By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News
For half a century, Miss Sweet 16 contestants have graced the stage.
To celebrate the milestone, contestants from the last 50 years of Sweet 16 competitions will be making a special appearance on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 9 a.m. in the grandstand during this year?s Miss Sweet 16.
The project has been two years in the making by Danielle Davidson. Davidson went through every file on hand, searching for names of previous contestants, and through social media and word-of-mouth, she was able to contact over 500 previous contestants. She currently has an RSVP back from nearly 200.
?I?m very excited because trying to find them was such a challenge,? Davidson said. ?It?s been difficult.?
The process of finding former contestants proved to be an eye-opening experience for Davidson in how important it is to preserve memories from Old Threshers.
?I didn?t know for sure when I started this, how important the Sweet 16 contest was to these ladies,? Davidson said. ?These ladies were so excited when they were RSVPing and messaging me about the great memories they had.?
Davidson has been going to Old Threshers since 1978 and recently got involved with the Sweet 16 contest two years ago. She says this contest is more than just girls in dresses, it?s about giving them a chance to come out of their shell and experience something new. ?The last two years I?ve been involved, I?ve had some young ladies out of their element by doing this, but it was so beautiful to see them grow over those five days,? Davidson said.
To qualify for Sweet 16, girls must be 16 years old before Labor Day. Sweet 16 contestants act as official hostesses during the Reunion and are required to do three shifts of volunteering every day on the grounds. Throughout the day, six undercover judges will ask the girls questions to put the contestants? knowledge to use.
?Their goal is to have the ability to make small talk, be personable and represent Old Threshers in a positive manner,? Davidson said.
On Saturday, Sept. 1, the contestants will be interviewed by three judges on a 59-second radio ad. Each year, the girls are presented with a new task. Last year, contestants were to create a brochure so the judges could determine what the important part of Old Threshers was to the girls.
Contestants are judged on a score sheet and the competitor with the highest number wins. Miss Sweet 16 will begin on Sunday 9 a.m., with crowning at 10:30 a.m. Below are biographies of this year?s Sweet 16 contestants:
Samantha Miller ? Kingsley
Parents: David Kooiman and Jana Miller
Samantha is active in cheerleading and track. She enjoys reading and writing, traveling and crotchet.
Samantha has been active at Midwest Old Threshers in the tractor registration, camping registration, corn shelling demonstrations and preparing seating for the concerts.
Samantha sees Miss Sweet 16 as a passage into early adulthood. As Miss Sweet 16 she would like to bring this tradition to other girls.
Kaitlyn Krabill ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Sarah and Jarrod Krabill
Kaitlyn is active in soccer and works at a local pizza establishment.
Kaitlyn has been active at Midwest Old Threshers in Log Village where she helps her grandma sell items in her tent. Kaitlyn has attended Midwest Old Threshers every year.
Kaitlyn has always looked forward to the reunion and would like to give back to her community by being this year?s Miss Sweet 16.
Aicia Bixler ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Aaron and Michelle Bixler
Aicia is active in the Mt. Pleasant trap team, marching band and symphonic band, and volunteering at the Thrashers House of Terror. Aicia enjoys drawing, fishing and shooting bows and arrows.
Aicia has been active at Midwest Old Threshers in the steam area where she drives a steam engine. She also volunteers on the ground train and information booths during the reunion. In the fall she volunteers for Midwest Old Thresher?s haunted house, Thrashers House of Terror.
Aicia would like to be the next Miss Sweet 16 because she would like to share her love for Midwest Old Threshers.
Madison Campbell ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Jason and Missy Campbell
Madison plays volleyball and is active in the Jefferson Juniors 4-H Club, showing market beef.
Madison has been active at Midwest Old Threshers in the Pork Producers tent and helping on the ground train.
Madison would like to be the next Miss Sweet 16 because she wants to encourage other kids like her with learning disabilities that they can be and do anything they want.
Kenna Smith ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Jason and Debbie Smith
Kenna is active in volleyball, softball, marching and concert band, silver cord volunteering, student council and 4-H. She also enjoys reading, sewing and swimming.
Kenna has been active at Midwest Old Threshers at the United Methodist Church tent and at the Pork Producers tent.
Kenna, who has been active on the reunion grounds since a young child, thinks it would be an honor to represent and serve her community as Miss Sweet 16.
Lillian Pereira ? New London
Parents: Germain and Tiffany Pereira
Lilly is active in the show choir, jazz band, trap shooting and volunteering at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library. Lilly enjoys photography, playing the piano, singing and science.
Lilly has been active at Midwest Old Threshers as she performs with the Mt. Pleasant Marching Band and helps clean the museums each night of the reunion with the Mt. Pleasant trap team.
Lilly would like to be the next Miss Sweet 16 to get out of her comfort zone and do more to give back to her community.
Kallie McQuiggin ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Laura Ruby and Dave McQuiggin
Kallie is a member of the ambassadors group at Mt. Pleasant High School. Kallie works at Ruby?s Cakes making delicious desserts.
Kallie has attended the reunion since she was a baby. Kallie spent a lot of time at the ticket booth with family and friends.
Kallie understood when she was little what the contestants mean to Midwest Old Threshers and when she moved here from Dubuque she knew she had to be a part of it.
Paige Stater ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Darin and Jennifer Stater
Paige is active in show choir, jazz band, color guard, competition cheer, football and basketball cheer, competition dance and theater.
Paige has been active at Midwest Old Threshers as she performs with the Mt. Pleasant Marching Band. She also volunteers at the Pork Producers, Methodist Church tent and the Presbyterian spaghetti dinner and parking lot.
From a young age Paige has been inspired by the Sweet 16 contestants and knows it would be an honor to be a part of this outstanding tradition. She also loves meeting the people from all over the world and volunteering at the reunion.
Caroline Richtman ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Meg and Mike Richtman
Caroline is active in the softball, volleyball and band. Caroline also enjoys boating, organizing, working with kids, watching her siblings play sports, designing and interacting with people.
Caroline has been active at Midwest Old Threshers by volunteering at her church tent. She has also volunteered at the concerts.
Caroline would like to be the next Miss Sweet 16 because she is very proud of Mt. Pleasant and believes that Old Threshers is an essential part to the growth and flourishment of the community as it brings in a lot of tourism, which helps boost the economy.
Olivia Hiatt ? Mt. Pleasant
Parents: Ki Krabill
Olivia is active in the choir. She also enjoys baking and art.
Olivia has been a visitor of Midwest Old Threshers.
Olivia would like to be the next Miss Sweet 16 because it would be a great way to get involved in the community as well as a way to meet new people and make new friends.
Avery Woods ? Long Grove
Parents: Paula Woods
Avery is active in the basketball, golf, trap shooting, service club, student government and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Avery hasn?t missed an Old Threshers even though she is not from this area. Each year she comes with her grandparents and visits all her favorite areas. Avery loves riding in the Cavalcade of Power with her great-grandfather in his antique car.
Avery would like to be the next Miss Sweet 16 because she would love to represent Midwest Old Threshers and help visitors see how much history there is to enjoy.
Allyson Farley ? New London
Parents: Carolyn Farley
Allyson is active in cross-country and track and plays the tuba.
Allyson has performed with the New London Marching Band at Old Threshers.
Allyson would like to be the next Miss Sweet 16 because she loves to volunteer and meet new people. She thinks this would be a wonderful opportunity to do so in an unique way.