss Starr’s Mill Teen USA Jamie Walloch, and Miss Kennesaw Teen USA Amelia Hunt. Honored with the People’s Choice Teen Award was Alexus Huggins, Miss Middle Georgia Teen USA. Miss Columbus Peach Teen USA Safiyyah Jones was chosen as Miss Congeniality, while Miss Capitol City Teen USA Layilah Nasser earned the Miss Photogenic title.”
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.
Along with crowning two winners, the pageants also raised awareness and funds for the Christian League for Battered Women.
Selected as the event’s beneficiary organization for the seventh year, Christian League for Battered Women and its shelter, Tranquility House, received a bevy of gifts from the more than 140 contestants and was the recipient of the pageants’ People’s Choice awards’ proceeds. Gathered from audience members placing $1 votes for their favorite contestant, the People’s Choice funds have yet to be totaled. In past years, Christian League for Battered Women received an average of between $3,000 to $4,000.
Formed in 1985, the nonprofit 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 Tranquility House for 30 to 60 days, during which a support group, legal advocacy and community resources are at their disposal. While men who are victims of domestic violence are unable to reside at Tranquility House, they are provided with services and other shelter options.
“Thanks to Greenwood Productions and the Cartersville [Bartow County Convention &] Visitors Bureau, we’ve been the charity for the past seven years,” said Zanett Ellington, child advocate for Christian League for Battered Women. “... It’s wonderful for the cause of domestic violence [for people] to be more aware. When more people know [about] domestic violence ... that’s meaningful. Domestic violence is not a topic that people want to talk about.
“... [Also] anytime an organization that’s a nonprofit gets donations, that’s helpful, especially this time of year, when like right now we’re over capacity. These ladies are coming here and many of them with just the clothes on their back. So we need to have just the basic essentials for them and their families. For some reason, people think that when a woman comes to a shelter, she’s leaving her children. People forget that the children are with them. So this time of year, when we have Thanksgiving and we have Christmas, you want these children to have some type of normalcy.”
Like past years, the CVB is expecting to see a 7-to-1 return on its annual investment, with the contests anticipated to have more than a $250,000 economic impact on Bartow County. With the bureau now realizing it is unable to utilize the hotel/motel tax to help supplement this project, the CVB will renegotiate its contract with Greenwood Productions for future ventures to shoulder less of the cost.
“We are charged with taking the hotel/motel tax dollars that funds our organization and turning that back around into promotional dollars, so that people will have opportunities to think about or discover Cartersville as well as Bartow County and the city of Adairsville as a destination for travel, whether it be business or leisure travel,” Wheeler said. “Within that scope of our mission, we do support various events that bring people into our community and in the way of sponsorships, things like that. However, with the Miss Georgia USA pageant from the very beginning we’ve really taken on more of a host role than we have a sponsorship role and within that we feel like we are putting more to this effort than frankly we’re getting back.
“While it does bring money into the local economy and it does bring room nights, we are very much charged with hosting the event as opposed to just simply be a sponsor of the event. That is just simply kind of against the policy of the Department of Community Affairs. These dollars are really to be spent in promoting as opposed to the hosting situation. So with that said, we want to be [in] compliance with the Department of Community Affairs. So we will be renegotiating the contract going forward, so that we can make sure that our dollars are best spent and according to the law because they are public funds and we want to do everything that we can to be within the law on that situation."