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Ellie Wilshusen takes the crown at Ms. Senior Golden Years Pageant

Feathered headdresses, ropes of pearls and the flash of a sequins were on full display during the 2022 Ms. Senior Golden Years USA Pageant, where the contestants embraced their inner flapper for this year’s theme, “The Roaring ‘20s.”

Taking place Saturday, June 18 inside the Saddle West Showroom, the Ms. Senior Golden Years Pageant had six sensational ladies competing for the crown. These included: contestant No.1, Ann Underdahl; contestant No. 2, Ellie Wilshusen; contestant No. 3, Carol Smith; contestant No. 4, Constance Sloan; contestant No. 5, Val Hallam; and contestant No. 6, Shirley Molenda.

Each of these inspiring 60-plus-years-young women took to the stage throughout a variety of pageant segments to wow the crowd with their beauty, poise and grace and it was more than apparent that the audience felt this year’s event was the “bees knees.” Raucous applause and shouts of encouragement peppered the performances as the contestants’ friends, family and supporters cheered them on.

While every one of the contestants put her best foot forward and captured the crowd’s hearts, at the end of the night it was Wilshusen who took home top honors, earning herself the title of 2022 Ms. Senior Golden Years Queen.

This year’s pageant was a bit different than in years past, with only three awards determined by the panel of judges. In previous years, there have been awards given out for evening dress and stage presence, the bathing suit competition and talent but pageant founder B.J. Hetrick-Irwin decided to eliminate those awards in favor of focusing on the awards for the queen and her court.

Taking home the title of first runner-up for 2022 was Molenda while Sloan garnered the title of second runner-up. Together with Wilshusen, these ladies will represent the Ms. Senior Golden Years organization over the next year.

Another special awarded handed out Saturday night was not chosen by the pageant judges but by the contestants themselves. Named as this year’s Ms. Congeniality was Smith, whose fellow competitors felt she more than deserved the recognition for her bubbly, friendly personality.

The master of ceremonies for the event was once again Stephani Elliott, Hetrick-Irwin’s granddaughter, who seamlessly narrated the pageant and kept the audience entertained in between segments.

Judges for the pageant included Nathan Tannenbaum, a well-known television and news personality; Salve Vargas Edelman, a former beauty pageant contestant herself, who in 2017 won the title of Ms. Senior Asia Pacific Universe; and Bruce Jabbour, a Nye County commissioner with extensive background in premiere casino grand openings who also acts as vice president of operations for Tonopah Hospitality Services.

A whole host of others played a part in making this year’s pageant a big success, including Dr. Tom Waters, who gave the invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Nevada Silver Tappers, who did dance routines to the delight of the audience. Bill Watson lent his dulcet tones to the event, as did Edelman Vargas and Joel Butler. Former queen Kathleen O’Connor added a pop of ‘20s style too with a performance to “Cabaret” and 2021 Queen Marla Quercia was given the chance to take her final walk before passing the crown to the new queen.

For many years Chuck Alumbaugh has also had a critical role in the pageants, running the music and sound. Hetrick-Irwin decided it was high time to recognize his tireless efforts. With that in mind, she bestowed upon a bemused and humbled Alumbaugh this year’s Sally LaRocca Courage Award.

The Ms. Senior Golden Years organization was founded nearly two decades ago as a way of bringing together women ages 60 or better. Anyone interested in joining the group is encouraged to call Hetrick-Irwin at 775-727-7011.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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