Miss Heart talks about experiences, future

Published 8:00 am Friday, January 15, 2016

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

A seasoned veteran with MKSOD’s Positively Dance troupe and an experienced showman at the Cass County Fair, Dowagiac’s Elizabeth Stockwell is no stranger to the public eye.

No amount of prior experience could have helped keep her poise and composure the moment the crown of the 2016 Miss Heart of Blossomtime was bestowed upon her Sunday evening in St. Joseph.

“The first thing I did was hug Kristin [Cody], the former Miss Heart, and she kept telling me, ‘turn around, turn around, you need to face the crowd,’” Stockwell said.

While nearly a week has passed since her coronation, the fact that the Dowagiac Union High School senior will soon be representing her hometown in the upcoming Miss Blossomtime still hasn’t fully set in, Stockwell said.

“It’s been totally surreal,” she said.

Despite that fact, Stockwell, the daugheter of Eugene and Denise Stockwell, has been busy making the rounds this week in preparation for her appearance on stage at the massive southwest Michigan pageant, which takes place March 13-14 at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center. There, the Dowagiac student will take the stage with queens from other communities across the region, looking to become the 2016 Miss Blossomtime.

This will be the second year in a row that someone from the Grand Old City will take part in the annual pageant — last year, Alyssa Wainwright won the Miss Spirit award after taking first-runner up in that year’s Miss Heart pageant. While, due to the rules of the Miss Spirit contest, she was not eligible to become Miss Blossomtime, Wainwright won the title of Miss Congeniality during the big pageant in March.

In fact, Wainwright and Stockwell have another big thing in common, as both are longtime students at MKSOD. It was with the encouragement of her friend that Stockwell, despite never entering other beauty pageants in the past, decided to try her hand at becoming royalty through the Miss Heart, an event that is open to communities that don’t normally participate in Miss Blossomtime, she said.

“A lot of Positively Dance members have been through the pageant before, so I knew a lot about it going in, but it was still a new experience for me,” Stockwell said.

Her new responsibilities as Miss Heart, which include visiting other local pageants, add to the senior’s already sizable amount of activities.

Stockwell is a longtime member of the Dowagiac high school band, where she plays the trombone. She is also a member the high school’s humanities club and the National Honor Society.

Outside of school, her schedule is just as packed. In addition to her commitments to the local dance studio, which can take up to 20 hours a week, Stockwell is also a member of the North Red Hill 4-H club, meaning her spring and summer is filled with preparing the animals she raises at her home for show at the county fair. Over the years, the teen has shown rabbits, chickens, goats and cats at the fair, she said.

“The list keeps getting larger every year,” Stockwell said.

Last year was her best fair year yet, with her hard work and constant studying earning her the title of Grand Champion in several categories.

One of the things that Stockwell hopes to accomplish as Miss Heart is to encourage others to participate in 4-H, which has been one her strongest passions since early childhood, she said.

In the meantime, she and her family will have their hands with the busy pageant schedule, which includes a stop at the Miss Dowagiac show that takes place on Jan. 23 at Dowagiac Middle School. She will also be preparing to once again represent Dowagiac in the coming weeks at Blossomtime, she said.

“It’s exciting to know I’m keeping the tradition going,” she said.