Rising senior girls from Thomaston will soon have the opportunity to participate in the oldest Junior Miss Program in Georgia.
This local program has made Junior Miss a household word. Little girls begin talking about participating in Junior Miss as soon as they enter first grade.
“Thomaston's Junior Miss program began in 1957,” said Thomaston-Upson JM Chairperson Julie Love. “Since we are celebrating 50 years, we are very excited about the prospect of including some of the former winners and participants in this years events. Our hope is to put together a reception honoring these women. They were a catalyst for what has now become a time honored tradition in Thomaston.”
1959 was an especially exciting year for Mimi Minor Duncan. That was the year she was crowned Upson's Junior Miss.
“It was very different back then,” said Duncan. “The Jaycees were in charge of the whole thing. I can remember going to the Hotel Upson to a Jaycees meeting and each member would put $1 in a donation plate. They would draw a name and whose ever it was would receive all the monies in the pot. If I recall correctly, my name was drawn on more than one occasion. Sometimes there would be $25 or more in there. That was a considerable amount of money for a young lady in my position. I was able to apply that to some of the extra costs incurred.”
Duncan, along with 1970 winner Deann Reddick Hopkins, are quick to add that the Junior Miss was never the typical “beauty pageant”. Gone is the emphasis on beauty over substance, replaced by an emphasis at today's pageants on the contestants' intelligence, talents, poise and presentation skills.
“From the beginning, the Junior Miss Program did not judge on beauty, but on talent, fitness, poise, and scholastic achievement,” said Hopkins. “ It was about the whole package. It wasn't about the most beautiful gown or even the most beautiful girl. These girls must be community-minded, flexible and serve as a role model to the area they represent. All those things are taken into consideration. That's the way it was from it's inception and they still practice the same thinking.”
The Junior Miss and the program America's Junior Miss is one the nation's premiere college scholarship programs for young women.
“This program is a wonderful opportunity for girls not only for the exposure, but for their continued education and their career choices,” said Chairperson Love. “Young people are a valuable commodity and getting involved in something like this allows them to broaden themselves on a community and civic level. We have a lot of outstanding and talented girls here. If you look at past winners such as Dianne Sawyer, Debra Norville and our own Rachel English, they all participated in the Junior Miss Program. Ultimately, its about personal development
Benefits besides the prizes, such as developing life-long friends, with their roommates and the other contestants.
“I'm still dear friends with a girl I met at the state level of Junior Miss,” said Hopkins. “I can honestly say Junior Miss is one of the best experiences of my life.”
For high school juniors who are interested in participating in this years program, an orientation will be held Saturday, Jan. 6 at The Well located in the old Hesters Drug Store across the street from The First Baptist Church.
“I encourage any young lady interested to be at the orientation,” said Love. “We begin at 10 a.m and will discuss the program and what is required to participate. We will begin practice sessions Saturday, Jan. 13 beginning at 9 a.m. at The Wellness Center at URMC. Also, for those individuals, businesses or civic organizations who are interested in sponsorship, we welcome any involvement. Thomaston is such a good example of coming together and these girls need the support of the community they represent.”
The Thomaston-Upson Junior Miss will be held March 10, at the Civic Center. Times for the event will be announced.