Pageant moves from 4 to 3 days, will honor Miss Chadron

Kaelia Nelson was crowned Miss Chadron and was scheduled to compete in this year’s Miss Nebraska pageant before her death in October.

The glamour begins Sunday and builds through Saturday, when the 2018 Miss Nebraska will be crowned at North Platte High School.

This year’s competition has 15 contestants; Kaelia Nelson, who was Miss Chadron until her October 2017 death, would have been the 16th.

On Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Platte River Mall, the girls will meet their host families, discuss their platforms and hometowns. They’ll also introduce their “little sisters,” a non-competitive mentor program between second or third-grade girls and contestants. The contestants first met their little sisters earlier this year at contestant orientation.

Monday night the contestants enjoy a barbecue at Cody Park to honor their host families. In many other state pageants, contestants stay in hotels or dorms, said Rachel Daly, executive director of Miss Nebraska. Miss Nebraska contestants stay at the homes of local families.

“We really involve the community of North Platte,” Daly said.

The contestants make local appearances, rehearse and spend time with their little sisters throughout the week, and on Thursday, take the stage for the first preliminary pageant night.

Three nights of competition later, the 2018 Miss Nebraska is crowned.

What’s new

this year

“It’s a little low-key this year,” Daly said. “Last year we had the 80th anniversary event, so we’re coming off of that.”

Still, Miss Nebraska organizers have a lot in store. Breaking off from past years when contestants competed on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, this year’s pageant is a Thursday, Friday and Saturday pageant, Daly said.

“A lot of people can only come one night,” Daly said. “This year, we’re getting people in the seats for the whole event.”

This year’s pageant will also honor former Miss Chadron Kaelia Nelson, who was set to compete in this year’s pageant until her October death.

A page in the pageant’s program will be dedicated to Nelson’s memory, and directors of the local pageants will give a Memorial Spirit Award. While Nelson’s local titles tended to be in the western part of Nebraska, even pageant directors from the eastern part of the state take on a “motherly role,” Daly said.

Keep in mind

One event on many people’s minds is when Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers was crowned in May, after she competed as Miss Nebraska USA.

This week’s pageant is instead on the Miss America Scholarship Organization circuit.

The Miss America pageant began in Atlantic City “as a tourist attraction” in 1921, Daly said.

The competition evolved to become a scholarship program that includes a talent portion. When the 1951 Miss America Yolande Betbeze refused to pose in a swimsuit, swimwear sponsor Catalina Swimwear broke off and created Miss USA in 1952, according to multiple reports. In 2013, Catalina Swimwear once again became a sponsor of Miss America, according to

One key difference between Miss USA and Miss America is the Miss America talent portion, Daly said. Nebraska also does not have local titleholders for the Miss USA pageant — though other states do — so girls automatically compete at the state level. Miss Nebraska goes on to compete at Miss America and stops there; Miss USA competes for Miss Universe.

“We’ve had many contestants bounce back and forth,” Daly said. She added that Summers, 23, competed for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen when she was younger.

Some contestants age out of the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program at the maximum age of 25, and compete at Miss Nebraska USA, where contestants can compete until they’re 27. Likewise, some contestants have left Miss Nebraska USA to try their hand at the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program, Daly said.

Regardless of differences, “we constantly root for each other,” she said. “We can’t afford to not root for each other’s contestants.”