The Miss Georgia Scholarship Competition will celebrate 75 years in Columbus when candidates take the stage at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, Mayor Berry “Skip” Henderson announced Saturday.
“We have been the home for this competition for 74 years,” the mayor said during a 10 a.m. news conference at the RiverCenter. “To celebrate the 75th anniversary and that milestone is something we don’t take for granted.”
Trina Pruitt, a Troup County teacher who replaced former board chair Mansfield Bias, pointed to efforts by Henderson, Hayley Henderson Tillery of the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, Norman S. Easterbrook of the RiverCenter and Peter Bowden of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau to bring the pageant back to Columbus where it was first held in 1944.
Columbus still has the competition after Atlantic City, N.J.-based Miss America Organization revoked the licenses of the Georgia pageant and others in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and West Virginia after state directors’ reportedly criticized Miss America leadership last year in part over a decision that included eliminating the swimsuit competition.
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A new board has been in place since December, said Pruitt, a former pageant contestant. “I know how important Columbus is to this institution,” she said as crowned candidates watched nearby. “I know how important it is to every girl over there with a crown on her head. That’s what I had to make sure happened.”
Because of changes in the board, there needed to be some continuity, said new board member Russell Kirby.
“They never wanted to leave from here to begin with. It’s just the way things worked out,” he said. “At one point, we didn’t have a choice but to go but things just opened up and we were able to come back.”
Tillery, a former contestant, said girls from across the state dream of coming to Columbus to perform on stage for Miss Georgia. The winner has a chance to compete for Miss America.
“It’s such a huge honor for this state and it takes place right here in Columbus,” Tillery said. “That is the history we have built here. “
The competition is scheduled for June 15 with an economic impact of $271,375. Bowden said people will be staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and using other services.
“Contestants and fans descend on Columbus and generate a lot of activity during competition week,” he said.