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Royalty pageant reinstated

— It’s been several years, but with more interested girls turning out this year the royalty pageant for the 66th annual Mansfield Play Days will make a comeback this weekend.

“We’re starting it back up,” organizer and Mansfield Chamber of Commerce member Lois Heselwood said. “This year, we decided that we wanted to start bringing back the good old days.”

The pageant will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at the senior center by Town Hall, 26 Main Ave.

There are a few changes in this year’s program besides the pageant’s return.

“We’ve made it the Little Miss Play Days instead,” Heselwood said, noting it has been expanded to include girls from first- through fourth-grades. In previous years, Play Days organizers considered primarily girls in fifth- and sixth-grades.

With nine girls competing this year, Heselwood said one Little Miss Play Days will be crowned, along with two princesses.

The contestants are Shaylyn Book, Beau Nordby, Alysha McGraw, Evalee Shafer, Aspen Farrington, Katelyn Donaglia, Tiera Miller, Virginia Huffman and Brielle Farrington.

“I got such a great response and I am so excited. They keep coming up to me asking, ‘Is it this weekend? Is it this weekend?’” she said. “I think it’s going to be really neat, and I know all the girls are excited about it.”

Little Miss Play Days and the princesses will all ride in the parade during the June 13 event. Eventually, Heselwood said the chamber would like to create floats and send the royalty to parades in other cities, as the town used to do.

“It used to be a really big thing, and we’re going to try to hopefully bring that back,” she said.

With declining interest over recent years, the chamber had taken to announcing Miss Play Days at the school’s spring music concert. Girls who wanted to be considered simply wrote an essay.

Saturday’s pageant will give girls more opportunity to “think on their feet,” Heselwood said.

“We want the girls to be involved and we want them to be able to say, ‘Hey, this is how I feel and this is why I want to be Little Miss Play Days,’” she said. “I think it’s going to be interesting.”

Each contestant will be escorted by an adult male relative, then asked a series of questions by three judges. The next event will be a talent show, followed by refreshments while the judges deliberate.

The judges are planned to be Denise Graham, Ken Graham and Bobbie Huston, all newcomers to the area, Heselwood said.

“I wanted judges that didn’t know the kids,” she said.

Traditionally, the new royalty is crowned by the previous year’s Miss Play Days. However, the currently reigning Miss Play Days, seventh-grader Andrea Lowman, won’t be able to attend, Heselwood said.

One more change is the decision to drop the Mr. Play Days aspect of the royalty, at least for now.

“It may come back later, but for right now just trying to get going with this – we’ve decided to just bag it for a little bit,” Heselwood said.

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