Seven area women took the stage for the first Ms. Waupaca County Senior Homemaker Pageant.
“This is so wonderful. I’m lucky to be where I am,” Shirley Spera said after being named the winner and receiving a crown, sash and bouquet of flowers.
The pageant was held Thursday, June 13, at the Waupaca Recreation Center.
Spera, who will be 90 in August, grew up on the East Coast and moved from Florida to Waupaca about 40 years ago.
She brought a number of dresses with her from the social life she had in Ft. Lauderdale but soon discovered “no one dressed up” here.
Spera sold one of the dresses to a shop called the Unique Boutique.
Some time later, she found herself visiting an 85-year-old woman at Bethany Home at the suggestion of her daughter.
“I like people. I couldn’t say no, so I went to see her,” Spera said.
During that visit, the woman showed Spera a photo album. In one of the pictures, the woman was wearing a dress which was very familiar to Spera.
It was the dress Spera had sold to the shop after moving to Waupaca.
The woman had bought it there and after learning it had been Spera’s, told Spera the reason they had met was so Spera could get the dress back.
The two women became friends.
“I took her shopping and to lunch for a year before she died,” Spera said.
Last Thursday, Spera wore the dress in the pageant.
She and the other contestants wore an outfit which meant something to them.
Richard Skow, the pageant’s master of ceremonies, said instead of an evening gown competition, contestants choose a favorite piece of clothing.
“Maybe it is a wedding dress or a prom dress. Maybe it is something silly they wore on vacation one day. It means soemthing to them,” said Skow, community relations director from Southern Care Hospice.
Southern Care Hospice, along with the Waupaca Senior Center, were the sponsors of the pageant.
“We do events like this to get to know a community and the other providers in the community,” he said. “We also do these events to recognize seniors and maybe the accomplishments they were not recognized for growing up.”
Teri Moe, Waupaca’s senior citizen coordinator, was approached by Southern Care Hospice about cosponsoring the pageant.
“This is the first time we did this. I see all kinds of potential pageant ladies in the audience,” she said as the pageant was set to begin. “I saw the contestants in back. They’re all calm, cool and collected. They’re all awesome. I told them to have fun, which is what it’s all about.”
In addition to Spera, the contestants were Shirley Jorgenson, Irene Guerin, Dianne Heffner, Irma Timmons Arndt, Rita Thews and Karen Kimmel.
Each of them made a favorite dessert for judging, talked about their favorite piece of clothing, had two minutes to multi task for the talent portion of the competition and then answered a question about their favorite childhood memory.
Jorgenson wore her “Shirley’s Kitchen” outfit, Guerin wore something she got a few years ago for Mother’s Day, and Heffner modeled her favorite outfit, which was a Tweety Bird nightgown.
“The bed is my favorite place to be,” Heffner said. “Teri (Moe) said if I did this, I’d get a long rest after it was done.”
Arndt, a former teacher and librarian who loves to exercise, warmed up the audience by leading them in a series of stretches.
She wore shorts and a T-shirt.
Thews, a volunteer who loves to bake bread, and Kimmel, who played the accordion in a polka band, both wore red and purple.
During the talent portion of the competition, the contestants had two minutes to wash a few dishes, fold laundry and tend to a crying “baby” and a ringing telephone.