And the winner is…

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Brault. Host Jay Mullen asks contestant Daniel Jackson a question.
Contestants Shaun Williams and Ryan Boeke square off.

The hustle and bustle of people in and out of the dressing room.

The sound of people talking above you to the crowd and judges, trying to win them over.

Ryan Boeke and Zach Gebo on stage, shirtless, trying to catch whipped cream in their mouth after they’ve flung it off the back of their hand.

True talent.

On Nov. 22, Castleton University students gathered in the Fine Arts Center to watch a mock pageant for the Four Diamonds Fund. The show was put together by Josie Gawrys and Julie Leppo, both freshmen.

The 13 pageant contestants and five judges consisted of both students and staff. The show had different categories including a winter outfit, a formal outfit and the contestant’s favorite outfit. As one of the contestants myself, I decided it would be funny to just change out the flannel I was wearing three times.

The contestants of the pageant knew it wasn’t exactly the most serious event, so the theater wasn’t full of as many nerves.

However, the talent portion was a little different.

Talents ranged from a drag performance by Castleton sophomore Daniel Jackson to card tricks by area coordinator, Shaun Williams. Jackson mentioned his nerves at the beginning of the night, but said they quickly disappeared.

“When I heard the crowd cheer for me the first time, my nerves vanished because I felt so loved and welcomed and knew that I was in a safe place,” he said. “I’m still nervous walking around campus sometimes, but I try to remind myself nerves are just nerves, and nobody wants to mess with somebody who can run in a pair of five inch platform stilettos.”

With Jackson receiving a warm reception from the audience, many other contestants were also welcomed with cheers. This was something Leppo never saw coming when in the planning stages.

“Having Josie to help me take all of it was super helpful, I think that organizing it in such a short amount of time didn’t allow for all of the parts that I wanted to happen, but what did happen was extremely successful,” she said.

Boeke said he had a great time and his was seen as quite possibly one of the most intriguing acts. Each outfit had its own personal flare. With the winter section being the first, Boeke took the stage in a Castleton Nordic Skiing suit and strutted the stage.

“My favorite part of the pageant was others expressing their opinions and emotions through their costume choices and just generally having a really fun night,” Boeke said.

When crowning came around, Jackson wasn’t ready to hear his name called. But being his first pageant, he was excited to claim his crown.

“I still replay the moment in my head and like to relive the emotions. It meant a lot to me because I won while being my most authentic self,” he said.

Jackson wanted to let others know that he knows what “it’s like to hide in the shadows” and was looking to set an example that there is love, hope, and encouragement in this world for others so they can be true to themselves.

Gawrys and Leppo came up with the idea of the pageant and they have some interesting plans for the spring too.

The duo is now creating an event called Sparta-THON. 

“Sparta-THON is a 24-hour dance marathon, but that doesn’t mean it’s 24 hours of just dancing. There will be food, games and other fun activities going on for the entire event,” Gawrys said, adding that it will also benefit the Four Diamonds Fund.

Leppo said it will feature bounce houses, sports tournaments and John Cassidy, who will be trying to break a world record for most balloons made in 24 hours.

“Our goal is to raise $10,000 for the Four Diamonds Fund to help children and families affected with pediatric cancer,” Leppo said.

The committee for Sparta-THON has been selling hand-made scrunchies as a fund-raiser since the pageant to help fund Sparta-THON. If students are interested in taking part in the committee for Sparta-THON, they can reach out to Gawrys or Leppo through their campus emails. Gawrys said she was excited to raise over $200 for a great organization that is looking to help as many as they can.

“There’s this feeling of awe at the end of the night when they announce the final total of money raised. It’s incredible to be in such a big group of people and to look around and know that you all raised that much money together,” she said.

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