By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO August 28, 2001 Janna Worden of Grahamsville had a couple of very good reasons to enter the 2002 Ms. Monticello Raceway Beauty Pageant.
If her 4-year-old daughter Brianna won the Little Miss Monticello Raceway title, it would give her a heads up on the way to a hospital in Boston, MA, where on Monday, the little contestant was scheduled to undergo treatment for Neuro Fibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to develop on nerves throughout the body.
Second, if the 26-year-old native of Sullivan County was crowned Ms. Monticello Raceway, she could use the notoriety to promote her cause for starting a local NF support group.
After the judges had tallied the scores, Brianna didnt make the final three, but her stay-at-home mom so impressed the judges with her beauty, intelligence and poise that she was crowned Ms. Monticello Raceway 2002.
Kimberly Filion, 26 of Albertson was tabbed runner-up by the panel of judges, and 23-year-old Theresa Minuta of Newburgh was selected as the third place finalist.
Ms. Monticello Raceway 2002 took home a check in the amount of $5,000. The runner-up received $1,000, while the third place finalist garnered $500.
Five-year old Taylor Blauth of Modena, whose favorite role model is Madonna, took the title as Little Miss Monticello Raceway 2002.
Christina Maiorino, 5, of Monroe was named runner-up, while 41&Mac218;2-year old Kialene Ariann Green of Middletown came in third.
The top-three winners in the Little Miss Monticello Raceway Beauty Pageant received awards of $100, $500 and $1,000 respectively.
The judges included: Rob Potter, a reporter/photographer with the Sullivan County Democrat; Barry Lewis, Sullivan County editor of the Times Herald-Record; Arielle Riposta, the reigning 2001 Ms. Monticello Raceway; Mike Sakell, news director and on-air personality at WVOS Radio; and Ken Walters, associate editor of Sports Eye, harness racings answer to the Daily Racing Form.
Each contestant in the Little Miss category was interviewed by Larry Roman, described by John Manzi, longtime director of publicity at the Mighty M, as a prominent horse owner.
After the judges picked the top three winners, Ms. Monticello Raceway 2001 crowned the new minted Little Miss Monticello Raceway and gave roses and trophies to the finalists.
As the crowd of racing fans took a break from the on-track action, the contestants in the Miss Monticello Raceway Pageant paraded before the judges in their swimsuits.
Twenty-four-year-old swimsuit model Valerie Bazydlo of Rockaway, NJ, seemed destined to walk off with the pageant, if the reaction from the crowd was any judge, but in the final analysis, it wasnt to be for the young lady and her agent in a slick shiny suit.
After the panel of judges tallied the scores from the dazzling and rather revealing swimsuit competition and a break in the on-stage action for a few minutes of action from harness races the contestants returned for the evening gown competition.
During a break in the judging, a couple of folks expressed disappointment that a local youngster hadnt been selected as Little Miss Monticello Raceway, and were concerned that a county resident wouldnt get the nod as Ms. Monticello Raceway 2002.
Diane Conklin has lived in Monticello for 16 years, and her daughter Kathleen Conklin was a contestant in the Miss Monticello Raceway contest.
If [the winner] is an out-of-towner, I think it ought to be protested, she said. Its not fair to the girls from this town, who were born and raised here.
One of the local hopefuls was 17-year-old Rose Slater of Monticello.
During a break to let the ponies run, she held her 1-year-old daughter Iyana along the sidelines and talked about why she entered the beauty contest.
I want to make a better role model for my daughter, said Slater. Ive always wanted to be a model, and this would be a wonderful step for us.
As Roman asked each contestant questions, the judges narrowed their choices until only a dozen young women remained in the running.
The top twelve finalists: Valerie Bazydlo, Nicole Challacombe, Melissa Clark, Jacqueline Daly, Kimberly Filion, Michelle Mazzella, Theresa Minuta, Amber Peters, Helene Robinson, Elena Snyder, Janna Worden and Katie Van Vorst.
A few anxious moments and a couple of harness races later, the top three winners were announced to a dwindling crowd, and Janna Worden was crowned and sashed Miss Monticello Raceway 2002 by last years winner of the prestigious local beauty pageant crown.
I put Brianna in because shes been in several pageants before, and it has a special meaning for her because she has a disease called Neuro Fibromatosis, said Worden. And Im starting an NF support group in Sullivan County.
According to Worden, she used to compete in beauty pageants while attending Tri-Valley High School. She graduated in 1993 and coaches the JV cheerleading squad. Her husband Rob is assistant principal at the Liberty Middle School. They have three children, 4-year-old Brianna and twin boys, Brandon and Robert.
In 1992, Worden was crowned winner of the Sullivan County Loyalty Day Pageant, and one year later was named Miss Southeastern New York.
A lot of girls think they can win on their looks and great shape, but they have to have intelligence too, she added. To have a cause and feel strongly about something is also very important.
In the swimsuit competition, Worden wowed the judges by striking a patriotic pose in a red, white and blue bikini. For the evening wear contest, she selected a shimmering blue dress that danced with reflected light.
Moments after being crowned, Worden and her daughter headed off to the local airport to catch a flight to Boston where the new Ms. Monticello Raceway will check into a Ronald MacDonald House while Brianna gets treated for NF.
After Ms. Monticello Raceway 2001 passed the crown to Ms. Monticello Raceway 2002, she paused to reflect on her reign and serving on the panel of judges.
It is just as exciting to be on the other side of the table, said Riposta. I love seeing a new life being born
from the standpoint of a judge, it was a very difficult decision as all the girls were wonderful.
Last years Ms. Monticello Raceway is a news reporter and occasional anchor with Mountain Broadcasting Channel 63 in Sussex County, NJ.
She hosts her own program entitled 63 Hometown which airs spotlight personality profiles on interesting local folks in the community.
John Manzis take on the 11th Annual Monticello Beauty Pageant? Whats happened to our game is that its become a betting entity, he said. This brings back some spectacle.