Local Miss Heartland participants qualify for Miss Michigan

By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 10:57 am on Monday, February 11, 2013

Executive Directors Cheryl Smith and Barb Millard with the winners of Saturday night’s Miss Heartland Pageant. Elizabeth Johnson, of Plymouth was named Miss Heartland 2013 while Greenville’s Alisha Gatchel earned the Miss Heartland Outstanding Teen honors. — Daily News/Lori Hansen

SIDNEY — Four local young women competed in the Miss Heartland Scholarship Pageant Saturday night. Two finished as title holders, providing them an opportunity to return to Muskegon to the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant, or the Miss Michigan Outstanding Teen pageant.

Alisha Gatchel, 15, earned the title of Miss Heartland Outstanding Teen, while Brianna Van Houten placed as first runner-up. Both girls are from Greenville.

“Having the crown will enable me to go out and promote my platform of pediatric cancer, and will enable me to do all sorts of things, “said Gatchel, a sophomore at Greenville High school.

The Miss Heartland Scholarship pageant, in its second year, teamed with Montcalm Community College to put on the event, having 11 teens participating in the Outstanding Teen event, as well as 17 of the older contestants on stage.

Both Gatchel and Van Houten were part of the Miss Danish Festival court as Young Miss Danish Festival — Gatchel in 2010 and Van Houten in 2011. Both also have participated in the Miss Michigan Outstanding Teen program, held each June in Muskegon.

Along with qualifying for the next pageant, which she was given a crown, sash and flowers, Gatchel also earned a $250 Montcalm Community College scholarship.

Following the Miss America protocol, women in the Miss Michigan and Miss Heartland compete in different phases of competition: private interview, Lifestyle and Fitness, Talent, Evening Wear and On Stage Question.

Two of the 17 women competing in the Miss Heartland pageant were Isabelle Williams, of Stanton, a former Miss Stanton, and Audrey Frank, of Grenville, Miss Danish Festival 2011.

Williams, 19, the daughter of Sherry Williams, had a strong vocal performance, singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” while wearing a knee-length dress with a black bodice and pink ruffles skirt. She donned a turquoise bikini for Lifestyle and Fitness. Her On Stage Question focused on the Underdog Foundation, her platform, and she explained how the Underdog Foundation helped children and parents in need to defray expenses of purchase sports equipment, allowing these children to play sports.

Miss Heartland 2012 Morgan Lind places the crown on the newly chosen Miss Heartland 2013 Elizabeth Johnson at the Miss Heartland Scholarship pageant on Saturday at Montcalm Community College. — Daily News/

Frank, a student at Western Michigan University and the daughter of Mark Frank and Kathy Frank, flaunted a blue bikini for Lifestyle and Fitness. She wore a light blue chiffon gown while singing “Wild Horse” while playing guitar. Wearing a pale blue evening gown, she answered an On Stage Question on the topic of ending childhood hunger.

“The first steps we need to take is to realize that childhood hunger is a problem right here in Montcalm County,” Frank said in her answer to the On Stage Question. “Most people think of the starving children in a foreign country, and that is a concern, too, but with 46 percent of our kids qualifying for free or reduced lunches, we need to reach out to children here in our neighborhood and get food out to them so no kid has to go hungry.”

Elizabeth Johnson, 20, of Plymouth, was named Miss Heartland. She is the daughter of Daniel and Shirley Johnson of Plymouth.

“This is my fifth pageant, but the first time I have won one that qualifies me for the Miss Michigan Pageant,” said Johnson, who wooed the audience with her lyrical dance to “I Will Always Love You.”

Johnson is a sophomore at Michigan State University, majoring in advertising and public relations.

“I went last year to watch, but have never had the opportunity to participate,” said Johnson of the pageant. “I signed on to the pageants for the scholarship money but have found it has helped with so many life skills, such as interviewing for a job, getting involved in community service projects and networking.”

Johnson’s platform for the pageant was treating and preventing breast cancer.

For earning the title, Johnson garnered a $500 Montcalm Community College scholarship, a $300 scholarship sponsored by the Miss Heartland program and Children’s Miracle Network, her flowers, crown and sash.

Amanda  Fron, of Weidman, was named first runner-up and also won the Morgan Lind Excellence in Community service award. Erinn Hendricks, of Adrian, placed as second runner-up; Kayla Pingel, of Farmington, earned third runner-up; and Lauren Allen, of Inkster, was granted the fourth runner-up and the Miss Congeniality award, voted by the contestants themselves.

Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.

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