Miss Helotes Scholarship Pageant: 57 Years of Community Service, Personal Growth, Small-Town Pride

Every Saturday morning the Miss Helotes Scholarship Court gathers for their 6 a.m. roll call at Mary’s Tacos. Gathering to represent Helotes throughout South Texas at parades and special events, it’s clear this program of the Helotes Festival Association has become a time-honored tradition over the past fifty plus years. 

During a typical season, the Miss Helotes Court will travel to a dozen parades and over 20 community events to support the Texas city known for corn and Cornyval. Crowing their first queen in 1967, the Helotes 2023 Court maintains the small town values that have anchored the program over the years while reflecting the growth and change of Helotes. The 2023 court members represent an accurate depiction of Helotes. Some have recently moved here from other parts of the country while others have always called Helotes their home. 

According to Maxine Benke of the Helotes Festival Association, the mission of the Miss Helotes Scholarship Pageant hasn’t changed since its inception 57 years ago when community leaders, including John T. Floore decided to start the pageant in conjunction with the opening of a new post office in 1966. 

Held at John T. Floore Country store over the first several years, Benke said the small budget didn’t allow for scholarships until the 80s. In the early days of the program, Benke remembers how pageant officials traveled to Mexico to purchase glass crowns to reuse every year–-all in an effort to save money. Today the pageant offers prize and gift packages worth $15,000 in addition to the scholarship awards. 

The 2023 court attends several different area high schools, including Harlan, O’Connor, and Sonia Sotomayor. Although students from Brandeis have participated in the past, Brandeis is the only area high school not represented on the court this year. 

Vice President and Pageant Director Jamie Taylor is thankful for the growing support from each of the area high schools. “I’m thankful they see the value of the pageant and are committed to get the word out to students every year,” she said.

At first glance many newcomers to Helotes may think the pageant is part of the larger state and national circuit; however, the Miss Helotes Scholarship Pageant is independent with a unique set of goals. 

For Jennifer Nowlin, a pageant committee member charged with special events otherwise known as “court mom,” the program is special because it creates a myriad of opportunities for the participants to grow in character and confidence. The young women experience public speaking, essay writing, and interviewing–all while learning to balance a hectic pageant schedule.

Pageant activities run year round. Each February the Miss Helotes Scholarship Pageant launches a 10-week workshop held each Sunday at pageant-sponsor Pedrotti’s Ranch. The workshops, designed to prepare the applicants for the pageant competition, utilizes the current court as mentors for the new applicants. The number of applicants over the years has ranged from 10 to as many as 30.

Court Duchess Alexis Jasmine Owens, a senior at Harlan High School, tells future contestants to commit to frequent practice whenever they get a chance. Miss Congeniality Sabrina Moore, a junior at O’Connor High School, agrees. “Be prepared to work hard for a court spot because it is not easy,” she said. 

Miss Helotes Evelyn Nordstrom encourages future Miss Helotes contestants to have fun and enjoy the process. “You are learning everything you need to know for the competition through the workshops so just enjoy the learning,” said Nordstrom. “Have fun, be yourself and don’t let others get you down.”

Nowlin explains that the spirit of the competition is to strengthen each other. “We encourage the girls to encourage and support everyone so they can be the best they can be.”

Seeking Pageant Volunteers

“If you have a heart to support the young ladies in the Miss Helotes program, there’s always a place for volunteers with energy,” said Benke. “We need help with all the details that make this program a success year after year.”  

The program is entirely volunteer run. The current Miss Helotes Pageant Committee includes: Jennifer Nowlin, executive vice president of Miss Helotes Court and Helotes Festival Association Vice President; Jamie Taylor, Miss Helotes Director and Vice President of Miss Helotes Pageant; Lynn Bohac, Pageant Workshop Director; Jenny Marshall, Public Speaking and Confidence Coach; and Anne Bohac, Wardrobe Director and Backstage Coordinator.

For more information on volunteering, see https://cornyval.org/volunteer-sign-up

2023 Miss Helotes Scholarship Pageant Court

Miss Helotes–Evelyn Nordstrom

Miss Helotes 2023. Photo by Annie McEntire

Sotomayor Junior Evelyn Nordstrom decided to compete in Miss Helotes to have fun and earn a scholarship. Through her participation in the program, she has improved her public speaking skills through representing Helotes at area events. Originally from Southern California, Nordstrom has come to love Helotes because it feels like home. 

“Unlike other places–where it’s just a collection of houses or businesses–Helotes builds community,” said Nordstrom. “There is always an event going on–like Market Days–when you can go out in the community and support everyone living in Helotes while having a great time.”

Her days are filled with activities including being a varsity cheerleader, and earning a membership in the National Honor Society by maintaining a high grade point average. She also loves swimming, crafting and hanging out with friends. 

In the future, Nordstrom plans on earning a college degree in finance. To see the world through travel, she would like to work as a flight attendant. 

Princess–Abigail Baley

Miss Helotes Pageant Scholarship 2023 Miss Helotes Princess Web
Princess 2023. Photo by Annie McEntire

Sotomayor Senior Abigail Baley was motivated to participate in the Miss Helotes Scholarship Pageant because it was a unique opportunity for personal growth. “Throughout my pageant experience, I have learned important life skills such as poise and public speaking,” said Baley. “These are vital skills that I will carry with me into adulthood.”

