Chester woman named next Miss Maine

Posted June 21, 2010, at 4:52 p.m.

A Chester woman will be headed to the Miss America pageant after being crowned Miss Maine over the weekend at the Crooker Theater in Brunswick.

Arikka Knights, 23, said she has some big shoes to fill, but is up for the challenge.

“I have been competing since I was about 5 years old,” Knights said Monday by phone. “This has been pretty much my dream ever since then.”

Pageants always have been an experience Knights shared with her mother, and she admits she was surprised with the weekend’s result.

“I went in thinking, ‘whatever happens, happens,’” she said.

The Miss Maine Scholarship Pageant is the official state preliminary to Miss America, one of the nation’s leading achievement programs and the largest source of scholarships for women in the world, according to the organization’s website.

Miss Maine receives thousands of dollars in college scholarships, as well as an all-expense-paid trip to compete for the title of Miss America. Each contestant, regardless of placement, earns valuable college assistance.

The competition is open to single and never-married women who are high school graduates, 17-24 years old, United States citizens and residents, full-time students or full-time employees of the state of Maine.

F. Lee Bailey, renowned attorney in the O.J. Simpson trial and the Boston Strangler case, was one of the five judges who helped select Knights as the next Miss Maine.

Bailey has a home in Bath and operates a general law practice in Florida. Joining him on the panel were: Robert Loy, a talent expert from Florida who has been a Miss America volunteer for 27 years; Mignon Merchant Ball, a former Miss Oklahoma who won a nonfinalist talent award at her Miss America competition; Daphne Cochran Kessler, Miss Kentucky 1980, who travels extensively to speak out about learning disabilities; and David Holmes, who works for a French investment bank and participates in community outreach programs and charities of New York City.

The judges evaluated contestants on five criteria: private interview, talent, swimsuit and fitness, evening gown and onstage question.

Now, Knights will begin preparing for the Miss America pageant to be held in January 2011.

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