Beth Cherry is the recipient of Litchfield Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Special Recognition Award. Cherry has long been an active fixture in the community, both through her former business, the Midwest Royal All Star Cheer gym, and her volunteer work.
“I didn’t expect it. I almost feel bad for being recognized as a volunteer because I know so many people in our community who are endless volunteers; people who always answer when they are asked to serve,” said Cherry, when asked how she felt about the chamber’s recognition.”
While Cherry and her husband, Thomas, have been actively involved in coaching youth sports for years, she is probably most recognized for her volunteer work as pageant director for the chamber’s annual Party in the Park celebration. Cherry began volunteering her time to help with the Party in the Park pageants around six years ago, officially taking on the role of pageant director in 2019.
Throughout her time volunteering for the chamber, Cherry has worked alongside her committee members to expand the Litchfield pageants. She began her volunteer work directing the Little Miss and Little Mister pageants and quickly found there was a need for a Junior Miss pageant. Cherry teamed with local photographer and fellow volunteer, Mindy Pastrovich, to create the new age bracket. Cherry has initiated other changes as well, including compiling the formerly two-day pageants into one night. Cherry stated that moving all of the pageants to one central night has really helped increase community support for all the contestants, rather than just the big Miss Chamber of Commerce pageant.
While many of the changes have been intentional, Cherry has found that directing pageants means having to make quick decisions at a moment's notice. For instance, inclement weather presented a big problem during the 2019 pageant, forcing the committee to set up indoors, at the Litchfield Community Center, for the first time in the pageant’s history.
Cherry attributes the growing popularity of the Litchfield pageants to her fellow committee members, Tiffany Hendricks, Maggie Sinclair, Tiffany Jarman, Brielle Marten and Jenny Fergurson. A lot of work goes into organizing and running the pageants, from mandatory forms, creating itineraries, marketing the pageants and scheduling six-weeks of full rehearsals to choreographing routines, practicing interviews and overseeing day-of logistical aspects.
“I have the most amazing committee,” Cherry stated, emphatically. I tend to think of us as co-directors because we all bring different strengths to the table. We all take on different roles and everyone’s skill set is needed for the pageants to function successfully. I am so grateful for each of them.”
In addition to ensuring everything runs smoothly on pageant day, everyone on the pageant committee is dedicated to creating an environment that contributes positively to the contestants’ growth and self-esteem. Factors that are at the heart of much of what Cherry does, whether volunteering for the chamber of commerce or coaching athletes at the Midwest Royals cheer gym.
“Everyone on the committee wants to help our pageant kids accomplish their goals and ultimately just be proud of themselves. Most of our kids sign up thinking the pageant sounds great, but once they get on the stage they become very fearful. A lot of the work we do is getting the kids to feel comfortable so that their personalities shine through. That takes a lot of little pats and little conversations, and positive reinforcements from us,” Cherry explained. “I know that people tend to be dismissive of pageants. They think they are just girls in pretty dresses being judged, but it’s so much more than that. For us, it’s about being able to connect with the kids and helping them realize that they can conquer their fears. ”
Like the athletes she coaches, Cherry and her committee talk to their contestants a lot about what it means to win. They try to instill the message that even though only one winner can be chosen, the only thing that really matters is that they did their personal best and that not winning does not mean that they weren’t good or that they shouldn’t try again. The committee’s main focus is always on how the kids feel about themselves.
They also try to instill a sense of communal responsibility in their contestants, assigning roles so that the older contestants are working with the younger ones. The goal is to help build friendships among the contestants and to encourage the older contestants to take on mentorship roles and build each other up, both on and off the stage.
“I kind of fell into it and never really looked back. I have always had a heart for youth, especially girls, in the community. It is hard to find people who will make the time to volunteer but it is just so important for our community. For me it is an investment in our future. I hope the kids I work with see my face over and over as a cheerleading coach, as a soccer coach, and as a pageant director and that it solidifies in them that anything they see me doing, they can also do it when they are grown up,” Cherry said, when asked how she began working with the Party in the Park pageants. “To be awarded for volunteering is an incredible honor and one I never expected to receive.”
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