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Beauty queens, start your engines. The Miss Kings County Competition is taking place March 11 at the Hanford Fox Theatre.

This year, 13 girls are poised to compete for the title of Miss Kings County 2017 and Miss Kings County’s Outstanding Teen 2017. The local pageant is a preliminary to the Miss America Pageant, and is put on through the Miss Kings County Organization, a service oriented institution.

“Our mission is to provide [scholarship] funds through this competition and also to promote the four points of our Miss America crown: success, style, scholarship and service,” Teresa Vernon, executive director, said. “Service is a large part of our program where [the girls] give back to the community.”

Six “miss” contestants will partake in a private interview, eveningwear, lifestyle, fitness, swimsuit and talent portions. Meanwhile, the seven “teen” contestants will participate in an interview, talent, eveningwear, lifestyle, fitness and sportswear categories. Questions will also be asked on stage. 

“The thing that I gained the most out of it, that I guess applied to my normal life, would be the interview skills," Stacie Souza, who won Miss Kings County in 2006, said. "It really helped me be prepared for job interviews. I never had any issues being uncomfortable being in an interview setting. It made me very comfortable with public speaking.”

Souza also says she enjoyed the friendships she made during the competition. Her roommate from the Miss California competition even sang at her wedding.

"You can really gain so much from it in that way,” she said.

The contestants begin working with the Miss Kings County Organization in October in order to prepare for the competition.

“It is such an incredible difference [between October and now],” Vernon said of the contestants, while tearing up over the phone.

“Just to see them have that confidence…It’s not easy to get on stage in a swimsuit in front of people,” Vernon said. “To see them come out in confidence...And they don’t have to be the skinniest perfect body that is so demanding today. These young girls, that’s all they see. That’s so far from the truth. So we hope to instill that in them, to really show the world what they have to offer and it’s incredible.”

Over $8000 in cash, scholarships, gifts and accessories, ranging from $100 to $2000, will be given. Each contestant receives a scholarship just for participating.

The winner of Miss Kings County 2017 will receive a $2000 scholarship to “further her education, serve as an ambassador of Kings County for the ensuing year and go on to compete for the title of Miss California in June.”

The winner of Miss Kings County’s Outstanding Teen will be awarded $500 and the opportunity to compete for the title of Miss California’s Outstanding Teen. The winner will also be the junior ambassador of Kings County.

“We want an ambassador for our county,” Vernon said. “We would love to have a Miss California, but I’d prefer a young lady with a service heart who wants to come back […] and do things to better our community.”

In the past, contestants have worked with organizations such as Relay For Life and the Rotary Club, to name a few.

“I really wanted to work with the homeless population and fill their hunger and help with some of that poverty and those in need,” Kayla Kuehl, who won Miss Kings County in 2008, said.

She and her friends volunteered with The Salvation Army and served people dinner. Overall, the Miss Kings County competition was a very rewarding experience for her.

“I think what I took away from it the most was just feeling so good about myself. It kind of helped me come into my own. I was 18, just finishing up high school, just figuring out life. I think the pageant kind of helped me be my own person and helped me feel comfortable in my own skin,” Kuehl said. 

During this weekend's competition, Miss California 2016 and top ten finalist to Miss America, Jessa Carmack, will make a special appearance. Additionally, participants in the MKC Princess Program, which is directed at girls 3-12, will appear on stage and perform in a production number.

According to the press release, the Miss America program has awarded “millions of dollars to deserving young women wishing to pursue higher education.”

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