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Pageant celebrates 'hero' in all


Layla Delecke walks away with 2009 crown as 'Little Miss Blueberry'


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Resplendent in their ‘BB’ Superhero costumes, contestants in 2009 Little Miss Blueberry Pageant display prizes they earned at Saturday’s show. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

July 01, 2009
IMLAY CITY — Heroes can evolve in the most unexpected ways, performing with fearless accuracy before throngs of bystanders, or in a packed room with friends and strangers.

Yes, there's a hero in all of us, especially when you pick yourself up and start all over again. Such was the case with 7-year-old Layla Delecke last Saturday, rising from the ranks of 21 contestants to be crowned Little Miss Blueberry 2009.

With a lump in her throat and a swipe at her brown eyes, Layla stepped into the footlights of her dream come true.

"Last year she did it and didn't make anything," Mom Melissa Delecke notes.

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But with the heart of a hero, Layla was determined not to quit.

"Next year I'm going to do this," Melissa remembers Layla saying.

The Deleckes are country western fans and while listening to one of the family's favorite singers, Layla decided one day that "Famous in a Small Town" by Miranda Lambert would be the song she'd sing in the talent contest for the Blueberry Pageant.

Layla says her home has always been Imlay City and she empathized with Lambrant's small town. During the pageant, she sang along with the lyrics, making Lambert's words her own, projecting before the audience a zeal and fun in doing it.

Everything fell in place that night for Layla. When she drew her question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Layla says the answer was an easy because she has had only one passion since she was three: She loves to draw and becoming an artist is her highest priority.

"She's just a little Picasso," says Melissa.

Layla says it came as quite a shock to her when her name was called as this year's winner, her expressive eyes conveying her amazement.

"It hasn't sunk in yet that she won," Justin, Layla's dad, grins.

Emily Lowe, Little Miss Blueberry winner of 2008, was there to give her hug of support to Layla.

Walking down the aisle, taking her first steps as Little Miss Blueberry to Joey Scarbury's song, "Believe it or not - Look at what's happened to me" Layla's expression said she was having a hard time believing she won.

"We are just over the moon," says Melissa. "Layla is so excited, and keeps saying 'I can't believe I won!' We are so pumped."

Sunday morning Layla awoke and the first thing she said was, "I did it. I won all the way."

"It was the best experience of my life," says Melissa, "I couldn't be more proud. Layla's a great kid, she's got such a great personality and is just a good kid. I'm glad we're doing all the stuff I wish I could have done. We're going to have fun."

Last year Layla didn't win at all, but even then her morale was upbeat, Melissa says. She asked her family afterwards, "Who wishes I would have won?"

Melissa says that Layla felt good about participating because Pageant Organizer Lorraine Filer and her staff stressed so much about all being winners.

"I'm really impressed. Lorraine does a good job. It's really cool what they do," Melissa says.

An all-American girl, Layla is on the girls' softball team in Imlay City and Melissa is the coach. Layla loves to ride her bike and has been in dance classes since she was three years old. She's a current student at Amber's Dance School in Almont. Right now, the most pressing date on Layla's calendar is the family's trip to North Carolina this summer.

Along with parents Justin and Melissa, Layla's family includes 12-year-old brother, Justin II, Grandma Toni Ostrander, and cousins Hannah Ostrander and Justin Wade from Armada.

Complementing the Little Miss Blueberry Court are first runner-up Claire Thibodeau, age 9, daughter of Wayne and Kris Thibodeau; second runner-up Aylana Boston, 5, daughter of Bryon and Kara Khan Boston; and third runner-up Cecila Bonfiglio, 9, daughter of Henry and Tracey Bonfiglio.

Every competitor was a winner at the pageant, a hero in the audience's eyes. Their new fans clapped and cheered as they watched each contestant perform their best before family members, friends and strangers.

The 21 contestants received a trophy, gift bag, with a little tiara and certificate commemorating "The Hero in All of Us."

"My daughter came up with the theme," Filer notes.

Though many families and businesses struggle economically, support for the pageant was wholeheartedly overwhelming.

"In this year's economy we are pretty lucky to get what we've got, and we got it with the help of the community." says Filer "It's a rough year and it's hard on these businesses and we appreciate every big thing they give us."

Filer is quick to note that community involvement is the key to a successful pageant.

"Everything has helped, including with the girls, their mothers and fathers, especially the parents who make sure the girls are on time and picked up on time," Filer says. "Five days they have to do that and the sixth day is the pageant."

Bouquets of flowers were handed out to the young girls who helped and emcee Kim Jorgensen, with a special thank-you extended to Jorgensen and Imlay City Varsity Cheerleaders Rebecca Bell, Jordan Kowaleski, Brenna Lyscas, Sheryl Penzien, Jessica Soroka and Shelby Zegler, for the choreography of the dance routines.

Co-emcee Mike Powers received a mug as a thank you for his participation.

A special thank you went to those friends, family members and businesses for their continued support: Cheri Patch, April Prothero, Trina Sherman, and MeLisa, Danny, Doug, and little Darren Filer, along with Delores Heim, Yvonne Wilson, Mary Martinez, Julie Salsido and many more who worked to make the pageant a success.

Filer's heartfelt praises for a successful competition went to the contestants, who she says are without a doubt "all winners."

"They are all adorable and special little girls," Filer says. "They all deserve to be Little Miss Blueberry."

Little Miss Blueberry contestants will be at the Blueberry Festival on stage on Friday, July 31 and in the Blueberry Parade at 6 p.m. on Sat., Aug. 1.

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