Miss Stevensville claims Miss Blossomtime title

BENTON HARBOR — Smiling into the flashes of the dozens of cameras, Riley Ellis, of Stevensville, posed with an armful of roses and a glittering crown balanced on her head — marking her as Miss Blossomtime 2018.

“This crown is a bit heavier than the one I got for Miss Stevensville,” Ellis joked. “But it feels amazing. I’m ready represent my southwest Michigan community.”

Ellis was among 23 contestants from Berrien and Cass counties vying for the title Monday night at the Mendel Center during the 112th annual Miss Blossomtime scholarship pageant. Contestants included pageant winners from Niles, Buchanan, Cass and Edwardsburg. Miss Buchanan Cora Schau made the top 10 finalists.

Rounding out the 2018 court is first runner-up Jamie Tidey, Miss Eau Claire/Sodus; second runner-up Micah Saxe, Miss Coloma and Olivia Ziemer, Miss Congeniality.

For her part, Ellis said competing in Miss Blossomtime was an experience that she really wanted. Ellis is the daughter of Michelle and Greg Ellis and attends Lakeshore High School, where she is dual enrolled in courses at Southwestern Michigan College. Following graduation, Ellis said she hopes to earn a doctorate in physical therapy to specialize in sport rehabilitation.

Among several accolades, Ellis is a two-time recipient of Lakeshore Excellence Foundation scholarships. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Key Club, Interact Club, mentors elementary school students and works at the humane society.

Ellis said she enjoys track and field, dancing with the Berrien County Dancers and coaching youth in gymnastics, as well as spending time with family and friends.

Ellis said she decided to compete in this year’s competition because she felt it would be a valuable experience whether she won or not. Once she was selected, Ellis said having the chance to wear the crown meant more than winning a competition.

“It means so many things, it means I get to be a role model to the kids and to my peers,” Riley said. “It means so many more opportunities.”

For Ziemer, who was selected as Miss Congeniality, the win was also emotionally moving. Following her crowning, Ziemer wiped tears from her eyes as family and friends swarmed around her following the show.

“I am so grateful,” Ziemer said. “I never expected this.”

Ziemer said she grew up watching the Miss Blossomtime pageant as a child and always saw the girls on the stage as role models. Now, she said, she gets the chance to be someone a young girl or boy looks up to.

Not far from Ziemer and Ellis, Saxe’s mom, Shelly Morlock wrapped her into a bear hug.

“I just kept telling her to get out there and have fun,” Morlock said.

As her daughter embraced friends and family that night, Morlock said she felt Saxe had accomplished just that.

The 2018 court will go on to complete a few community service projects. They will also have the opportunity to represent their communities in various parades and activities. To learn more about Miss Blossomtime, visit: blossomtimefestival.org.

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