It started with a remodel and a challenge.
When Provo moved its Customer Service Division from the Provo City Power office to the lobby of the City Center, a wall of photographs featuring past Miss Provo winners and former Miss Liberty Belles sparked a treasure hunt, of sorts, in an effort to return the pictures to the titleholders.
The photographs chronicled decades of pageant history, with the roots of the Miss Provo pageant running as far back as 1938 and coming up to the present day. The search for the many titleholders crossed the U.S. and utilized letter queries, networks of former pageant titleholders, friends, relatives, phone calls and Facebook.
In the end, organizers found all but two Miss Provo titleholders. Miss Provo 1970, between Rebecca Schofield and Janine Weaver, remains a mystery, and the whereabouts of Miss Provo 1974 Coralee Greer are still unknown.
Out of the 63 titleholders found in Provo's history, 15 were in attendance Saturday night, traveling in from Texas, California and Utah to see the crowning of a new Miss Provo and to remember their own pageant experiences.
For Carol Clark Ridge, Miss Liberty Belle 1968, the first step toward winning her title came when her bishop asked her to participate. The pageant was part of the Freedom Festival, which was then tied to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and bishops would select a representative from each ward to compete.
Ridge, now a mother of seven and a grandmother of 16, said being crowned was a surprise and an honor.
"I was 18 years old, it was fun," she said. "It was a good self-esteem thing for me as I look back on it. To do well and to have judges think you did well felt good."
Sheryle Allred Cloward, Miss Liberty Belle 1962, also participated at the request of her bishop, and said she was excited about the opportunity.
"I had seen pictures of the titleholders as a little girl, and I felt honored to be asked," Cloward said. "It opened doors."
Cloward, who had already taken finishing courses as a young woman, said the confidence boost from the pageant still had an effect. Although life took Cloward and her husband to Seattle, into business and into the Air Force, today they're back in Provo. They have six children and 25 grandchildren, all living between Highland and Provo.
Miss Provo 1987 Annette Taylor Flygare, who placed in the top 10 at Miss Utah, said her pageant experience helped pay for school, most importantly, but also gave her confidence. The title also landed her a split-second meeting with Bob Hope, who performed at the Stadium of Fire that year.
Coming back to the pageant Saturday, she said, made her feel old.
"I have kids older than some of the girls competing," Flygare laughed. "But it has been really fun."
Erika Richards Coleman, Miss Provo 2006, said her time as a titleholder changed everything, taking a girl who grew up "on the wrong side of Provo" and teaching her about poise, diplomacy, maturity, tradition and respect.
"It gives you a chance to talk about things that are important to you," Coleman said. "And you can hopefully use that as a springboard. After I competed at Miss Utah I changed my major from humanities to sociology, and now I work for a non-profit. It started that for me."
Being surrounded by former titleholders at the pageant was a special experience, Miss Provo 2007 Elizabeth Jefferson Espinoza said.
"One of the things I tend to do in my head is to play down my pageant experience," Jefferson said. "But looking at it now, it's really cool to feel like a part of something that made a different in the community. It makes it feel real instead of a dream."
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