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This year's Miss Georgia has three contestants with local ties

This year’s crop of 39 Miss Georgia contestants features three women with local ties — but they aren’t who you’d expect.

Miss Columbus State University, Kelsey Ray, is from Trion, Ga.; while it’s Miss Atlanta, Shelby Rice, who hails from Columbus.

Ray, Rice and Hayley Henderson, Miss Columbus, come from a range of pageant backgrounds and experience levels.

This is only the third pageant for Ray, who first got involved with the Miss Columbus State University competition last year after urging from her cheerleading coach.

But this will be the third time at Miss Georgia for both Rice, 23, and Henderson — they’re five-year pageant veterans, and Henderson has previously competed as Misses Columbus State and Troup County.

One thing they agree on?

“We’re all sisters here,” Henderson said. “And it’s all important to know the system’s about a community bond.”

Rice’s platform is “Girl Talk: inspiring confidence through mentoring.”

Ray, 21, works with Best Buddies, an international nonprofit focusing on those with special needs; and Henderson works with March of Dimes.

Both Ray and Henderson will sing during the pageant’s talent portion, but Rice — a classically trained pianist — will perform William Joseph’s “Piano Fantasy.”

Ray will sing and play guitar. Henderson will sing the Broadway standard “Maybe This Time,” from “Cabaret.”

Henderson is turning 25, so this is her last shot at Miss America.

The one thing she’s learned is that “the only competition really is myself.”

“I’m at total peace this year,” she said.

The 2014 pageant celebrates 70 years of Miss Georgia — and many former winners will be in attendance.

The pageant will be emceed by Oshja Anderson Domenicone, Miss Georgia 1999. The lead vocalist is Kaylen Morgan.

The judges panel includes choral and music educator Dale Duncan, former Miss Nevada Pageant President Markham Miller, former Miss New Mexico Sharron Melton, Miss Georgia 2005 Monica Pang and Sara Ketcham, former executive director of the Columbus Symphony.

Preliminaries start Wednesday and run through Friday — each night at 7:30 p.m, a new group of contestants will compete in swimsuit, evening gown, talent and more.

The Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen competition will run concurrently.

The week also includes the Second Annual Miss Georgia Quack Race, benefitting Children’s Miracle Hospital, and the Forever Miss Georgia Show.

Saturday night, following the finals, a new Miss Georgia will be crowned.

The winner represents the state at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 14.

IF YOU GO

Miss Georgia & Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen Pageants

Preliminaries: Wednesday-Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Finals and crowning: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

RiverCenter’s Bill Heard Theatre, 900 Broadway

Tickets are $20-$85 for each night.

www.tickets.com or 706-256-3612

For more info on all pageant events: www.missga.org/

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