One of Baley’s most important accomplishments is overcoming the challenges of moving to Helotes last year from Portland, Oregon. “My family and I moved over 2,000 miles away from the only place I had ever known,” said Baley. “It was scary at first, but after settling in I am proud to say that I have found community and purpose here in Helotes.”

Baley loves the unique location of Helotes. “Helotes has a wonderful small town charm while still being close to the fun that San Antonio has to offer,” she said. “Bonus points are it’s just minutes away from the beautiful and scenic hill country.”

Someday Baley would like to earn a degree in ministry and missions to “share the love of God and make a difference in the world.” Her future plans may also include having a farm. “The idea of having a bunch of farm animals while living in the serenity of the country seems very lovely to me,” she added.

Duchess–Alexis Owens

Miss Helotes Duchess 2023
Duchess 2023. Photo by Annie McEntire

Harlan Senior Alexis Jasmine Owens keeps a rigorous schedule of academics, employment and extracurricular activities. Her proudest accomplishment has been learning to achieve balance while maintaining good mental health through an ordered and tranquil life. When not at work or school, Owens loves to bake, exercise and hang out with her friends.

Owens’ older sister, Alyssa Owens, served as Miss Helotes in 2019–motivating Owens to enter the competition so she could have the same experience. So far Owens’ time on court has been valuable. “I have learned how to speak eloquently and how to be a good representative for the City of Helotes,” she said.

In the future, Owens would like to attend Texas A&M University in College Station or the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in accounting in order to become a Certified Public Accountant.

Miss Citizenship–Alexandra Garcia

Miss Helotes Pageant Scholarship 2023 Miss Citizenship
Miss Citizenship 2023. Photo by Annie McEntire

O’Connor Junior Ally Garcia’s list of accomplishments includes even more than a place on the Miss Helotes Court. Last year Garcia’s goat won a commercial championship. In addition to raising goats, she was a member of O’Connor’s softball team which recently won the state championship. “Both accomplishments took a lot of long, hard work,” said Garcia. “To see it all pay off was so rewarding.”

Garcia’s mother encouraged her to participate in Miss Helotes after seeing information about the program on social media. Although Garcia says she’d rather be playing sports, she decided to apply, and has gained insight through her service on the court. 

She has come to appreciate how community involvement can have a big impact on others. Her love of Helotes fuels her work with the court. “I love Helotes. People are nice and friendly,” she said. “Our tight knit community supports each other.”

When Garcia isn’t serving on the court, playing softball or raising goats, she enjoys making handcrafted jewelry. In the future Garcia, would like to help people and save lives as an occupational therapist, a surgical nurse or a surgeon.

Miss Spirit–Jaelyn Ainslie

Miss Helotes Pageant Scholarship 2023 Miss Spirit
Miss Spirit 2023. Photo by Annie McEntire

O’Connor Junior Jaelyn Ainslie’s tenacity was in full dismay after competing for a spot on the Miss Helotes Court for three years running. She cites earning a place on the court as her proudest accomplishment. 

“Running for the Miss Helotes court in order to gain more experience and confidence through each competition has been a huge accomplishment,” said Ainslie.

Ainslie decided to compete for Miss Helotes because she wanted to expand beyond her passion for agriculture. Through the competition she has expanded her public speaking and interviewing skills. 

  Ainslie is a Helotes girl at heart. She attended Los Reyes Canyon Elementary, and has lived in Helotes for most of her life despite a short stint in Colorado. 

She loves being around livestock and enjoys studying how they can act, change and evolve. In addition to her service on the court, she is an officer in the Helotes 4-H Club. In the future, Ainslie would like to become a travel nurse “to see the world and help people along the way.”  

Miss Congeniality–Sabrina Moore

Miss Helotes Pageant Scholarship 2023 Miss Congeniality
Miss Congeniality 2023. Photo by Annie McEntire

O’Connor Junior Sabrina Moore entered the pageant competition in her own words to “get out of my comfort zone and try something new.” During the weekly workshops, she learned how to build self-confidence through public speaking.

When recalling the court’s most recent event, Moore realized Helotes is really well known for Cornyval. “Everything is about corn afterall,” said Moore. “When people realize we are from the city that hosts Cornyval every year, many will immediately connect to Helotes.”

Moore grew up in Helotes and spent much of her youth participating in competitive gymnastics. Today she is a member of O’Connor’s cheer team in addition to participating in two varsity choirs. 

She loves Helotes’ small-town feel. “Everyone knows each other,” explained Moore. “Due to the high school in Helotes, many families live in the area and kids work local jobs in the community–making lots of personal connections.”

In the future, Moore plans on attending college in Texas to prepare for a field in construction, including the mathematical design process. On a personal note, she looks forward to meeting more friends in all aspects of life.

Editor’s note: Congratulations to the families represented by the 2023 Miss Helotes Court! When asked who they admire the most, it is compelling to note that all six members of the court referenced a member or member(s) of their family, including parents and siblings.

Jen Sones
Jen Soneshttps://helotesnews.com
Jen Sones serves as an independent journalist with Helotes News. She holds a communications degree from a liberal arts college in Indiana and was a managing editor of a trade publication in Washington, DC. While stationed in Hawaii with her active-duty husband, she served as a senior account representative at an advertising/public relations agency in Honolulu. Later she stepped away from her career to focus on frequent military moves and homeschool for their four children. Jen and her family now call Helotes home after her husband retired from 28 years on active duty. Currently she serves as place two on Helotes City Council.

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