08/01/11 — Miss N.C. stops in Goldsboro to raise funds for children

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Miss N.C. stops in Goldsboro to raise funds for children

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 1, 2011 1:46 PM

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Hailey Best, Miss North Carolina 2011, performs during a Welcome Home Miss North Carolina event Sunday afternoon at the Paramount Theater. Accompanying her on piano was her father, Michael Best.

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Hailey Best poses for a picture with 4-year-old Abby Norris, 2011 Dream Angel, Sunday at the Paramount Theater. Dream Angels is a program for girls with disabilities who want to become a pageant princess.

By now, it may be old news that Goldsboro native Hailey Best was crowned Miss North Carolina 2011.

But for those in the audience at the Paramount Theater Sunday afternoon, it was like they were hearing it for the first time.

As the lights dimmed and a DVD replayed last month's state contest, held in Raleigh but not televised, each and every time Miss Best's name was called, it was met with thunderous applause.

Certainly by this point everyone already knew she had made it to the top 10, then five finalists and yes, even the crowning.

The surprise was by no means spoiled, though, as those gathered for the Welcome Home Miss North Carolina celebration were clearly as impressed and appreciative as the original live audience had been.

The occasion marked Miss Best's first official visit back to her hometown.

Proceeds benefited Children's Miracle Network, national platform of the Miss America organization.

The scholarship pageant is reliant on donations and sponsors, said Alan Clouse, CEO and executive director of the Miss N.C. organization.

He shared how one of the sponsors, Papa John's Pizza was supporting the scholarship effort by promising to donate one dollar from each pizza sold. Thus far, Clouse said, the company had raised an estimated $55,000 for scholarships.

As he brought Goldsboro Mayor Al King to the stage, Clouse challenged the crowd to follow the politician's lead. King, he said, had pledged to eat a pizza a week, which could potentially bring in $50 for the cause over the next year -- "We'll give him two weeks off," Clouse said with a laugh.

The mayor admitted he does "love pizza" and also appreciated being able to welcome Miss Best back to the Goldsboro stage where she performed often as a child with StageStruck. With a nod to local businessman David Weil, a strong proponent for rebuilding the Paramount Theater, King said it was "fitting" to hold the gathering there.

Then he recalled hearing the news that the hometown girl had won the state crown.

"I think I went crazy, and I think most of you did, too," King said.

While Miss Best beat out 32 contestants for the title as Miss Durham, that does not change the fact she still calls Wayne County home.

"I'm a Goldsboro girl through and through, born and raised, and I'm very excited to be celebrating with you," she said.

One of the roles of the state queen is to bring in funds for Children's Miracle Network. So far, Miss Best said, she had raised more than $10,000 and set a goal of $20,000 by the time she goes to the Miss America pageant in January.

In her short time serving as the state's queen, she has been beyond busy, she said.

"It has just been one thing after another but a wonderful, wonderful experience so far," she said.

In addition to sharing the 90-minute re-enactment of her road to the crown, she recognized other contestants in the audience and thanked her local sponsors.

Then, joined by her "favorite accompanist" on piano, her dad, Michael Best, she performed two songs -- "A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

She also announced that tickets go on sale for Miss America Aug. 15 and that she hopes her home state will have the largest delegation at the event in Las Vegas.

"We haven't had a Miss Goldsboro or Goldsboro girl win Miss North Carolina since 1942, so I'm very excited to be Miss North Carolina," she said. "And we also have not had a Miss N.C. win Miss America since 1962.

"I think it's about time to have one bring the crown home."

A reception was held following the program, during which Miss Best signed autographs and posed for pictures.

Haleigh Josephine Baker of Zebulon, Miss North Carolina Princess 2011, said she has enjoyed getting to accompany Miss North Carolina on appearances.

"It's really fun," the 10-year-old said. "It's been really, really exciting and fun. I have had a great experience."

Jessica Best of Mount Olive was also on hand to support her cousin, Hailey.

"It's a pretty big deal," she said. "I have a lot of pride for her. Growing up with her, she's been like one of my best friends. ...

"It was just like our whole family, we're very close. We're really proud of her."

Hailey's younger brother, Elliott Best, a rising senior at Eastern Wayne High School, said he is accustomed to playing a supportive role.

"I have always gone to her pageants my whole life -- she started when she was 3 and she's three years older than me -- but I have never been interested until now," he said. "It's actually kind of fun."