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Junior Miss contestants practice their dance routine for the program. The group of 20 high school seniors will break into two groups for fitness and self-expression divisions. The Yellow Brick Road group will wear yellow T-shirts, and the Emerald City group will wear green.
Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer
Junior Miss contestants practice their dance routine for the program. The group of 20 high school seniors will break into two groups for fitness and self-expression divisions. The Yellow Brick Road group will wear yellow T-shirts, and the Emerald City group will wear green.

Morgan County Junior Miss
‘Defying Gravity’
These 20 seniors seek brains, heart, courage on their yellow-brick road to scholarship program’s 2008 title

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Dorothy will be there Saturday, along with the lion, tin man and scarecrow.

You can follow the Yellow Brick Road, too, and watch 20 seniors from four area high schools compete for the title of Morgan County Junior Miss, as well as scholarship money.

The program, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Decatur High School auditorium, will include talent, self-expression and physical fitness divisions.

“Defying Gravity” is the theme for the program, which will feature songs from Broadway musicals “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Wiz” and “Wicked.”

Mary Catherine McAnnally, the current Alabama and Morgan County Junior Miss, will be dressed as Dorothy in the opening scene.

Tonya Jones, who is choreographing the show for the fifth year, said the opening number, from “Wicked,” is “One Short Day in the Emerald City,” featuring McAnnally and the 20 participants.

“Our fitness number is ‘Ease on Down the Road’ from ‘The Wiz,’ and the self-expression number is ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ from the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ ” Jones said. The finale will feature McAnnally in “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked.”

The 20 contestants will be divided into two groups for the fitness and self-expression divisions, Jones said. In fitness, the “Yellow Brick Road” group will wear yellow T-shirts, while the Emerald City group will wear green ones.

The young women will be rated in judges’ interviews and academics earlier that day.

Last year, only 13 competed for the county title, but this year many more seniors showed interest.

Is that because McAnnally went on to take the state title in January and many honors at the national competition in June?

“I don’t think I can take the credit for that,” said McAnnally. “But if I have helped raise awareness about the Junior Miss program, then I’m glad, because it’s such a fantastic program. I’m a huge Junior Miss nerd now.”

McAnnally will entertain Saturday and place the medallion around the winner’s neck at the end of the evening. Then she can look forward to doing the same in January for the next Alabama Junior Miss.

“I don’t have to be a has-been quite yet,” said the 2007 Decatur High School graduate who is now a freshman at Birmingham-Southern College.

Her advice to those competing is simply to relax and enjoy the experience.

“I went in expecting nothing, so winning was a pleasant surprise and icing on the cake,” she said. “They should just enjoy it, because you’ll never have another ride quite like Junior Miss.”

Along with making public appearances to promote Junior Miss, she sang at events and judged the statewide Miss Nursing Home pageant. The daughter of Sid and April McAnnally used her vocal number, “For Good” from the Broadway musical “Wicked,” to wow the judges, along with her experiences as a delegate to a World Youth Leadership Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

She received $26,000 in cash scholarships plus a four-year scholarship to Birmingham-Southern while participating in the county, state and national Junior Miss programs, said John Vaughan, Morgan County Junior Miss chairman.

The Morgan County program has awarded $35,350 in cash scholarships since he helped reactivate it in 2001, he said. The experience of his daughter, Ellen Vaughan, was a big reason. She went to Birmingham to enter the 1999 at-large program there because Morgan County did not have a competition.

She almost decided to head to a mall with her friends instead of going to Birmingham, he said. But she was glad later she had decided to try the Junior Miss program, because she enjoyed representing Morgan County for a year.

The chairman said it’s a struggle to get the word out about the program every year, and some girls are intimidated by the talent portion. Only eight entered in 2001, in contrast to the 20 this year (and more than that indicated interest in August).

“It’s always frustrating when more girls don’t do it, but it’s a growing program,” he said, “and a lot of that is based on the scholarship program.”

“We have an entertaining group of girls this year,” he said.

More than 700,000 young women have participated since America’s Junior Miss program was founded in 1958. Its headquarters are in Mobile.

Tickets

Tickets are $5 or $10, available from participants or by calling director John Vaughan at 350-7024.

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Rudi Acklin

Austin High School

Parents: Rudolph and Ceola Acklin, Angela Acklin

Talent: Poetry
recitation, “I Still Rise” by Maya Angelo

Anna Laura Bryan

Decatur High School

Parents: Norwood and Kathy Bryan

Talent: Vocal solo, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Andrea Crayton

Austin High School

Parents: Darius and Alesia Crayton

Talent: Vocal solo, “Listen” by Beyonce Knowles

Crystal Deuel

Austin High School

Parents: David and Julie Deuel

Talent: Contemporary dance, “The Lioness Hunt” from “The Lion King” by Dianne Reeves

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Laura Elizabeth
Dewberry

Hartselle High School

Parents: Randy and Tammy Dewberry

Talent: Vocal solo, “Can’t Help Loving’ That Man of Mine” from “Show Boat” by Jerome Kern

Hillary Miller

Decatur High School

Parents: Roger Miller and Cynthia Miller

Talent: Flute medley with self-recorded piano accompaniment, “Spring” from The Four Seasons and “Concerto in a Minor (1st Movement)” by Vivaldi

Judith Roberts

Hartselle High School

Parents: Frank and
Linda Roberts

Talent: Vocal solo, “I Can Hear the Bells” from the Broadway musical “Hairspray”

Emily Roden

Hartselle High School

Parents: Jamie and Leah Roden

Talent: Vocal solo, “Show Off” from the Broadway musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison

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Megan C. Ross

Austin High School

Parents: Carl and
Regina Willingham

Talent: Dance R&B/Hip-Hop, “Get Up” by Ciara, featuring Chamillionaire

Christa Scheler

Decatur High School

Parents: Eddie and
Tricia Scheler

Talent: Vocal solo,
“I Want To Be A
Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana

Laci Jade Southerland

Hartselle High School

Parents: Tim and
Tina Southerland

Talent: Vocal/Dance, “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from Flower Drum Song

Cumberlan Danielle Turner

Austin High School

Parents: Patrick and Gloria Turner

Talent: Comedy
monologue, “The
Valley Girl History
of the Creation”

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Rachel Kristin Walker

Hartselle High School

Parents: Alan and Jane Walker

Talent: Vocal solo, “Many A New Day”
by Rodgers and
Hammerstein

Anna Kacey Walraven

Decatur High School

Parents: Chip and Kaye Walraven

Talent: Tumbling to Old School Rap Mix

Meagan Warner

Decatur High School

Parents: Ron and
Nina Warner

Talent: Lyrical dance, “Virtuoso” by David Phelps

Elizabeth Wesson

Hartselle High School

Parents: Bob and
Bobbie Wesson

Talent: Vocal solo,
“Defying Gravity” from the Broadway musical “Wicked”

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Elizabeth Wheeler

Priceville High School

Parents: Myles and Angie Wheeler

Talent: Vocal solo, “Beautiful” by Shawn McDonald

Jada Whitaker

Hartselle High School

Parents: Dale and
Cyndi Whitaker

Talent: Baton, “Buttercup,” by choreographer Kim Robertson

Caroline Woller

Decatur High School

Parents: Will and Kay Woller

Talent: Lyrical dance, “Thinking Over” by Dana Glover

Anna Katharine Yeager

Hartselle High School

Parents: Mark and
Cassandra Yeager

Talent: Jazz dance, “It’s Raining Men,” by choreographer Dale Serrano Jr.

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