By Dawn Krebs
TREASURE COAST -- In just a week, 20 ladies will vie for the state title of Ms. Senior Florida, the first time the pageant has come to the Sunshine State.
Twenty contestants, ranging in age from 60 to 88 years old, will grace the stage of the Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 23.
"This is not a beauty pageant since all the contestants are ladies of elegance and all are winners," said Hedi Headley, state pageant director and host of 'Your Second 50 Years" radio show.
According to the rules of the pageant, a contestant must be over the age of 60. She will express her lifestyle through evening gown, talent, philosophy of life and an interview with the judges. The theme for this year's pageant is "Forever Young."
"The judges will be looking for a lady with talent, inner beauty and an energetic and positive outlook on life," she said.
Though the pageant is being held in Vero Beach, the contestant are from all over the state, including Melbourne, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Bradenton, Cocoa, St. Augustine and Palm City.
Such a large variety of location ensures large varieties of talents, as well.
"Ladies will showcase various types of talent, including dancers, vocalists, comedy and dramatic skills," said Deanna Fielden, the pageant talent coordinator.
For the evening's talent, Cheri Halleran of Vero Beach will sing and dance to the song, "These Shoes are Made for Walking," while Glenis Delmar will display paintings she has created. Also from Vero Beach, Betsy Ross Horn will sing "I Got Lost in His Arms," and Terry Johnson will perform stand-up comedy.
Florence Jo Licata will perform, as will Cynthia Monsour, who will do a dramatic reading.
Barbara Petrillo will display her jewelry designs, and Joanne Purcell will sing. Peggy Robbins will dance the Charleston and Margaret Van Parys will show off some power yoga moves.
From Port St. Lucie, Carmelita Church will perform "Coming to America," while Colette Schweizer will sing "I Feel Pretty."
From Brevard County, Linda Cobb of Melbourne Beach will Zumba dance, while Melbourne resident Joan Commons will sing "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life."
Melbourne resident Alice Kreitz will perform a Hula dance, Cocoa resident Peggy Tune will display her artistic creations, and Barbara Wong will perform African Djembe drumming.
From elsewhere in the state, Eileen Warchall of Palm City will perform ballroom dancing, and Jeanne Larranaga of Bradenton will sing, "God Bless the USA." Also, Lindsey Smith of St. Augustine will perform a talent skit.
Even though this is the first pageant in Florida, this is not Ms. Headley's first time coordinating one.
In 1990, she and Helen McKnight created the Ms. Senior Arizona pageant, which still continues today, drawing more than 3,000 to its annual event.
In 2003, Ms. Headley and Ms. McKnight moved to Florida and recently decided to begin again and give the elegant ladies that live here a chance to represent Florida on the state level, as well as the national stage.
All the contestants will receive various prizes and gifts, and the one crowned Ms. Senior Florida will attend the national competition taking place in October at the Harrah's Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
The presenting sponsor of the event is Regency Park, the independent senior living community in Vero Beach, but other sponsorships for the pageant are still available. Other sponsors include Hometown News, 97.1 Ocean FM, Senior Life Magazine, Minute man Press, Aloha Home Care and Artistic Florist.
"These ladies of strength, pride and faith can teach us all life lessons by they themselves deal with tragedies, disappointments and success."
The inaugural Ms. Senior Florida Pageant will take place at 7 p.m. March 23 at Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center, located at 1707 16th St. in Vero Beach. The pageant is open to the public, and tickets are $10, and can be purchased at the Cultural Council of Indian River County or the performing arts center box office. Group rates are also available.
For more information, call (772) 564-9222.