Oak Park Retirement pageant
By Robin M. Perry
For the Salisbury Post
It wasn’t queen for a day: It was queen for the year at the Oak Park Pageant Thursday night.
Eight residents of the Oak Park Retirement Community competed in the first pageant to crown the queen based on her personality, talent and Sunday dress. They also crowned two princess winners.
Each contestant looked elegant in her Sunday best and shared a variety of talents with the large audience and panel of judges. The winner will represent Oak Park at senior events throughout the year.
Mary Rice was the judges’ pick for queen. She looked chic in her pale pink suit.
She had the entire room singing “You Are My Sunshine” with her. She loves living at Oak Park and even changed the words of the song calling Oak Park her sunshine.
“It is so awesome to win,” she said. “I love being here and will be a good ambassador for Oak Park. I’m so glad to win.”
Winning the Princess titles were Martina Stonehouse and Jane Turner. All three ladies beamed when awarded their tiaras and roses, and titled sashes.
The judges met with the contestants last week to question each one for the personality part of the pageant. Dr. Karl Hales, Crystal Lambert and Emily Saly served as judges.
“This has been a delightful experience,” Hales said. “To get to know these women has been wonderful.”
Hales, past dean of communications at Catawba College, is a frequent speaker and story teller in Salisbury.
Elite Miss North Carolina Crystal Lambert enjoyed being on the other side of the competition.
“They were all brilliant ladies,” Lambert said.
She works at a local law firm with plans to attend law school.
Emily Saly, owner of Community Thrift in Salisbury, enjoyed her role, too.
“I used to do fashion shows,” she said, so this is familiar territory for her.
Buddy Poole, owner of WSAT-AM, served as emcee for the evening. He was delighted to introduce each contestant as they shared their talents. Betty Bartholomew was first, sharing excerpts from one of the many books she has written, “Classy Clang Girl.”
Martha Hopkins showed her patriotism by sharing her thoughts on how freedom isn’t free, then singing God Bless America.
Kathy Briggs believes God gifted her with the ability to create through sewing. The beautiful tote bags she made, and coat she tailored with a new lining were tangible proof of her talent.
Martina Stonehouse enjoyed sharing her gift for painting, as she encouraged everyone to try this form of art. Her work, “Oscar the Pelican” was incredibly lifelike.
Pat Cooper loves storytelling and shared her thoughts on her nursing career with the crowd while Juanita Johnson recited poetry about the Calico cat. Jane Turner charmed the audience with her rendition of “Moon River” on the grand piano.
Bob and Nancy Epstein, community relations managers for Oak Park, brought the idea of a pageant here.
“We have been with the Hawthorn Retirement Group for nine years and have seen pageants at some of our other communities,” said Nancy Epstein. “This is the first one at Oak Park, and it has been a huge success.”
All the contestants seemed to enjoy the excitement and spotlight of the evening.
Karen Leonard, activities coordinator, agreed.
“It was a wonderful night and all the ladies felt special,” she said. “It was a special night for everybody.”
Nancy Epstein also explained the philosophy at Oak Park for the staff “is we are governed by the heart.”
Each of the eight ladies received a “diamond” heart broche for participating. The crowns for the queen and princesses all had sparkling hearts on them too.
From the smiles on their faces, they couldn’t have had more fun if they had been in a Miss America pageant.
Chef Reggie Hoagland and his staff prepared a beautiful display of sweets and treats for all who attended the event. Musical entertainment was provided by Lonnie Carpenter.
The celebration continued on Friday for the contestants as the Salisbury Trolley picked them up for a tour of Salisbury, then for lunch at Cartucci’s with Mayor Susan Kluttz.
The smiles continued even longer.