“You’ll never get it to work,” they would tell her.
At the time, the Miss Mesquite Pageant, a scholarship based program, was already successful. Watkins new that with a little twist, something new could benefit Mesquite and add opportunities for the older women in the area. But she couldn’t get others to share her views, at least not in the beginning.
Being a Mesquite Toe for almost a year, she was filling in for the founder, Vicki Eckman. While Eckman was away, Watkins had received an invite to the Toes from the Ms. Senior Nevada program, wanting someone from Mesquite to perform and compete at their program in Las Vegas.
She couldn’t get anyone from either the Red or Blue teams to agree to go. So, she decided she would. Alone. She had no evening gown, she didn’t wear makeup. “I remember thinking on the drive down and felt like a person who was taking tap classes,” she said. After a trip to St. George and finding the perfect dress at a bargain price, she knew she had to go. Little did she know, it would change her point of view immensely. “That’s not how I felt when I came back. I changed in three days.”
She experienced the Ms. Senior Nevada Pageant and competed. There were high points as well as low points throughout her time in Las Vegas, but it was all for a reason.
When she drove back from the pageant, she said she felt like a performer. But she didn’t come back empty handed. Watkins had been voted Ms. Congeniality at the event, an award that is very difficult to win. “I was able to come back with something to start this (Ms. Senior Mesquite). There was the idea that no one would go to Las Vegas to do this. I knew that I had to bring Las Vegas to Mesquite to get it to work.” Being the only person representing Mesquite automatically gave Watkins the title of Ms. Senior Mesquite and the program was born.
Her vision has worked ever since. For the past ten years, the Ms. Senior Mesquite Pageant has been a staple of the community that does amazing things for the women competing as well as the local organizations.
Instead of raising money for scholarships or award monies, as other pageant programs do, MSM raises monies for local charities so that others can benefit from their services. In the ten years that MSM has been successful, over $32,000 has been distributed to 35 groups and non-profit organizations ranging from the Exchange Club to the Boxing Club and even We Care For Animals. No other event in Mesquite has been so instrumental in spreading monetary assistance so thoroughly in the area.
For the contestants, it allows them to grow their self esteem and to get out into the community with more of a purpose, a reason. The all-around process of the pageant has shown that magical and amazing things can happen as long as you try.
The 2007 Ms. Senior Mesquite Queen Karen Beausoleil went on to compete at the Ms. Senior Nevada and won. Susan Rosland came in 1st Runner up at State in 2010 and Alecia Sibio also took 1st Runner Up in 2013. Janice Ramirez, the Queen for MSM 2009 tied on talent at the State level. “We’re a little town that has run against tough competition and taken at least one of each title available at the State Level. We should be very proud of that,” said Watkins.
The reigns for the pageant have been handed over to Geni Barton, who has also been an integral part of the program’s success since 2006. For both of them, it’s a dream that continues to live, year after year.
To put it all together, Watkins and Barton both agree that it’s more than a one-day event. It is something that takes the whole year to prepare for, from putting the program together to lining up the schedules. The MSM Pageant has been so successful that other programs in the state have come to see how it’s done and how the other programs can improve.
“We’re the first ones to put together the colored pages in our program,” said Watkins. “This pageant does not look like the state pageant anymore (as it did in the beginning),” said Barton. “Each year, we just keep getting better and better. I have to give credit to my committee. We really do have a great group of women.”
This year, the pageant was cancelled due to the lack of contestants. “We only had three and our bylaws state we need five,” said Barton. “So we decided to have the Gala instead to honor our history.”
Watkins pointed out that the Ms. Senior Mesquite Pageant has a unique ‘tit for tat’ structure. “Let’s say you’re committed to We Care for Animals,” she said. “We’re going to say, ‘Okay, why don’t you come to the pageant and benefit from the experience and get some money out of it (for your charity)’ and everyone wins.”
“We’re going to change our strategy,” said Barton.
And it’s that determination and drive that will continue to keep the Ms. Senior Mesquite Pageant at the top of the Community’s menu for classy events that bring out the best in everyone.
