Beauty pageantry in South Carolina is kind of like high school football. The north is the powerhouse region; its brigades often win contests handily throughout the state.
This year, organizers of the Miss Hilton Head Island Scholarship Pageant are trying to draw local talent to compete against the northern beauties and possibly win on home turf at the Hilton Head Island High School Visual and Performing Arts Center on Jan. 26. The group has held informational meetings and contacted local media and performing arts groups to get the word out, said Harry Culpepper Jr., chairman of the pageant's board.
But the local girls are up against some stiff competition from the north.
"They have a pageant up there almost every weekend," said Culpepper. "It's just what they do."
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For instance, the 2012 Miss Hilton Head Island, Maegan Garner, is from Greenville. And only two of the 16 girls who competed for Miss Hilton Head Island and Miss Hilton Head Island Teen last year were from the island, said Culpepper.
The island pageant and its teen competition were revitalized last year after 15 years of dormancy. The events are open to young, single women ages 13 to 24 from all regions of the state. The event needs to remain open to all areas for now to get enough contestants, said Culpepper, but he's hoping nearby residents will compete.
"We really want to get local girls," he said.
About half of the state's 48 qualifying pageants are open to all areas of the state, said Ashley Bird, executive director of the Miss South Carolina Scholarship Organization.
Hilton Head's pageant consists of an evening gown competition, closed-room interview, on-stage question, talent performance, as well as a swimsuit competition for the adults and a fitness-clothing showing for the teenagers.
The winners of the two pageants qualify, respectively, for Miss South Carolina and Miss South Carolina Teen competitions in July.
Miss South Carolina pageants award more than $150,000 in cash and $11 million in scholarships annually. The island's pageant will award $1,000 to Miss Hilton Head Island from the Going Law Firm. The pageant organization will give $250 to Miss Hilton Head Island Teen and pay the statewide competition's $250 entry fee.
It costs about $100 to enter the island pageant. Applicants must also submit a resume and essay. The deadline to enter is Jan. 14.
"I know without a doubt that we have teens and young women that can win the title of Miss Hilton Head Island," Culpepper said.
He said he likes rooting for the underdog.