Three with ties to county compete in Miss Alabama

Published 7:02 pm Friday, June 6, 2014

Three young women with ties to Chilton County have a shot at being named Miss Alabama 2014 on Saturday.

Katie Hilyer, Jessica Swindle and Jill Vinzant are among 47 contestants who have spent the last three days competing in 2014 Miss Alabama Pageant preliminaries, including swimwear, talent and eveningwear.

Interviews, onstage questions and community service are other factors that constitute part of the overall percentage of contestants’ scores from a panel of judges.

Miss Alabama is a non-profit organization that serves as a way for contestants to earn scholarship money to colleges and universities throughout the state.

“We’re all about giving scholarship money to these girls,” said Frank Kanelos, a member of the Miss Alabama board of directors. “We’re trying to educate outstanding young women in the state of Alabama. We work real hard all year to get this money together.”

The winner of the 2014 Miss Alabama title will be crowned during the final installment of the pageant Saturday, which will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Wright Center on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham.

Tickets are still available and can be reserved by calling the Samford Box Office at (205) 726-4168.

Hilyer (22) and Swindle (22), both of Clanton, and Vinzant (19), of Jemison, each won preliminary pageants in different areas qualifying them to participate in Miss Alabama.

Hilyer is the reigning Miss Chilton County, Swindle is the reigning Miss Madison County and Vinzant is the reigning Miss Quad Cities.



Each contestant was placed in a competition group this week, and each group completed a different category each night of the preliminaries.

The 2014 competition groups were Mu, Alpha and Sigma.

Hilyer was in the Alpha group and did her interview Tuesday, eveningwear Wednesday, talent Thursday and swimwear and onstage question Friday.

“It’s going very well,” Hilyer said Friday. “For me, the stressful part was talent, but it went good. I brought everyone here peaches—like the stage production crew and pageant moms. They all raved about the peaches.”

Hilyer was one of 11 girls recognized for her community service.

She received one of four honorable mention awards. The other seven girls were finalists.

Her platform for Miss Alabama is the Camo Foundation, which she founded as aid to veterans, military members, their families and their survivors in locating resources, benefits and services.

On Thursday night, Young Miss Chilton County Grayson Gann, Chilton County’s Rising Star, was presented with Hilyer on stage.

Hilyer’s mother, Elizabeth Hilyer Ginsburg, said Katie would be presented with a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Medal Award, a community service-based program, Friday night.

“What I’m proud the most of is the fact that she’s had so much fun with this program,” Ginsburg said. “She’s had a really passionate connection with her platform and community service. The actual pageant itself has been such a positive experience for her. She’s so honored and so happy just to be Miss Chilton County and represent her hometown.”

Swindle and Vinzant are in the Sigma competition group, which means their interviews, swimsuit and onstage question were Wednesday, eveningwear Thursday and talent Friday.

Dwight Swindle, Jessica’s father, said she was “thoroughly enjoying it.”

“I think she’s looking forward to the talent more than anything because she’s worked intentionally on it,” Swindle said, noting that Jessica will perform a dance routine. “She’s sort of revved up for that.”



Her platform for Miss Alabama is “Weathering the storms: Educating and preparing communities for severe weather.”

Swindle said he is proud of Jessica primarily for trying to incorporate her Christian faith in all aspects of the pageant.

“In everything that Jessica has done, she has really tried to exemplify her spiritual life,” Swindle said. “I want God to get the glory for what happens with her.”

Vinzant performed her talent, singing, on Friday.

Despite having an extremely busy schedule every day this week, Vinzant said Miss Alabama has been “great.”

“I’m thoroughly enjoying it,” Vinzant said of the pageant. “[Saturday], we’ll pretty much rehearse all day. We also have a brunch tomorrow and then crowning and competition tomorrow night.”

Her platform is Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors; raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members; help injured service members aid and assist each other; and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.



Vinzant said observing close friend and Jemison soldier Donny Eslinger’s ongoing recovery process from life-threatening injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan inspired her to support one of the organizations that helped him.

In addition, Vinzant’s uncle serves in the Armed Forces.

Vinzant’s mother, Martie Vinzant, said she attended all of the preliminary nights and would be in the audience Saturday to support her daughter.

“Jill has had the time of her life,” Vinzant said. “She enjoys the competition and has loved getting to know the other contestants. She looks very confident for a first-year contestant and has been consistent in her performance each night. She competes in the talent portion Friday, and I’m hoping she will rock the house with her vocal performance.”

On Saturday, the top 10 contestants will be announced, and they will compete in every category again for the final judging.

2013 Miss Alabama Chandler Champion will crown the new Miss Alabama.

“Chilton County is well-represented with three quality young ladies,” Dwight Swindle said. “I think they are genuinely nice young ladies.”