This is the story of how a simple request was made a reality, and because of that, about how it will be a continuing story into the future.
Anyone who attended the Miss Pre-Teen beauty pageant at the recent Grayson County Fair may or may not have noticed entrant number 14, Liberty Savannah Kidwell, a 10-year-old fourth-grader from H. W. Wilkey Elementary School.
What no one could have known is the story behind her participation in the event and about how, because of the help she received in being a part of the pageant, other young girls will also be helped in the future.
Liberty and her older brother, Brenton, have lived with their grandfather (Papaw), Junior Wilson, since she was four, when Wilson became their legal guardian.
As she grew older, Liberty found she wanted to take part in pageants for young people, but did not have the resources nor the knowledge of what it took to take part.
Enter Holly Cruise, Wilson’s neighbor and friend who has also become something of a mentor for Liberty in the absence of her parents.
Cruise is the mother of two children herself and is an 11-year veteran of the Navy, where she was assigned to the military intelligence division. A native of Hardin County, Cruise has lived here in Grayson County for the past four years.
Recently, Liberty asked Cruise if she would help her enter this year’s Pre-Teen Pageant and Cruise agreed to help. What followed was a real eye-opener for Cruise.
“I am not a pageant coach and had no idea what was involved,” she said.
Like the other contestants, Liberty would have to go through an interview and a three-hour practice session for the pageant. She would also have to acquire a dress, which would account for 35 percent of her score.
“I was going to go to J. C. Penney to get her a dress, but quickly found out that would not do,” Cruise said.
She then was directed to Madison Square Boutique, where she told owner, Ann Gonsales, she would like to buy a dress, “…for around $60.”
Gonsales quickly abused her of such a notion and when Cruise asked to see some dresses, she discovered the harsh reality that such dresses were a major expense. It left in doubt whether she would be able to keep her promise.
What happened next can only be described as dogged determination.
Cruise told Gonsales she didn’t have that kind of money. Gonsales replied that Holly seemed like a “go-getter” and told her to, “…go out and make it happen.”
So that’s what she did.
Drawing upon the relationships that she had built up as a court-appointed guardian for some local senior citizens, Cruise asked for and received donations from local businesses and individuals. Within two days, she had enough to purchase a dress.
That was not the end of the story, however. Cruise said she was determined the donations would not be for just the one child. She wanted something that would be perpetuated, something that would give other young girls who never thought they would ever have the chance to participate in such a pageant the ability to do just that.
With that in mind, Cruise and Gonsales came up with a plan. Liberty would have access to the dress for a year to take part in other pageants (the Honeyfest for sure, and possibly the Caneyville Fair), at which time it would be available for another person to use.
While the details have not been finalized, next year another young lady will be chosen to use the dress for her own pursuit of pageant dreams.
There were 22 girls entered in the Miss Pre-Teen Contest, and it was planned that 11 would be chosen for the final round and having their name mentioned. Because the vote was so close, a 12th person was added and Liberty made the top 12.
“It was a lot of fun,” Liberty said, ” and I want to do it again.”
“It was a great experience for her,” Cruise said. “One of the judges told her she was very close to a crown.”
Perhaps the best thing to come out of the whole experience was the bonding that has occurred between Liberty and her Papaw.
“Liberty told me she knew her Papaw was really proud of her,” Cruise said. “When I asked her how she knew, she told me, ‘Because he was smiling.’ Anyone who knows Junior Wilson will understand what she means.”
It was important to both Liberty and to Cruise that her sponsors be recognized and thanked for their contributions. Donations came from Nichols Dentistry, Scotties Excavating, Junior Wilson Trucking, Dalton’s Center Court, Smitty City, Leitchfield Truck & Trailer, Auto Smart, and Gonsales herself.
Liberty was the one who decided the headline of this story would be, “The Dress.” It is hoped this will be the start of a long Grayson County tradition.
Reach Don Brown at 259-9622, ext. 2016.