Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival pageant winners are now official!

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Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival and Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival Teen pageant now official preliminaries to Miss South Carolina and Miss South Carolina Teen and Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen

When starting the Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival and Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival Teen pageants back in 2014, Darlington native Will Isgett had no idea of the success the titles would have not only in the community- but statewide.

Isgett, along with Lynette Maloch, and her granddaughter Whitney Brooks, had a vision for the pageant when it began in 2014; after the first Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival Ellen Neely and Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival Teen Delaney Cranshaw did so well at the state level, the pageant has now grown into an official preliminary for the Miss South Carolina and Miss South Carolina Teen pageants.

Isgett has now taken on the Local Executive Director responsibilities with a new committee in place, which has allowed the pageant to become an official preliminary, and the winners will officially represent the festival and the city of Darlington at the 2016 Miss South Carolina pageant.

The Miss South Carolina pageant allows festival queens to compete for the state title as long as they meet eligibility requirements; but now, instead of it being just a festival pageant, the title will be in the same category as the Miss Florence and Miss Hartsville pageants.

“Before, we had to crown the queens in a different crown and sash onstage and did not have to award a scholarship because it was classified as an at-large festival pageant,” Isgett said. “I’m in this to help young women succeed in life and awarding scholarships and the girls getting the satisfaction of knowing they are officially going to Miss South Carolina is very important, and now those things will happen.”

Isgett is entering is 17th year as a volunteer with the Miss South Carolina pageant, and was instrumental in bringing the Miss Darlington pageant back in 2008 before he decided to go in a different direction. He won the Local Executive Director of the Year in 2010.

“Miss Darlington will always hold a special place in my heart,” Isgett said. “I have so many good memories, but the S.C. Sweet Potato Festival is something that has always been special to me also. When I was a kid I can remember sitting on the grass at the courthouse and watching the pageant on festival day.”

The pageant was held during the day of festival from its inception 32 years ago, but went away until more than 10 years ago when another Darlington native Dawn Weatherford Gohens brought it back and it was held in the old B.C. Moore’s Building.

“Dawn did a fantastic job when she brought it back, and did all ages,” Isgett said. “But when it went away again we (Isgett, Maloch and Brooks) decided to take it to another level. Now that I’m officially in charge I’ve gone a step even further.”
This year, the pageant will be held on Sunday, September 20th at 4 p.m. at the St. John’s Elementary Auditorium. Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door.

Contestants from across the Palmetto state will compete for the two coveted crowns with the current Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival Caitlan Walzer and Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival Teen Payton Lang relinquishing their titles.

Plans for the pageant are well underway according to Isgett, with Mrs. South Carolina America 2008 Kim Sullivan emceeing the event, along with the Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology’s Phoenix Phame show choir being a part of the production.

Hartsville Stone Martin, who appeared on the Fox show the X-Factor, will sing the national anthem at the pageant.

“Planning is moving along smoothly and I can’t wait for everyone to see what we’ve come up with for the production,” Isgett said.

The theme of the pageant is “Who will be QUEEN?” which will celebrate the music of the British Rock Band Queen.
“It’s gonna be something totally different and something we’re working very hard to put together,” Isgett said. “ I want it to be something special for Darlington, since it’s my hometown and the place I love.”

Isgett wants to give the Darlington Pilot Club and Festival Director Ruth Flowers along with Belinda Copeland and all the club members a huge thank you for their continued support of the event.

Author: Jana Pye

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