10/29/16 — Pageanting with a purpose

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Pageanting with a purpose

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 29, 2016 9:43 PM

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Winners in the recent Miss Seymour Johnson pageant, front row from left, Anna Bennett, Greater Miss Seymour Johnson; Molly Costello, Majestic; Hayleigh Brubaker, Little Miss; Lindsey Walden, Miss; and Taylor Walden, Young Miss. Back row, Emmalyn Mae Barr, Wee Miss, being held by her mother, Nicole Barr; and Bryleigh Allen, Teen Miss.

Miss Seymour Johnson is a pageant with a purpose, says Brittany Harper, co-director with her mother, Tracy Atkins.

In addition to recognizing young women of varying ages for the typical pageant criteria, it also is heavy on involving participants in community service.

Among the events it supports are Wreaths Across America, the Warming Tree project, collecting items for Wayne Pregnancy Care Center and serving military families and veterans organizations.

"We named it Miss Seymour Johnson because my dad was in the Air Force and wanted to honor the military, the base around here," said Miss Harper, who grew up doing pageants and aspired to direct one.

This was the fourth time for event, held in the Terrace Room downtown. It started in 2013.

Shelley Allen's daughter, Finnleigh Harper Allen, was supposed to compete that year, but passed away from SIDS just a few weeks before the pageant.

Her two other daughters decided to compete that year to honor their sister, she said.

"Both won in their divisions," Mrs. Allen said. "The directors were so gracious to present (Finnleigh) with the honorary title of Baby Miss Seymour Johnson."

Now each year the directors make a similar acknowledgment -- choosing a special recipient for the honorary title.

"We always have a photogenic award and the (Allen) family they always give a plaque in Finnleigh's name," Miss Harper said. "The last two years, it went to two little girls that had different types of cancer and this year we gave it to another family whose baby passed away.

"We call it Honorary Miss Seymour Johnson. In this case, Mr. Seymour Johnson, since it went to a little boy. We give (the family) a banner and a crown just like they had been in the pageant."

This year's honorary recipient was William Henry Barr, son of Nicole and Matthew Barr. The couple's daughter, Emmalyn Mae Barr, 2, was also in the pageant, and was named Wee Miss.

Mrs. Allen's daughter, Bryleigh Nicole Allen, 12, returned to compete, winning in her category, Teen Miss.

Other winners this year included Molly Costello, 4, Majestic; Little Miss Hayleigh Brubaker, 9; Junior Miss Lindsey Walden, 9; Young Miss Taylor Walden, 10; and Anna Bennett, 7, Greater Miss Seymour Johnson.