Local folks who are involved in pageants go by the belief that beauty is more than skin deep.
Attendance for this year's Little Prince and Princess Contest at the Washington County Fair was down this year, according to organizer Jennifer Harbert, 22, of Marietta. But most of the local contests, including the different area fairs, homecomings and festivals, continue to see participation.
"We were in the park this year and I think people didn't want to get rained on," she said.
Out of the two boys and eight girls ages 3 to 5 to sign up, Parker Bo Burris and Maddie Jo Starkey were given the crowns. But everyone was rewarded in some way.
"Everyone gets something for participating. It's just about having fun and getting up and speaking in front of people," Harbert said.
For one of the other pageant-type contests in the area, the ballroom of the Lafayette Hotel is expected to be filled to capacity tonight with parents, grandparents and friends of the 38 contestants, ages 5 to 8.
If you go
What: Little Miss and Mister Sternwheel pageant
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hotel Lafayette ballroom
Cost: Admission is $3 adults, $1 for children under 12 and free for children under 3.
What: Queen Genevieve coronation
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Ohio River levee
These types of local contests are quite different from a popular trend on reality TV right now: the glitz beauty pageant. Shows like "Toddlers and Tiaras" and its new spin-off "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," both on TLC, follow families of children who participate in different themed pageants all across the country. Many of the contestants featured go through a process that includes fake tanning, fake teeth and, in some instances, fake hair.
"Our contest is nothing like Toddlers and Tiaras," Harbert stressed, admitting that she has no interest in signing her own child up for pageants. "It's outrageous, the way they get all dolled up. I think locally our contests are more natural."
Contestants for both Marietta contests are judged on poise, personality and, lastly, on appearance.
"We don't use the word beauty...and we're not looking for $500 dresses," said Sternwheel Festival organizer and pageant emcee Butch Wiseman of Fleming. "We are looking for someone who will represent the festival and the city of Marietta."
The winner of the Little Miss and Little Mister Sternwheel pageant will walk away with prizes, as will the rest of the contestants, thanks to generous donations from the community. The winners will also be expected to work a little bit.
"Unlike those glitz pageants where they just stand and take the money, our winners will have jobs to do," Wiseman said.
Little Miss will carry the train and Little Mister will carry the crown for Queen Genevieve, who was chosen at the pageant at Washington State Community College held on Aug. 25, and will be crowned Saturday, according to chair of the Queen committee, Judy Peoples.
"What I can say about the girls is that I am glad I am not judging. They had a very difficult job choosing because all the girls are so intelligent and bright," said Peoples, who added that the scholarship pageant is much different than what most people might think of when they think "pageant."
"About 10 percent of their score is for beauty. We tell them they are applying for a job as representative of the festival," she said.
The entrants must be enrolled full time in college and the scholarship money, roughly $4,000, is sent directly to the college. Today's contest is much different than it was in the beginning, according to Peoples.
"We had about 100 committee members and they voted based on a picture without even meeting the girls. Can you imagine?" she said.
Jessica Wiseman, daughter of Butch and his wife, Sandy, a pageant co-chair, knows a little bit about competing in pageants. The current Newark, Ohio middle school music teacher was crowned in 2005 and began her pageant career at age 4.
"I absolutely loved it," she said. "Every little girl wants to feel like a princess."
Wiseman, who was also a judge at this year's Queen Genevieve pageant, has participated locally and on the state and national levels in her career, including the preliminary Miss Ohio contest, part of the Miss America organization.
"I learned so much that helped me later on in life, like interview skills, speaking in front of an audience, which now I do as a teacher...it taught me to have confidence and encouraged me to keep my academics up, to stay fit and involved in my community," she said, adding that if she had more money than she makes on her teacher's salary, she would still be involved.
"At this point in my life it is not how I want to invest my money at this time. But if I had a lot of money, I would," she said.
Speaking about shows like "Toddlers and Tiaras," which Wiseman is familiar with, she said that there isn't necessarily anything wrong with glitz pageants.
"Natural pageants, like our Little Miss and Mister contest, have the same benefits and experiences. They just cost less money and are about kids being kids," she said."Just like with sports or anything else, everything has to be in check. As long as the child enjoys the experience, that is what matters."