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Pageant with a 'twist'

Eight girls ranging in age from 14 to 18 are competing for the title of Livestock Festival queen this year, in a pageant with the 1960s theme “Cowgirls’ Twist.”
The contest will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday in the auditorium at the Screven County High School. Tickets are $5 in advance and are for sale at the Bank of Newington, Donna’s Bakery and Wall’s Diner. At the door, they will cost $8.
The auditorium usually is packed with about 700 people, said Dale Reddick, director of the pageant and first vice president of the Sylvania Junior Woman’s Club, which has presented the competition every year since 1970.
“Short of football, it’s the best-attended event in Screven County,” Reddick said. “It’s a tradition. It doesn’t matter who’s in it, people want to come. They get their $5 worth.”
This year’s contestants are: Kayla Blackburn, 17; Victoria Bohannon, 17; Jemaria Jenkins, 14; Courtlynn Pruitt, 17; Brandi Royal, 18; Amanda Starling, 16; Katelyn Whittington, 14; and Sarah Williams, 18. During the competition, which lasts at least three hours and includes an intermission, the girls compete in Western wear, evening wear and talent.
Judges also hold interviews earlier in the day, before the public part of the contest at the high school. Certified pageant judges from out-of-town judge the contest. “We go to great lengths to make sure they don’t know anybody in Screven County,” Reddick said.
For talent, Blackburn, Royal and Williams will perform clogging routines; Bohannon and Whittington will sing songs; Jenkins will sing and play the keyboard; Pruitt will perform a gymnastic routine; and Starling will perform a trumpet solo.  
Bohannon is the only contestant who has participated in the livestock pageant before. She was second runner-up last year.
The girls have been practicing since early February. In addition to their individual talent, all eight girls will perform a dance routine together, to the song “Let’s Twist Again.” The set will be a retro hamburger joint.
“Those girls work hard to put on a show,” Reddick said. About 20 volunteers with the Junior Woman’s Club have been helping with the pageant this year.
The mistress of ceremonies will be Sharon Thomas Milner, 1990 festival queen.
Dana Newton Doss, the 1997 festival queen, will sing as part of the program. Reigning 2008 queen Miah Johnson will perform a gymnastics routine. Daniel Hall, husband of a club member, will sing a country song and Kevin Rountree will sing a song to the contestants.
Contestants each will have a bucket with their picture on it where audience members can donate money. The girl who gets the most money will win the “people’s choice” award. Donations will go toward putting on the festival, including prizes for the livestock entrants.
The contestants have voted and chosen Miss Congeniality, which will be awarded during the pageant.
The winner gets a $250 prize, an engraved silver tray and a crown, which was donated by Rebecca’s. Queen pageant sponsors are: Joe Boddiford Farms, All Truth Outreach Ministry, Ross Drug, Thompson Farms, Brodie International, Staff of Screven 911 and Savannah Communications, Diamond ‘W’ Farm and AgSouth.