Competition celebrates 70 years

By Paige Nash

The Young Women’s Service Club is preparing for the upcoming Miss Minden and Miss Spirit of Fasching Scholarship Competition. This year will mark the 70th year of the competition and will be held on January 7 at the Minden Civic Center.  

YWSC President Cayla Cox said, “The Miss Minden Scholarship Competition has been a long-time tradition in our community and the Young Women’s Service Club is so honored to help with the continuation of this tradition. The YWSC, along with the support of local businesses and community leaders, has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships. Not only have we awarded scholarships, but we are also sending young women from our area to have the amazing opportunity of competing for the title of Miss Louisiana and Miss Louisiana Outstanding Teen.” 

70 years ago, the first-ever Miss Minden, Sandra Elizabeth Gray Hunt, was crowned in 1953. She spent her childhood in the City of Minden and graduated Minden High School the same year she won the title. Sadly, she passed away in October 2014, but is remembered by loved ones as a woman of many talents, including knitting, needlepoint, cooking and playing the piano.  

The Miss Minden competition is divided into categories which includes talent. Over the years many of the winners have shown their skills at dancing, singing, playing instruments, acting and much more. The talent portion of the pageant gives the competitors a chance to highlight their unique skills and an opportunity to demonstrate how well they can capture an audience.  

Other portions of the competition include casual wear, evening gown and an on-stage question, which can be nerve-wracking for some contestants. 

Miss Minden 2018 Hannah Harper Williams had words of encouragement for those considering participating but may be too nervous to do so. 

“Nerves are normal for everyone but competing in Miss Minden was one of the most invaluable times in my life when I had to learn to channel those nerves into excitement, which prepared me and gave me confidence for other important times in life such as presentations in college, public speaking, and even job interviews,” she said. “Don’t let nerves stop you from having the time of your life participating in Miss Minden. You definitely won’t regret it.” 

Many firsts have taken place for the competition over the last 70 years, including the crowning of the first African American Miss Minden in 2020.  

Miss Minden 2020 Joy Davis said, “I won the Miss Minden Pageant when I was a senior in high school. I didn’t know many people outside of school and church, but being Miss Minden gave me an opportunity to get to know so many people in our community and form quality relationships.” 

Miss Minden is regularly active, representing the city in numerous events, ribbon cuttings, and other activities during their year-long reign, opening doors to countless opportunities. Since Miss Minden is an official preliminary, the winner gets the chance to compete for the Miss Louisiana title.  

Another first for the pageant, the 2022 winner went on to compete for the Miss Louisiana title, not only placing in the top ten, but finishing in 3rd place her first year competing. Anna Claire Lemoine has had the honor of serving as the 2022 Miss Minden and is looking forward to crowning the 2023 Miss Minden next month.

“Knowing I must give away a title that has meant so much to me, even before I was ever crowned Miss Minden, is certainly bittersweet,” Lemoine said. “I will always remain honored to be a part of the Miss Minden sisterhood, and I wish the very best to the next Miss Minden. She will truly have the year of a lifetime representing our fine City of Minden, and that is something of which to be more than proud.”

The pageant is open to all Louisiana residents. You do not have to be from Minden to compete for the title. Jeanna Dickson Patterson grew up in Sarepta but was crowned Miss Minden in 1988. 

“Winning the title of Miss Minden 1988 was such an honor,” Patterson said. “Growing up a Webster Parish girl, I always knew that Minden was a beautiful town with southern hometown charm. The people of Minden embraced me, and the Women’s Service Club supported me in every way and made my year one I will never forget.” 

The Little Miss Minden Competition will begin at 10 a.m. on January 7 with six chances to win a title. For the older girls, the pageant will be later that evening at 7 p.m. With those titles the winners will also be able to add money to their scholarship funds.  

JoAnna Byars Haynes, a 10-year member of the YWSC, former pageant director and president, was crowned Miss Minden 40 years ago in 1983. She received a $1,000 scholarship.  

“I feel very blessed to have been selected to represent my city as Miss Minden 1983. I received a $1000 scholarship, which helped me pay for my education and several other gifts from local merchants. I enjoyed representing Minden in the Miss Louisiana Pageant and I was asked to cut the ribbon at several new businesses in town,” she said. “The Young Women’s Service Club puts on a wonderful pageant each year and they are so helpful to each contestant.” 

If you are interested in signing up but need more details, there will be an informational meeting held on December 18 at 3 p.m. at 1201 Broadway Street in Minden.  

“Miss Louisiana 2022, Gracie Reichman will be the emcee for the evening, and we have asked for all our former title holders to be part of the night’s program.” Cox said. “We are looking forward to another amazing scholarship competition and hope all of Minden and Webster Parish come out in support of these outstanding young women.” 


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