Kicking off the Springfield Days festival, the Miss Springfield pageant in the J.C. Penney court of the mall was not the event it was in years past.
Last year and the year before, there were more than twice as many contestants as in this year's contest.
"We had 12 originally. Three dropped out. It was just a down year. When you have less contestants, you have less turnout," said one of the organizers, Nancy-jo Manney, with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Mall marketing assistant Leticia Click was surprised as well.
"We didn't do anything different. People came up after the fact and asked about it," she said.
Lee High School senior Sylvia Tan, 17, looked on as she wandered by. She was lured by the spectacle.
"I didn't know anything about it until tonight. I probably would have entered," she said.
Michelle Hechinger, 17, of Springfield looked on but wasn't wishing she was on stage. To her, the stigma of a beauty pageant may have been the deciding factor.
"Pageants are not my thing. They have a stereotype to them," she said.
Two passersby in the mall from Dale City knew about the stereotype but would have entered anyway.
"I think I've made fun of it before. They are a little cheesy, but I would do it," said Jessica Leckner, 19.
After hearing about the scholarship money, it was more attractive.
"That makes it worthwhile," she added.
THE STAGE was blanketed in red, white and blue, and after a rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" by Vickey Pagan, Miss Springfield 2001, Jamie Price, sang "Proud to Be an American," with the contestants dancing alongside.
In just over an hour, the judges made their decisions, and 20-year-old Shannon Myers walked away with the crown, while Jennifer Johnson, 17, was first runner-up; Divya Singh, 18, was second runner-up; and Lauren Linder, 17, was Miss Congeniality. The prizes included a $1,000 scholarship for the winner, $300 and $200 for the runners-up. Myers goes to Virginia Commonwealth University and heard about entering from her parents while she was at school in Richmond.
"I have seen it before. I've heard there was usually more [contestants]. I was surprised. This scholarship money is going to help me," she said.
As far as the stereotypes are concerned, Myers, the second consecutive blonde Miss Springfield, has heard them.
"The blonde, ditsy, save-the-world girl?" she joked.
JAMIE PRICE, last year's winner, recently won the Miss Northern Virginia contest and is competing for Miss Virginia in Roanoke at the end of June. She talked about what she's gotten from the title.
"This is sort of a gateway. It gave me the confidence to pursue other pageants," she said.
Manney was aware of Price's achievements.
"She used this as a springboard. It would be really nice to see more girls take part," she said.
Miss Teen Virginia, Jamie Stump, and Mrs. Virginia, Shari Murray, were part of the audience. They just came on a whim.
"I think a lot of people don't realize what a pageant can do for a girl’s self-esteem. There's a lot more to it than a pretty face and a crown," said Stump, 19.
Myers wasn't used to the stage but seemed at home with the lights, the flowers and trophy.
"You get a little nervous beforehand. It's not for everyone," she said, but she was gutsy.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," she said.