Mount Airy will be well represented next month when contestants take the stage to compete for the 2014 Miss North Carolina title.
City native Autumn Arnder, 18, will be competing for the title in the pageant, returning to competition after a couple of years off. And she will be honoring her home town by using the preliminary title of Miss Granite City USA.
Arnder is a 2013 graduate of East Surry High School and a freshman at High Point University, where she is majoring in biology and minoring in communications.
“I chose the preliminary title of Miss Granite City USA because I am so very proud of my community and its history,” she said Tuesday. “It’s very important that your preliminary title tell who you are and what you’re proud of, and I’m very excited to call Mount Airy my home.”
This year’s Miss North Carolina pageant will be held at the High Point Theatre on East Commerce Avenue in High Point. Preliminary competition will be held on Nov. 8, starting at 7 p.m., and the finals will be held at 7 p.m., on Nov. 9.
Arnder began competing in pageants when she was around 13, starting in local pageants.
“Some of my titles were won in Virginia, because there aren’t that many pageants locally,” she said, noting she was named Miss Martinsville, Miss Autumn Leaves in Patrick County and Miss Patrick County Fair.
But in 2011, lightning struck. Twice.
“In 2011 I won the America’s Junior Miss Pageant and was named Miss Tar Hill State,” Arnder added, noting that “2011 was a good year.”
After taking a couple of years off to prepare for college, Arnder said she is ready to go.
“Preparing for a pageant on this level really is a lot of hard work, it’s very time-consuming and takes up pretty much every spare minute,” she said. “But I’m very fortunate to be able to compete and represent my home town.”
For Arnder, the pageant scene is less about glamour and more about helping the community.
“Of course I love getting dressed up and competing for the crown, but once you do have a title, it gives you the ability to spread the message you want to spread to young people,” she said. “I believe a lot of people have the misconception that pageants are just about getting dressed up. But I think they are about being a role model for people who may not have the support and direction I have had. It gives me a lot of confidence to be able to spread the messages that are important to me.”
For Arnder, that message is about the dangers of bullying.
“My platform message on bullying stems from my own anti-bullying program that I started during my sophomore year of high school,” she said. “I became aware of a need within my own community to help children understand and cope with the harmful effects of bullying.
“When I started the program in high school, I had no intention of using it as my platform at this level, but it is such a tangible issue in society that I feel compelled to continue my efforts to help children and young adults know that it is not okay and it is not their fault,” she said.
As for her chances, Arnder said she is as prepared as she can be.
“I’m not nervous per se, but I am anxious and excited to be competing for the title,” she said. “I’ve been watching the Miss North Carolina pageant for years, and feel like I’m completely prepared and very excited about the future. I will do everything in my power to make the Granite City proud of me next Friday and Saturday night.
“I ask that everyone please keep me in your thoughts and prayers and as my mother says, ‘may God be with me each step of the way, because through Him all things are possible.”
The pageant will not be televised, but will be available online at pageantvision.com.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.