New Miss Dowagiac court ready to represent community

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

DOWAGIAC — Four Dowagiac teens will be representing their community throughout the year as members of the 2024 Miss Dowagiac Court of Honor.

Natasha Griggs was crowned Miss Dowagiac 2024 Saturday, Jan. 13. Joining Griggs in her court of honor is first runner-up Abbey Dobberstein, second runner-up Jamie Howard and Miss Congeniality Hayley Jones. 

“It was just a really genuine, sweet group of girls,” said Miss Dowagiac Pageant Director Anne Zebell, who reigned as Miss Dowagiac in 2016. “This may sound cliche, but the judges had a tough, tough job. I do not envy them at all. It was just a fabulous group of girls; pretty much drama free, which makes it fun for the committee. I think the chosen court is gonna represent Dowagiac well.”

Dobberstein, 17, is the daughter of Mark and Molly Dobberstein. A Dowagiac senior, Abbey is the Vice President of Student Senate and is a member of National Honor Society, varsity volleyball and varsity soccer. Outside of school, Abbey can be seen working at Fitch Camp during the summer, babysitting, playing indoor soccer and hanging out with friends and family. She also enjoys watching movies and sports, traveling, swimming, paddle boarding and reading. 

Her plan after high school is to attend a four-year university in Michigan to study Human Capital and possibly minor in communications or international relations. She also plans to study abroad and hopes to become an HR manager one day. 

Howard, 17, is the daughter of Kimberly Howard and Charles McCarthy. A Dowagiac senior, Jamie is a four-year member on the Dowagiac varsity cheer team and a member of the National Honor Society, Student Senate and Chieftain Heart. Outside of school, Jamie enjoys participating in 4-H, helping out with Rocket Cheer, reading, listening to music, singing, sewing, cake decorating and playing with her show goats. 

Her plan after high school is to go to a four-year university to begin studying for her Physician’s Assistant degree with the goal of majoring in children’s oncology. 

Jones, 18, is the daughter of LaDonna Sandora, Brandon Sandora and her late father Kelby Jones. A Dowagiac senior and SMC student, Hayley is a member of National Honor Society, Student Senate, Chieftain Heart, Chamber Choir, Sideline Cheer, Competitive Cheer, Musical, Track and Field and is a student representative for the Dowagiac Board of Education.

Outside of school, Hayley volunteers on the Dowagiac A.Y.S.O. board as concession stand coordinator and enjoys reading, writing, singing, drawing and photography. Her plan after graduating is to finish her last year at SMC to get her associates degree to get a step closer to becoming a teacher. 

Below, Dobberstein, Howard and Jones shared their thoughts on their pageant experience, their goals and more. (Note: This conversation has been edited for both length and clarity.)

What was it like waking up the next morning as royalty?

Abbey: I woke up very refreshed after a long night of sleep. I just felt so grateful; my house was filled with flowers, I felt a lot of support and knew my younger self would be so proud because I grew up coming to the pageants and seeing all the girls wear pretty dresses and the crown. I’m just very grateful.

Jamie: Honestly I kind of felt it was just a dream. It doesn’t feel like it actually happened because it went by so fast. It didn’t feel like it was going to and it did.

Hayley: It didn’t hit me at first when I woke up. I actually woke up to my mom yelling my name because I woke up late. I jumped out of bed, I looked to my right and was like “there’s my crown, I gotta go.”

What was the pageant experience like for you?

Abbey: It was definitely weird. Watching in the audience is just so different from competing. You’re much more nervous. We all took a minute to ourselves before it started to kind of calm ourselves down but once it got going…everyone tells you it’s going to be fast but oh my gosh it was so fast. I blinked and then the night was over.

Jamie: It was so much fun. I can’t even find words to describe how it was. Everyone was so supportive. Everyone was running around, everyone looked so hectic and everyone was scared. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, what’s gonna happen next?’ It was a lot of fun, though.

Hayley: All the girls were amazing. The committee was amazing. It was just an overall great experience. It is sad that not all of us could do it because we definitely all got really close. It was definitely  a little friend group. 

What inspired you to compete in the pageant?

Abbey: My neighbor next door, she won in 2014 Miss Dowagiac and I remember being so proud of her. She worked so hard and seeing her and all the other queens and they had always talked about how good of a time they had. I wanted that for myself and to learn all the things you get to learn, like communication skills and interview skills.

Jamie: When I was younger, I just wanted to be a princess. My grandmother was Miss Three Rivers; when I was younger, I went to Disney World and said ‘Mom, I’m going to be a princess.’ She told me I could run for Miss Dowagiac and so she took me to the pageant the following year and I was like, ‘mommy, I’m gonna go up there and I’m gonna do that.’ I did it and here we are.

Hayley: I followed last year’s pageant as well when they were going through and I saw the post about them going to read to the elementary school. I saw that and that’s one thing that I’m hoping we are doing this year because it’s one of the things I’m really looking forward to.

What about this year are you most looking forward to as a member of the Miss Dowagiac court?

Abbey: Just all of the events we get to do, like interacting with the little kids. It’s just the best. I work at Fitch Camp so I interact with kids a lot already but to do it all dressed-up and not be sweaty in my work clothes? It will be a lot of fun.

Jamie: I’m excited to talk to kids a lot. I want to be a children’s oncologist. I love working with kids so I think it’d be a lot of fun to talk to them and get to know them. I know for me when I was younger, if I saw someone with a little crown on their head, I got excited. So I’m nervous for them to get excited.

Hayley: Being Miss Congeniality, I want to interact with the kids and help show them how to be nice, respectful and things like that.

What advice would you give to young girls considering participating in the pageant in the future?

Abbey: I definitely would recommend it. I would just tell them to really enjoy every second and just be open to all the advice and like learning opportunities.

Jamie: Just do it. You only live once and it’s an amazing opportunity. You learn all kinds of skills that you need in life. I’ve learned so much so far throughout this journey and I know I’m gonna learn way more throughout the rest of it, and I think it’s perfect. I think everyone needs to at least go out for it.

Hayley: Trust yourself. The committee will get you there. They’ll help with everything you need, the girls around you will help. Everybody will be there to help you no matter what and you’ll have that confidence by the end for sure.