By Coty Kenneth
Meridian Times staff writer
On March 9, filled with butterflies and jitters, contestants and their families gathered at Meridian Mall. Sunburst Pageants held a local event in the mall as a preliminary round that would lead to the Michigan State Finals.
“This pageant has been going on for over 40 years,” said Paulette Szajna, coordinator of Sunburst. “It is a great program, that is very age appropriate. The 4-year-olds look like 4-year-olds and so on. We don’t promote the makeup in the little ones.”
Held right outside of the Macy’s mall entrance, Sunburst Pageant welcomed children of all ages, up to about 27 years old. Contestants practiced walks and smiles one last time, parents made final attempts to make the babies stop crying and the judges prepared to critique those that stood in front of them.
The two judges watched as each child tried their best to impress them with smiles and kisses being blown into the air.
“We judge on how they look, their personality and overall appearance,” said Joyce Burmeister, volunteer judge. “We also want to judge it on age appropriateness. If a contestant has too much makeup on or they are dressed inappropriately for their age. They are marked down.”
Sunburst promotes self-esteem and natural beauty. The competition it about giving these children the opportunity to show their talents and to let personalities shine through.
“It’s fun seeing these kids dress up, the thrill of seeing these kids and their self-esteem being built is really nice,” said Burmeister
Shailynn Romero, a first-time Sunburst contestant, continuously practiced her poses as her mother fixed her dress. Romero had never thought about being in pageants because most of her time was spent dancing and playing sports. It was not until she heard friends repeatedly talk about pageants that she decided to try it out.
“I like to play soccer, basketball and do dance but my favorite sport is basketball,” said Romero.
Romero said she would love to play basketball for as long as she can but hopefully at least through college.
“It was my first year playing (basketball) and I got pushed off a bunk bed and hurt my foot,” said Romero. “I got through it and I still wanted to keep playing.”
Even though she was nervous before going in front of the judges, Romero stayed positive and focused on winning. She did just that, smiling from ear-to-ear as she received a trophy and crown during the awards ceremony. Romero was also awarded a free paid entry to the state finals in May.
For those contestants lucky enough to earn an entry to the Michigan State finals, it will be held at The Metro Airport Sheraton Hotel on May 10. After the state level, those who qualify will be sent down to Atlanta to compete at the International level in August.