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More tea, Miss Kitsap?

Paper dolls adorned the tables for each of the 13 little Sisters at the ninth annual Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap Little Sister Tea Party.  - Photo by Jennifer Morris
Paper dolls adorned the tables for each of the 13 little Sisters at the ninth annual Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap Little Sister Tea Party.
— image credit: Photo by Jennifer Morris

By JENNIFER MORRIS

Staff writer

POULSBO — Thirteen third-graders saw stars in their eyes Sunday at the ninth annual Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap Little Sister Tea Party.

Filling the Sons of Norway lodge with shimmering dresses and beaming smiles, each awaited the chance to be paired with one of this year’s Miss Poulsbo and Miss Kitsap contestants.

The chance, for them, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It’s the most special event that we do all year,” said pageant organizer Michelle Wasson. “It’s just a really nice way of women power.”

Wasson said instead of festering jealousy, pageants can be a time for girls to embrace one another’s gifts and abilities as each works toward becoming their own best person. And to incorporate Little Sisters along the way is a definite added bonus.

“It’s really a great way of paying it forward,” she said. “The fun thing about this program is how much the little girls look up to the contestants.”

And while contestants are mentored by members of the pageant committee and community, they in turn mentor their Little Sisters.

“That’s what this whole program is about, to embrace one another,” she said.

Next year will be especially meaningful, as the first class of Little Sisters will then be old enough to run for Miss Kitsap or Miss Poulsbo.

This year, six young women will run for the Miss Poulsbo title, seven for Miss Kitsap.

Kitsap County third graders can apply online to be a Little Sister. Sisters are matched by compatibility and location, Wasson said.

Little Sisters rehearse and perform their own production number at the spring pageant, and are then crowned by their Big Sisters on stage. All Little Sisters march in Poulsbo’s Viking Fest parade together in May, and the Little Sisters of the Miss Poulsbo and Miss Kitsap winners make appearances with their mentors.

Wasson said while the pairings between contestants and their Little Sisters sometimes only last through the pageant season, they sometimes lead to lifelong friendships.

Miss Poulsbo Alex Duchemin’s Little Sister, Molly Lemmon, 9, said she’s learned a lot in her year tagging along with Little Norway’s royal ambassador, including to “always keep your mind on what you want to do.”

The Vinland Elementary School student said she plans on being in the Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap runnings when she’s old enough, and she’s already had a taste of what pageant life is like.

The year has been just as fun for Duchemin, who said she bonded with Lemmon and her entire family.

“Molly is one of my dearest friends,” Duchemin said.

So much so, in fact, she asked Lemmon to be in her wedding party when she’s married this summer. The two bonded over their similar likes and hobbies, including walking their pets and going for ice cream.

Gordon Elementary School student Alissa Weidenheimen, 8, was paired up with Miss Poulsbo contestant Amy Stadshaug. Weidenheimen said being in a beauty pageant is something she’s always wanted to do. She sat with fellow Little Sister Moriah Graziana, an Orchard Heights Elementary third-grader who was paired with Miss Kitsap contestant Carli Schmitz. For Graziana, meeting Weidenheimen and others is why she wants to be a part of the pageant process.

“I think it would be interesting because you get to meet a lot of new people,” the 9-year-old said.

Miss Poulsbo contestant Karina Hoogstede, a North Kitsap High School senior, said she’s learned much from her experiences in the pageant program so far, but she’s also gleaned valuable knowledge from another public figure: Sen. Barack Obama.

Hoogstede saw the Democratic party presidential hopeful speak in Seattle last week, and said she was impressed with his presence and ability to combine the mind and the heart.

“I think I can integrate a lot of his charisma into my running,” she said. “He had such poise, and he was so comfortable, too.”

Hoogstede, a self-proclaimed former “tomboy,” said being a part of the Miss Poulsbo pageant has taught her “more about showing a composed image.” She said having a Little Sister is going to be a unique opportunity to nurture another’s passions and hobbies.

Duchemin, who earned more than $16,000 from the Miss America organization, encourages girls to become involved with pageantry for the scholarship opportunities, as well as the friendships it offers and self-betterment that occurs.

Now a first-grade teacher at Christ the King Academy, Duchemin said she has the weight of debt off her shoulders even though she graduated less than a year ago from Western Washington University.

Duchemin had a successful run as Miss Poulsbo, finishing second runner-up at the Miss Washington pageant and receiving a preliminary swimsuit award, the People’s Choice Award and the Miss America Community Service Award. She has formerly held both the Miss Viking Fest and Miss Whatcom County titles. Now, calling herself a “hometown girl,” Duchemin said she plans on making a life for herself in Little Norway.

“I’ve found my place, this is my home,” she said.

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