The community of Edinburg will come together August 14 at the old high school auditorium to support over 20 girls competing in the Miss Edinburg and Miss Edinburg Teen Pageants; and to honor as a special guest Marina Chapa Cheatham, Edinburg’s first beauty queen from 1951.

Edinburg’s old high school auditorium, erected in 1926, will do more than stage the pageant.  It will bring to full circle the sentiment of the historical value beauty queens and pageants have had on this community for the past 59 years.

According to Minerva Olivarez, Director for the Miss Edinburg Pageant and former pageant finalist of 1978, the pageants have always been about getting the community and schools involved together. 

“The criteria here for the pageant is you have to live in Edinburg and attend Edinburg schools,” said Olivarez. “I had about 300 girls preregistered and out of those 300 only like 20 actually signed up.”

No one was turned away, added Olivarez, but some girls are really shy and decided not to participate after all.  However, that number of contestants is expected to rise a bit before Saturday as more girls register.

The show is expected to open up with a dance number the girls are currently learning where they will model their formal wear.

“That has to be very graceful; there will be a winner for the best formal wear presentation,” said Olivarez.  “Once those scores are in, we are going to pick the top five for each division.  Then the finalist will be asked two questions— one will be from the fish bowl and the other one will be asked from the judges themselves.”

All contestants are scheduled to meet with the judges individually at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on August 12 where they will be interviewed.

“They are going to be asked questions on their resume and maybe a couple of questions on current affairs,” said Olivarez.

The three categories the contestants will be judged on will be the interview, the formal gown presentation and the on stage questions.

The judges, composed of five from Edinburg and five from out of town to give everyone a fair chance at winning, will be looking for a well-rounded individual that is both beautiful inside and out; which means she’s got to be poised, she’s got to have a personality that just shines through, somewhat humble and intelligent of course, said Olivarez.

The winners for both divisions will get a crown, a banner, roses, scholarships sponsored by local businesses and the opportunity to represent the city of Edinburg at socials, luncheons, festivals, parades and ribbon cuttings; which is why good presentation, proper etiquette and community involvement are also contributing factors in deciding who will be crowned.

“Most of the girls that are in the pageant are already involved in the community; they do sports, they do sergeanettes, they are into golf, they are into rodeo,” said Olivarez. “I’ve got a variety of girls.”

Sarah Carcano, 18, is a student at the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) who is competing in the Miss Edinburg division.  She is volunteer firefighter at the Lynn-San Manuel Fire Department, also volunteers at the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank and will soon begin volunteer work at Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance Rehab Center, where she will get the feel of the medical field— a possible career choice for her.

Ariana Michelle Mata, 17, another competitor for the Miss Edinburg division, is involved in her high school’s Business Professionals of America’ club, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and choir; she considers her greatest asset her ability to communicate effectively.

“I think I have more experience being in the public eye; I’m always one to take a step up and do the interviews or be the spokesperson for a group or a society,” said Ariana.  “I think I can relate to a lot of people; if I am put into a situation where I have to socialize with people I don’t know I think I can do it.”

The reasons behind competing to begin with range from girl to girl; some hope to grow closer to the community that has raised them, others to enhance their resume before college and others to become role models.

“I feel like I can give the girls out there that are busy with sports the chance to see that they can do other things other than sports,” said Briana Deadwiler, 16, who is competing in the Miss Edinburg Teen division.

I want to encourage other girls to just go out there and compete, added Briana.  They don’t necessarily have to win, but just have the experience to talk about it later on in life.

According to Olivarez, the girls are putting in about 20 hours of rehearsal practice and the monetarily investment varies from contestant to contestant.

“It’s pretty tough for our moms right now,” said Brittany Argolles, 15, who is competing for the Miss Edinburg Teen division.  “I know my mom is struggling right now with two jobs and she’s a single parent.”

I told her it would be okay if I couldn’t compete, but she pushed me to do it either way, added Brittany.  The hair and makeup should be pretty easy though because my sister is a cosmetologist and she’ll do it for me.

For others like Ninive Montoya, 20, who is a psychology major at UTPA, the expenses all fall back on her.  Currently she is working as a team leader at Peter Piper Pizza to pay for her education and plans on working a second job to help pay for the pageant costs.

Others like Audrey Cuellar, 20, who has competed in the pageant before said she has not spent a dime because her sponsors have paid for everything.  She does, however, feel she’s invested a lot of effort into the pageants leading to long days, late nights and early mornings.

The contestants, though, feel they are gaining as much out as they are putting in.  Last week they had an opportunity to meet with a professional makeup artist and hair stylists who gave them beauty tips; they also met with Annette Espinoza, owner of Image Matters, who gave the girls tips on proper etiquette.

By competing I feel I am getting poise, self-confidence and getting rid of my stage fright, said Denise Tijerina, who is competing for the Miss Edinburg Teen division.

Victoria Barrera, 19, competing for the Miss Edinburg division, said she is gaining a lot of things that will help her in life, from new friends and the experience of competing to communication skills, stage presence, speaking presence and the interview experience.

It was these types of skills and optimistic outlook that Cheatham said she gained from being Edinburg’s first beauty queen, then titled Duchess of Orange at the Citrus Fiesta.

“I think getting to be this gives you a lot of self confidence and so, therefore, if you have something like this positive in your life you are going to have a positive life,” said Cheatham, who received an associate degree from Edinburg Junior College, which is UTPA today, at the old high school auditorium where she is to be honored.

Cheatham got a bachelor’s degree in music education at Southwestern University, and was nominated for all-school beauty there.  She taught music for 30 years and then became an English as Second Language (ESL) teacher.  In 1985 she was honored as ESL Teacher of the year for the state of Texas.

According to Cheatham, when she was Edinburg’s beauty queen there was no pageant.  Edinburg’s Chamber of Commerce called Edinburg Junior College to nominate someone to represent the city of Edinburg and promote the citrus industry.

“I had to do a lot of photo shoots like in the packing sheds,” said Cheatham.

“They even had a billboard of me as you entered Edinburg welcoming everybody; it seems like everywhere I had to pose in one of those bathing suits, not bikinis then,” added Cheatham with a smile.

I’ve always loved Edinburg, said Chetham.  Things have changed a lot.  We only had one high school, Edinburg High School, which was right down from the auditorium and where the junior college was; the classes were small back then, we didn’t have many people. I say that since then they’ve really done great with the pageants.

The Miss Edinburg and Miss Edinburg Teen pageants are scheduled for August 14 at 7 pm at the Edinburg Auditorium, 415 W. University Drive, Edinburg, TX.

Tickets and program books will be sold at the door for $5 each.  Some of the proceeds will be donated to one local organization the contestants will decide on.  For more information please contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce 956-383-4974.