POULSBO — Little girls clothed in their Sunday best tried their hardest not to scuff their patent leather shoes and to use their napkins instead of their dresses.
Older girls, dressed impeccably, looked apprehensively around at the competition and talked cordially to one another.
But the room was all smiles and hugs as the Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap pageant organizers finally introduced the 14 contestants for 2003 to their little sisters Jan. 26.
To be sure, the ice was certainly broken.
The Miss Poulsbo Pageant will crown the 49th young woman to represent the city in the Miss Washington Pageant and beyond March 15. At the same pageant, another young woman will be crowned Miss Kitsap for the first time in about 15 years. The Miss Kitsap program faltered years ago, however, Miss Poulsbo organizers brought it back this year.
“The wonderful thing is we’re going to be giving two women in this community this opportunity and we’re going to be able to give away a lot more scholarship money,” explained Miss Poulsbo Pageant organizer Michelle Wasson.
The Miss Poulsbo Pageant became a Miss America Affiliated program four years ago, and with the affiliation came the Little Sisters Program. Third grade girls are paired with contestants and get to spend time with them during practices and other events leading up to the pageant. The little sisters will also provide some of the entertainment at the March 15 competition with a choreographed number they’ll perform together.
At a recent tea where the girls met for the first time, it was love at first sight.
Little sisters held hands, hugged and cooed over their big sisters like they’d known each other forever. It was perfectly clear that each contestant had gained an instant cheering section in these starry-eyed little girls.
“She’s really nice and she has a really pretty dress,” said little sister Mary Elizabeth Rhomberg smiling sweetly up at big sister Lori Snyder, a Miss Kitsap contestant from Seabeck.
And the big sisters, who had been so businesslike just minutes before, sat laughing and talking with their new friends — some even sitting on the floor of the Sons of Norway Hall in their fancy clothes and tearing through presents they’d brought for one another.
“It’s fun,” said Snyder of the little sister concept. “I enjoy little sisters, especially since mine live so far away.”
“You kind of adopt them and by the end of the pageant you know them really well,” added Miss Poulsbo contestant Diana Myrvang, who said she enjoyed having a little sister as a contestant last year and is excited to get to know her two little sisters Melissa Warren and Mallory Tidball this year.
One of the biggest things about the Little Sisters Program, said Wasson, is the relationships that are formed between the pairings.
Little sisters and big sisters from previous years have stayed in contact with one another and she said she likes that the younger girls have a strong female role model to look up to.
“For me, other than raising my two children this is the most important thing I do because this is women helping women,” Wasson commented to the attendees of the recent tea. “This is a way you can all help each other grow as a person.”