But the event this Saturday will be a day to honor all of the women who have participated in the pageant over the past ten years, especially the founder, Jean Watkins.
At this time, Barton is working with her committee and they will begin planning on the pageant for 2016. Look for a new section on www.mesquitelocalnews.com under the main menu titled “Annual Events” on the right side of the page and click on ‘Ms. Senior Mesquite Pageant’ to stay up to date on news from the pageant coordinators.
(Additional photos may be found in our special section for the Ms. Senior Mesquite Pageant on March 26, 2014)
Ms. Senior Mesquite Courts
Jean Watkins, Queen
Mary Jane Vandeweghe, Queen
Sheila Gustaveson, 1st Runner Up & Ms. Congeniality
Phyllis Litman, 2nd Runner Up
Others: Dottie Bluhm, Lois Clayton, Jacki Glass, Ina Hall, Charlene Lustig, Molly Richter, Joni Robinson and Charlotte Scharton.
Jean Watkins, Contestant Mum
Karen Beausoleil, Queen, Ms. Senior Nevada
Joni Robinson, 1st Runner Up, Ms. Congeniality
Nila Lilienthal, 2nd Runner Up
Others: Faye Bond, Jeannie Craig, Jean Koehler, Barb King, Shirley Madsen, Margie Milner, Connie Rice and Gladys Smith
Mary Jane Vandeweghe, Contestant Mum
Joni Robinson, Queen
Nila Lilienthal, Queen
Janice Ramirez, Queen
Joanie Peck, 1st Runner Up
Bunny Wiseman, 2nd Runner Up
Wanda Butler, Ms. Congeniality
Others: Terri Clark, Diana Coonradt, Sandy Hughes and Adeline Finlan-Robertson
Joni Robinson, Contestant Mum
Susan Rosland, Queen
Johnnie Jones, 1st Runner Up
Karen Jurgens, 2nd Runner Up
Linda Taylor, Ms. Congeniality
Others: Elizabeth Beacham
Bunny Wiseman, Contestant Mum
Margaret Judkins, Queen
Sharon Rowden, 1st Runner Up, Ms. Congeniality
Others: Jeanine Wehner, Gloria Salvador, Karen Goeckeritz, Toni Lewis and Jolene Macrae
Hisami Judy, Contestant Mum
Claudia Nicholas, Queen
Diane Wild, 1st Runner Up, Ms. Congeniality
Other: Cheryl Belden
Alecia Sibio, Queen
Betty King, 1st Runner Up
Debbie Miller, 2nd Runner Up, Ms. Congeniality
Others: Linda Gault, Sarah Malloy, Bonnie Mikkleson, Rosann LaBrie
Margaret Parrot, Contestant Mum
Donna Watson, Queen
Loretta Green, 1st Runner Up
Sherry Gosdis, 2nd Runner Up
Jo Mollerup, Ms. Congeniality
Others: Donna Hendrickson and Terry Blackburn
Linda Gault, Contestant Mum
Community Award Recipients Through The Years from the
Ms. Senior Mesquite Pageant
(Some are no longer active in the community)
Exchange Club of Mesquite
Greater Mesquite Arts Foundation
International Association of Lions Club
League of Women Voters
Lutheran Child Care Center
Mesquite Arts Council
Mesquite Cancer HELP Society
Mesquite Firefighters Association
Mesquite Heritage Garden
Mesquite Senior Center
Mesquite Senior Games
Mesquite Veterans Center
Mesquite-Toes Tap Team
Miss Mesquite Scholarship Pageant
PEO (Philanthropic Educational Org.)
Purple Heart Foundation
Take Off Pounds Sensibly
Virgin Valley Artists Association
Virgin Valley Boxing Club
Virgin Valley Family Services
Virgin Valley Food Bank and Thrift Shop
Virgin Valley Hospice
Virgin Valley Little League
Virgin Valley Theatre Group
Veterans Honor Guard
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Vietnam Veterans of America
We Care for Animals
Word Café Youth Group