Clarke named second Miss Greater Greenville

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Christen Clarke of Theodore won the Miss Greater Greenville 2005 title Saturday night out of 15 hopefuls.

A city skyline studded with bright lights served as the backdrop as the outstanding young women from across the state took part in &uot;A Black Tie Affair&uot;.

The occasion was the second annual Miss Greater Greenville Scholarship Program, held at Greenville’s historic Ritz Theatre. The 15 young women were vying for valuable scholarship monies, an official Miss Alabama Preliminary Crown and a title that would take one of them to the Miss Alabama program.

Clarke was presented with the Queen’s Flowers and crowned by Miss Greater Greenville 2004 Melinda Toole.

As Miss Greater Greenville 2005, she also received a $1,000 scholarship and a host of gifts from local businesses and board members.

Clarke, a sophomore majoring in psychology at the University of South Alabama, also teaches dance. The talented young woman says she has been singing and dancing for most of her life.

&uot;This is really exciting and the community seems very supportive of the Miss Greater Greenville program,&uot; she said. &uot;I know this next year will be an exciting time for me and the program.&uot;

Aiming for ‘A-Number One’

The contestants, wearing glittering top hats and striking (not-so) basic black, made their first appearance on stage, appropriately, to Frank Sinatra’s &uot;New York, New York&uot; as they introduced themselves to the audience. The audience, in turn, began to speculate: which young woman would be chosen the new Miss Greater Greenville?

The Camellia City’s own Ralph Stacy served as the jovial emcee for the evening, while Toole provided vocal entertainment.

Toole, an education major, updated Stacy and audience on her current busy school schedule at Samford University. She also shared about how she had benefited from her time serving as Miss Greater Greenville.

&uot;A great experience,&uot; Toole said. &uot;I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to work on my speaking skills, and to develop leadership and communication skills during my reign – it’s been a great experience.&uot;

Toole, a non-finalist talent winner at Miss Alabama last year, performed &uot;I’ve Got the World On a String,&uot; &uot;My Strongest Suit&uot; and &uot;Someone Like You&uot; during &uot;A Black Tie Affair.&uot; She is the current Miss Trussville and will return to the state program to compete for Miss Alabama 2005.

&uot;I have really come to love Greenville and the dear children I have come to know through implementing my character education program in the local schools…it’s been a wonderful year for me,&uot; Toole has said.

Stiff competition

As Miss ‘GG’ Scholarship Program Director Sue Arnold will tell you, the program is much more than just another &uot;beauty pageant.&uot;

As an official preliminary to the Miss Alabama program, Miss Greater Greenville is part of the world’s largest source of scholarship assistance for young women, with over $42 million in scholarships given at local, state and national levels combined.

&uot;The girls have to work hard for these scholarships; it is not just handed to them,&uot; Arnold stresses.

For the young ladies, a very important part of their preliminary scoring

– the individual interview, which counted for 40 percent of the contestant’s score -had taken place earlier in the day at the Ritz.

On stage that evening, the audience was able to see the young women compete in swimsuit (10 percent), talent (30 percent), eveningwear (10 percent), and on stage question (10 percent).

The search was on

The audience was also given the opportunity to hear the young women share their thoughts on their platform – the social and community cause they champion – as well as hear their answer to an impromptu question they drew from a hat. The search was on for that well-rounded individual possessing intelligence, grace, fitness, talent, self-confidence, good character and concern for the community.

The competition proved stiff – but in the end, only one contestant would be selected to wear the crown and bear the title of Miss Greater Greenville.

The moment has arrived

The judges made their final tallies and soon the moment had arrived. Stacy announced the winners of the swimsuit and talent trophies. Jennifer Scrimpshire of Montgomery took home the swimsuit award. Stacy announced a tie for the talent award and jokingly asked the two winners &uot;to refrain from arm wrestling for the trophy – we will get you one of your own.&uot;

Talent award co-winners proved to be Haley Arrington of Glencoe and Clarke. Arrington performed the song &uot;Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again&uot; from &uot;Phantom of the Opera,&uot; while Clarke, a self-taught vocalist, sang the Linda Eder tune, &uot;Gold.&uot;

The moment to announce the finalists had arrived. Third runner-up was April Tillery of Dothan, recipient of an engraved pewter tray and an arm bouquet. Second runner-up was Jennifer Scrimpshire of Montgomery, who took home a $100 scholarship, engraved tray and arm bouquet, and first runner-up, Leigh Russell of York, was presented a $200 scholarship, engraved commemorative tray and arm bouquet.

A healthy platform

Clarke is an advocate for physical fitness for youth.

Clarke knows about struggling with fitness as she faced the problem as a young teen.

&uot;When I was in the seventh grade I had to have total knee reconstruction and had no physical activity,&uot; she said.

&uot;When I gained 40 pounds and hit that mark, I knew I had to do something.&uot;

She said with what she learned she wants to help others achieve their fitness goals.

&uot;I see physical fitness as a great tool to build character among young people,&uot; she said.

Pleased with the outcome

&uot;I believe Christen will be a wonderful representative of our city,&uot; Arnold said. &uot;We are very excited to have her as our new Miss ‘GG.’&uot;

At her reception following the program, Clarke told family and well-wishers she had only been Miss Greater Greenville a very short time – &uot;and I already feel so much at home,&uot; she said with a big smile.

It seems the Miss Greater Greenville Scholarship Board did a good job making everyone feel at home. Brenda Walters, mother of contestant Amanda Walters, told Arnold the Greenville program was perhaps the &uot;best organized&uot; of all the preliminaries her daughter had been in.

&uot;Brenda also praised the ‘beautiful’ Ritz Theatre and the hotel accommodations at the Comfort Inn, and says Amanda looks forward to competing in Miss Greater Greenville again next year,&uot; Arnold said. &uot;We are very pleased the girls enjoyed their time here in our city this year,&uot; Arnold said. &uot;We appreciate all the help and support we have received from our community in putting this together – we couldn’t have done it without you all.&uot;

The Miss Alabama Scholarship Program will take place June 8-11 at Samford University in Birmingham.

This is the next stop for Clarke and the Miss Greater Greenville program on the road to Miss America!

Jay Thomas contributed to this report.