Don’t be surprised if Newton seems a tad more, well, glamorous this weekend — it’s merely the result of 68 young ladies from across the state flocking to Newton to compete in the Miss Iowa USA and Miss Teen Iowa USA pageants, which kick off tomorrow at 8 p.m in the Newton Senior High School Auditorium.
For the second year running, Newton will play host to contestants and their familes as they vie for a spot in the national Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, which will take place next summer.
When searching for a new town to host the pageants two years ago, Denise Wallace, Executive State Director of Future Productions — the company that produces the pageants as well as several others in surrounding states — found an ideal mix of the various factors desired in a host city right here in Newton.
“We look for a location that’s safe and has a good hometown feel for the ladies and their families,” said Richardson. “Last year was our first year in Newton, and bringing anything of that size into a town, you expect things to go wrong, but they didn’t.”
Linda Bacon, executive director of the Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau, seconded this sentiment.
“Last year was only the first year [the pageants] have been in town, so we’re excited to have them back,” said Bacon. “We must have done it right last year if they’re returning, and we hope we can continue on the same track.”
From the cooperation of the high school to the involvement of local hotels and retailers, Richardson hopes that the pageants’ place in Newton will continue to benefit the community for years to come.
“We were so impressed with Linda and her work, and that they were excited for us to come to town,” said Richardson. “As more businesses and more people get involved, our goal and our hope is that Newton will become our home.”
Both Richardson and Bacon emphasized that hosting the pageants each year directly benefits Newton in a number of different ways.
“From an economic standpoint, hotels are being filled and restaurants are being visited,” said Richardson. “From a shopping perspective, business will be good because the folks that come to town with these young ladies aren’t busy the whole weekend.”
In fact, Bacon and the NCVB have put together materials for visitors to help boost sales by local retailers this weekend.
“The NCBV has put together a downtown shopping map that we’ll have available at our registration table,” said Bacon. “With the city developing the comprehensive plan, [Newton’s Future], we want to ensure the vitality of downtown shopping and let retailers know that there will be some potential extra shopping time this weekend because it’s not just the young ladies that come into town for this, it’s their friends and families as well.”
In terms of dollars coming into the community over the course of the two-day event, Bacon expects numbers in the six-figure range.
“The total impact will depend on how long the visitors are here, but we’re looking at a total of $300,000 coming into the community,” she said.
Richardson added that while the pageant benefits the community, the people and businesses of Newton positively impact the pageant program as well. In fact, she explained that the most critical factor in Newton’s role as host to the Miss Iowa USA and Miss Teen Iowa USA pageants is the level of community involvement demonstrated throughout the planning process and carried through the weekend.
“Community involvement is critical for us to stay in Newton,” she said. “People have been so willing to step up and get involved to make everything work, so we’ll continue to grow as long as we stay in Newton.”
Semi-finals for the two pageants will kick off at the Newton Senior High School Auditorium at 8 p.m. Saturday, with doors opening at 7:30. Final competition will take place Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. with doors opening at 3:30. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online or at the door for $25 per session, and both cash and credit cards will be accepted.