Miss America Ban Could Mean End To Hoopeston Pageant
The long-running National Sweetheart Pageant in the Vermilion County city of Hoopeston may be in jeopardy. Officials with the Miss America organization say a language change in its rules now bars its contestants, judges, emcees, and volunteers from being part of the Hoopeston competition. The last few years, at least 40 states have sent contestants there.
Cliff Crabtree co-directs the pageant with wife Michelle. It's held during Labor Day weekend, as part of Hoopeston's Sweetcorn Festival.
He says they only learned of the change last week, through a state pageant director. The Crabtrees plan a meeting this week with the Hoopeston Jaycees, who own the pageant, to figure out next steps.
“We’ve got to figure out a game plan," Cliff says. "If we have to reorganize, I mean it’s doubtful that we have a pageant this year. We normally start getting our paperwork and stuff put together about this time of year for Labor Day, you know?”
The National Sweetheart Pageant is not affiliated with Miss America, but all Hoopeston’s participants and judges come from that competition.
Michelle Crabtree says without the pageant, that's a huge economic hit, since families of nearly all the contestants travel to the area. There were 43 contestants in Hoopeston last year.
"New Jersey is a die-hard National Sweethart fan," she said. "They usually come with an entourage. They usually bring a bunch of people who come year after year. We were just talking to a vendor the other day who said it was nothing for New Jersey to come into the tent at the National Sweetcorn Festival and spend $1,000 just in her booth."
Crabtree says losing the pageant also impacts the economy in Danville, where parents of the contestants stay, since there are no hotels in Hoopeston. The National Sweetheart Pageant been held since the early 1940’s, and nine contestants have gone on to win Miss America.
In a statement provided by the Miss America organziation, spokesperson Chilsea Mineur says the change is not due to a new rule, but a clarification that addresses non-affiliated competitions.
"All nine members of our State Advisory Council, as well as 95 percent of our State Executive Directors, joined our Board of Directors in voting to approve the new clarification to this pre-existing rule. The Miss America Organization's main goal is to foster a fair and equal playing field for every young woman who enters our program and to duly protect the integrity of the competition and the judging process."
The Crabtrees have asked Miss America officials what it would take to become affiliated. A number of former Hoopeston pageant contestants have formed their own Facebook page, and are writing the Miss America organization to protest the change.