Five women from across the state of Tennessee came to the Heydel Fine Arts Center at Cumberland University Saturday night to compete for the honor of Ms. Tennessee Senior America.
The contest is open to senior women age 60 and older and the winner represents Tennessee in the Ms. Senior America pageant held in Las Vegas in November.
"This pageant is founded on the belief that seniors are the foundation of America," said Hollie Knight, pageant coordinator.
Representing the host city as Ms. Senior Wilson County was Yvonne Hunter. Her competitors included Sylvia Hale, Ms. Cumberland County; JoAnn Defriese, Ms. Williamson County; Ellen Clayton of Whitleyville; and Shirley Moore, Ms. McNairy County.
The competition included an evening gown portion as well as a talent display. Before the judges made their decision, each contestant chose their favorite formal attire and gave the audience a tidbit of their life's philosophy.
"Be slow to judge and quick to lend a helping hand," Hale said.
Other contestants went for the broad picture. Moore instructed that we should "make the best of the time that is given to us" because "life is a journey who's end is not in sight."
Hunter advised "life is a song and love is the music, so live with compassion."
Following these words of wisdom, each of the ladies entertained the audience and judges in the talent portion.
Hale and DeFriese showed off their piano playing skills by performing selected solos. Hunter and Clayton chose to show off their voices. Clayton performed Bette Midler's "The Rose" and Hunter chose the gospel favorite "My God is Real."
A special award was given to Hartsville resident Eleanor Ford, who was crowned the first Ms. Senior Tennessee in 1991. The pageant board presented Ford with a plaque and roses as the Woman of the Year.
"I can think of no one more deserving," Ford joked with the audience.
Upon reviewing the scores for the evenings competition and deliberating for several minutes, the judges reached a decision. Lebanon native Yvonne Hunter was crowned the 2007 Ms. Tennessee Senior America.
"It has been a dream," Hunter said after the pageant concluded. "Every person involved has been so wonderful."
She expressed her gratitude to all who helped make the event possible, including Cumberland University and the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.
"Everybody wants to help and is loving, kind and generous," she noted.
Hunter will now begin preparing to represent her state proudly at the national competition in Las Vegas, which she says makes her "very excited."
"I can't believe it right now," she added.
Staff Writer Kimberly Jordan can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 44 or by e-mail at email@example.com.