‘Unauthorized’ pageant scores run afoul

Published 12:05 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

VIDALIA — More than a week after another contestant was crowned, the Vidalia’s Women’s Club this week named Whestley Shirley Miss Vidalia 2014 amid allegations of score tampering.

The women’s club, which sponsors the pageant, issued an apology letter citing an “unauthorized addition to categories used for judging” during the pageant that changed the scores and the results of the top five contestants, including the winner.

“This apology is just a small part of trying to correct a gross error in judgment,” Vidalia Women’s Club member Alison Cupit said in the letter. “This apology is directed to the contestants and their families, the pages and their families, contestant sponsors from the women’s club, corporate sponsors, including the City of Vidalia, the judges and to the public who supported the 2014 Miss Vidalia pageant.”

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Vidalia High School senior Rachel Buford was crowned at the Feb. 1 pageant,  but Cupit said in the letter that accurate scoring showed fellow VHS senior Shirley was the winner and Buford second runner-up.

After the scores were corrected, the top five contestants also included first runner-up Cheyenne Cavazos, third runner-up Haley Wilson and fourth runner-up Carli Ricks.

Fourteen other contestants participated in the pageant.

Cupit declined to elaborate on details of the “unauthorized addition” to the judging categories.

Pageant coordinator Karen Nelson did not return calls for comment.

The contestants were told they would be judged on interview, evening wear, casual wear and dance.

Cupit said the situation cannot be undone, and the club “can only step up and take action to acknowledge the proper placements of the top five contestants.”

“There is no way to repair the hurt and wrong that was done to these girls nor can they recapture their excitement of the night,” she said in the letter.

Cupit said the club offers its “sincerest apologies” and said the situation was not the fault of any of the contestants or their family members.

“We as a club are embarrassed and hope the community can forgive us and continue to support us in the future,” she said in the letter.