Pageant highlights “exceptional” abilities

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Michael Cooney, of Smithville, is pictured receiving his crown during the Exceptional Abilities Pageant held Sept. 1 in Southside.
Lauren Siebert

Families from all over the United States traveled to Southside Labor Day weekend to participate in the Exceptional Abilities Pageant.

According to founder, Stacy Pretty, there are no judges and anyone of any age, no matter their disability may participate.

“This was our sixth pageant because we skipped a year. It got started because when my daughter was younger she would do pageants and she enjoyed them, but it got to a point where it was basically highlighting her disabilities,” Pretty said. “Normally, a four-year-old can walk themselves on stage but she would have to be helped, so we decided to put them on the back burner and to find a way to come up with something so her and others like her would have something to do.”

On Sept. 1, more than 50 participants took to the stage of the Southside High School to showcase their talents and abilities.

“Instead of having judges, we choose to crown everyone with whatever title their family gives them. We get funny titles, simple titles, we get all kinds of things. They come from all over the United States and there is no age limit and any disability is accepted,” Pretty said. “I do this free to the families by raising money through sponsors and fundraisers. We always do it on Labor Day weekend because for example this year, 11 states came and so that gives them an extra day to get home without missing school or work.”

One volunteer for the Exceptional Abilities Pageant, Tyler Booth, said there is something for everyone to do in order to support the pageant.

“I am an escort and so I walk the contestants out on the stage but I also volunteer in the back. It’s a blessing to me to be able to help. I see the joy it puts on the contestant’s face. It puts a smile on my face and we’re giving an opportunity to people who might not otherwise receive one. I like that it’s not competitive and they get to have their abilities portrayed and not so much their disabilities,” Booth said. “The talents are able to sing, dance and other things like that, people might not see them otherwise. I would encourage people at the least to come attend and live stream it, to be a part, Pretty can always use people to go out and raise money and it doesn’t cost anything to be in the pageant, so it takes a lot of manpower and money to do this.”

Pretty said the non-profit organization hosts the non-competitive event, but other events are held as fundraisers throughout the year.

“One event we have coming up is the calendar fundraiser we do each year. It’s a really nice calendar and what we do is if you have a special needs child or adult, you submit their picture and people vote for a week [through likes on Facebook] and then the top 11 are used for the calendar. I save December for my daughter. So we post the top 11 in the calendar and then the family writes up about 100 words about the person they submitted,” Pretty said. “On our Facebook there will be rules posted so they know what they can and can’t do. We sell them for about $15 when they come out.”

Pretty said participation in the pageant is not a requirement for submissions to the calendar.

For more information about the pageant or other upcoming events, visit the Exceptional Abilities Pageant Facebook page or contact Stacy Pretty at 1-870-307-5542.

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