In the two weeks leading up to the 2014 Miss and Little Miss Fourth of July pageant, Reyn Ferris and Carla Braga prepared and practiced together, paired as big and little sisters. On Saturday, May 17, the two stood together on stage inside the Mt. Hope High School auditorium — complete with rhinestone-studded tiaras — after being crowned 2014 Little Miss and Miss Fourth of July.
The annual pageant brings together 15 girls between the ages of 7 and 9, and 15 young women between 16 and 20, each hoping to represent the Town of Bristol during the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the country. As in years past, each girl brings a unique character to the pageant, lending their strengths to the other, so all can present their best in the spirit of the community.
“My only regret is that not all of these girls can be winners tonight,” said pageant Chairwoman Patty Squatrito. Co-chairwoman Lisa Ridder agreed.
“We get just as nervous as them. It’s been a pleasure to work with a great group of young women,” she said.
Before the pageant, each girl was scored on a three minute, one-on-one interview they had with the judges. On pageant night, the girls’ came prepared to impress the judges and those who packed into the auditorium, with the glamour, poise and presence befitting of the coveted crown.
After emerging from a floral archway, the contestants introduced themselves to the audience and the panel of judges. Then, with the Little Miss contestants in their party dresses, and the Miss Fourth contestants in evening gowns, they responded to questions that ranged from what they liked best about Bristol, to how they would make the world a better place.
When asked what she would want to be famous for, Alyssa Oliviera, 9, stated her ambitions beyond wanting to be named Little Miss Fourth. “I want to be a role model, and probably be the first woman president,” she said.
After a slight pause, she considered the added benefit to that. “Living in the White House wouldn’t be so bad either,” she said.
When asked what they liked best about school, living in Bristol, and their favorite foods, Julia Caton said she likes the pretty flowers and the beautiful floats in the Fourth of July parade. Claire DeBlois said she likes her principal at Guiteras School, Ms. Whipp, and Abigail Golden made it clear that she likes the spaghetti and meatballs that her grammy makes, much more than she likes the ones from her mom and dad.
At age 9, Reyn Ferris, who would wear the Little Miss crown, shared her aspiration to become a marine biologist and, if she could change one thing about her school, she would have more fundraising opportunities – particularly bake sales, where everyone benefits from the goodies.
For the Miss Fourth of July contestants, Daniela Lopes, 2013 Miss Fourth of July, held a basket of questions from which each contestant would draw at random.
Rachel Bernardo, a sophomore at LaSalle Academy, wore a black gown with a sequined top, and responded to her question of who she would change places with for a day.
“Someone less fortunate,” she said, explaining that after participating in a homelessness awareness sleepout at school, she became more aware of the plight of the homeless. “It was an eye opening experience.”
The Fourth of July pageant has been an annual tradition since 1948. Once crowned, the pageant winners attend the many functions and activities that are held throughout the Fourth of July celebration, and ride, with their courts, on the float in the Fourth of July parade.
When the winners’ names were announced, Reyn said that she was shocked. “I was so surprised. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
When Carla’s name was called, she, too, looked shocked, covering her face with her hand in disbelief. “It was surreal. I thought, ‘are you sure you called my name?’” she said.
As she stepped up to accept her crown, she blew kisses into the crowd.
At the town’s Flag Day ceremony, held at Town Common on Saturday, June 14, Miss and Little Miss Fourth of July will be officially introduced to the public.
“Our winners are going to represent the town beautifully,” Ms. Ridder said, after the show.
But it was Miss Fourth contestant Meagan Ruest who, in response to the question she selected: “How would you describe the Fourth of July celebration?,” that best summed up the pageant and the events still to come.
“It’s a slice of Americana,” she said.