The Miss South Carolina pageant returned to Township Auditorium in Columbia Tuesday night after a year’s absence due to the Covid pandemic.
Forty-one women are competing for the Miss South Carolina title and a chance to go to the Miss American pageant in December.
Tuesday was the first of three preliminary nights. The contestants draw lots to determine what night they will compete in either talent or evening wear.
Tuesday’s preliminary winner for talent was Miss Clemson, Anna Newton, who also won an award that was added this year, Miss Rookie Talent, given to the woman who had the highest talent score and had never competed before.
Newton performed a jazz dance to a Michael Jackson medley.
Evening wear preliminary winner was Miss Greater Greer Jada Samuel.
In the Miss Teen competition, Miss Capital City Dabria Aguilar won for talent and earned the rookie award for talent. She performed a contemporary ballet.
Teen evening gown went to Muskaan Makkar, Miss Dorchester County teen.
The talents showcased before a half full auditorium included various kinds of dance, two opera performances, pianists, violinists, a flutist and a xylophone player. One contestant signed a song.
Morgan Nichols, who was crowned in 2019 and served for two years due to the cancellation, called out teachers for their perseverance teaching virtually during Covid. She, too, appeared virtually for school children.
“Year two looked a lot different than year one,” she said. “We have truly come out stronger from this.”
Several of the contestants described their platforms, which include all sorts of programs for children including mental health, reading and helping children in poverty to succeed in school.
Nichols will end her reign as Miss South Carolina Saturday. Her platform was “Stronger with STEM: Inspiring Students to Stick with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.” After graduating from Lexington High School, Nichols studied genetics at Clemson University.
Miss SC Teen 2019 was Kellan Fenegan, who announced Tuesday night she will attend Clemson honors college in the fall and like Nichols wants to study genetics and then attend law school.
Preliminaries continue at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Miss South Carolina Teen will be crowned Friday night and Miss South Carolina Saturday. The event is being livestreamed on the Miss South Carolina website. The cost is $19.95 for each preliminary, $29.95 for Friday and Saturday or $69.95 for all five days.
Miss South Carolina winner will earn a $60,000 scholarship, the highest of any state pageant, Margie Watkins, the pageant media committee chair, said.