Miss Kansas 2021: The prelminary winners, the finalists and other fun facts from the show
There were 23 contestants in the Miss Kansas 2021 Competition that took place July 8, 9 and 10 in Pratt. The crown, sash and title of Miss Kansas 2021 was won by Miss Augusta Taylor Clark, a Kansas State University student who is from St. John.
The top 11 semi-finalists named in the 2021 competition included fan favorite Dakota Derstein, Miss Santa Fe, who is from Dodge City. The other top ten individuals were Marissa Hernandez, Miss Sedgwick County (Wichita); Regan Smith, Miss Meadowlark (Overland Park); Candace Sweetwood, Miss Chisholm Trail (Arkansas City); Ayanna Hensley, Miss Boot Hill (Dodge City); Clark; Katherine Wurzer, Miss Wichita (Wichita); Emily Rugg, Miss Air Capital (Greensburg); Courtney Wages, Miss Emerald City (Wichita); Alexandra Adkins, Miss South Centra (Wichita); and Paige Harding, Miss Heart of Kansas (Dodge City).
The top five finalists named on Saturday were Hernandez, Hensley, Clark, Wages and Adkins.
In addition to sell-out public seating, the competition was webcast across the nation all three nights of competition.
At the 2021 Miss Kansas Competition, there were many hours of preparation for the show events which were spread over three evenings of show-time extravaganza in the Dennis Lesh Auditorium at Pratt Community College, all produced by former Miss Kansas title-holder Hannah Wagner who wore the crown in 2015.
"I haven't missed a Miss Kansas since my own crowning six years ago," Wagner said, who has produced the show for the last several years. "If there is one year that Miss Kansas contestants need to work hard to earn that crown, it's this year. We have three short days to make it look perfect for the nation."
Wagner said Kansas is one of the few states that still includes a runway in their state competition and show, as well as continues to have phenomenal support from the community and sponsors from over a wide area.
"You all need to understand how fortunate you are to be here with an incredible state organization," she told candidates at a welcome ceremony Wednesday of competition week.
After the first round of competition on Thursday, July 8, the preliminary talent and interview winners from Kappa and Sigma groups were Hernandez, Miss Sedgwick County, who won the on-stage interview and social impact initiative portion of the program; and Wages, Miss Emerald City, who won the talent round with a tap-dance routine.
Hernandez, who is from Garden City, chose the platform S.T.E.M. for women emphasizing math and science education opportunities for women to create a future of equality. She is a student at Kansas State University and was named a top five finalist on Saturday, taking 2nd runner-up overall.
Wages, from Wichita, is a graduate of Wichita State University. She tap-danced her way to a preliminary night win, as well as into the overall top five on Saturday with an "Empowered Women" theme, taking 3rd runner-up overall.
Friday's Kappa and Sigma group winners in interview and talent competitions were Sierra Marie Bonn, Miss Southwest, who won the interview portion of the night, and Clark, Miss Augusta, who brought down the house during the talent competition with her rousing drum performance to "Don't Mean a Thing."
Bonn, an El Dorado native, is a Wichita State University graduate who promotes education for women and teens with her platform "Let's Go Full STEAM Ahead. She answered her interview question of "what is the number one problem in today's youth?" with a counter that, even with a current trillion-dollar tech industry, America's teens seem to lack critical thinking and collaboration skills that could be addressed by school systems providing better funded, more up-to-date educational resources.
Bonn also won a financial award for being a the top non-finalist, overall interview winner, as well as a Centennial Club award, and she was named the first place Social Impact Initiative winner.
Harding, Miss Heart of Kansas, was the second place Social Impact Initiative winner with her campaign to bring attention to the A, B, Cs of Alzheimer's Disease. Other top five Social Impact Finalists were Wages, Miss Emerald City; Sweetwood, Miss Chisholm Trail, and Clark, Miss Augusta.
Clark, who won the Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen title in 2017 affiliated with the Miss America organization, also won a new award for Kansas this year, the "Mama Pam" Rookie of the Year Award, as this was her first time to compete as a Miss Kansas entrant. She won the Kimberly Grice Preliminary Talent Award on Friday night, as well as the overall Miss Kansas 2021 title, and other cash awards.
The dress Clark wore for the Red Carpet phase of competition (formerly known as the Evening Gown competition) was one she had seen five years ago, in a collection of evening gown dresses owned by Larry Strong with the Miss Kansas organization that had been secured from Foggy Bottoms, Ltd. when that business went out of business. Many of those dresses are available for use by any Miss Kansas candidate, helping to lessen the financial burden of competition.
"I knew I wanted to wear that dress someday when I competed again," Clark said. "It was the white luminescent gown with green beading over the one shoulder that was long-sleeved. It was awesome that I was able to win the competition wearing that dress that I have dreamt so long about."
Outgoing 2019-2020 Miss Kansas Annika Wooton ended an historic two-year reign, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with a farewell song, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," and a final trip down the Miss Kansas runway at Pratt Community College. She joins other former title-holders that will be forever remembered as part of an organization that "Prepares great women for the world, and prepares the world for great women," as stated by 2021 Miss Kansas longtime show-host and emcee Michael Schwanke.