Miss Benton Harbor takes crown

Published 8:27 am Tuesday, March 16, 2004

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
BENTON HARBOR -- From an initial 321 contestants in 24 pageants over five months, it came down to this moment Monday night, Brittney Brown becoming Benton Harbor's first Miss Blossomtime in more than 50 years.
Blossomtime's 72nd queen is not only her community's first since Annette Miller in 1953, Benton Harbor's other three titles came in the first contest in 1924 (Katherine Burrell), in 1927 (Violet Peters) and in 1931 (Jane Filstrup).
Brittney's crowning by Miss Blossomtime 2003 Keri Hazel of Bloomingdale provided a momentous memory to atone for her previous appearance on the Mainstage -- tap-dancing with the late Gregory Hines when she was in eighth grade.
Brittney's court includes First Runner-Up Miss Bridgman Jessica Rimpel, Second Runner-Up Miss Edwardsburg Jessica Neagu and Miss Congeniality Miss Niles-Brandywine Jessica Cornelius.
Well, there were five "Jessicas" in the "Thanks for the Memories" pageant at Lake Michigan College's Mendel Center.
Brittney, Contestant 3, who exclaimed, "God is good!" after her coronation, wants to become a professional Broadway dancer and to own a dance studio.
Miss Blossomtime, daughter of Anita Brown-Richardson and Willie Mays, is a varsity cheerleader, a National Honor Society member, a Western Michigan University Upward Bound math and science student and a Berrien County dancer. She enjoys singing, dancing, shopping and spending quality time with he family.
When the 10 finalists were quizzed about what attributes they brought to being a role model such as Miss Blossomtime, Brittney identified integrity, determination and passion.
First Runner-Up Jessica Rimpel, Contestant 1, is the daughter of Kathy and Mike Rimpel. She earned three varsity letters in both basketball and volleyball. She has also been a volleyball co-captain for three years, president of her class for two years and a Student Council representative.
During the summer Rimpel helps out with basketball and volleyball camps for younger children. She enjoys playing beach volleyball, horseback riding and traveling.
Second Runner-Up Jessica Neagu, Contestant 17, had her most memorable experience when she was 10 years old.
Her family visited a small Greek Orthodox church in Michigan City, Ind., that had a portrait of Jesus Christ on the cross from which a substance flowed at all of the crucifixion points.
Neagu, daughter of Melody and Martin Neagu, plans to attend Grand Valley State University this fall to pursue a career in either child psychology or elementary education.
Miss Congeniality Jessica Cornelius, representing Niles and Brandywine as Contestant 7, is a "child of God who loves to laugh and bring happiness and love to those around me, as well as being a loyal, responsible and trustworthy woman. My most memorable experience was in eighth grade when I gave my life to Jesus Christ. At the Pontiac Silverdome I made the best decision I could ever make that will forever change my life."
Cornelius, daughter of Diana and Isaiah Cornelius, is involved in Counterpoints (a select show choir), DFP (Drug-Free Players), PSI (Postponing Sexual Involvement), SSIT (student school improvement team) and varsity softball. She is secretary of her class and Student Council president.
Cornelius, who receives a $1,000 scholarship, enjoys singing, acting, dancing, photography, playing softball, spending quality time with her family and friends, attending church and supporting her school.
Also qualifying for the Top 10 were Miss Galien Emily Hein, Miss St. Joseph Ashley Shembarger, Miss Watervliet Erin O'Hara, Miss Paw Paw Mindy Boothby, Miss Mattawan Ashley Hinze and Miss Cassopolis Linaya Hass.
Contestants also included Miss Gobles Joni Vosburg, Miss Dowagiac Brittany Winters, Miss South Haven Jessica Cunningham, Miss Baroda Elizabeth Weage, Miss Hartford Larissa Friday, Miss Stevensville Whitney Rantz, Miss Bangor Sara Pilch, Miss New Buffalo Cindle Brewster, whose supporters spelled her first name in lights across one side of the auditorium, Miss Three Oaks/River Valley Ashlee Donkersloot, Miss Bloomingdale Amanda Black, Miss Buchanan Lindsay Colip, Miss Coloma Ashley Dolezan, Miss Berrien Springs Lindsey Dospoy and "J. Lo," Miss Eau Claire/Sodus Jessica Lopez.