PINEHURST – Polly King caught competition fever as a “pageant mom” for her two daughters and then as a volunteer with local competitions.
In June 2015, this quietly modest FirstHealth of the Carolinas social worker took her pageant fever a giant step farther by winning the Ms. Senior N.C. Pageant when she was just four months past beyond the qualifying age of 60.
The state achievement earned her a trip to the bright lights of Atlantic City for the Ms. Senior America Pageant late last month. She didn’t win, but she had the time of her life.
“Being treated like a celebrity for five days was quite the experience,” King says.
The past few months have been a whirlwind for King, a Foxfire resident. The decision to enter the state pageant meant combing yard sales and clearance racks – yes, yard sales and clearance racks – for an evening gown, deciding on what to do for the talent preliminary and otherwise preparing for the June 6 event while tending a household that includes her husband of 33 years, Art, and holding down her fulltime job in the cancer care program at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
“It was my goal to do well and be prepared for anything,” she says, “and there I was, the winner.”
The four months between the state pageant in Owens Auditorium on the Sandhills Community College campus and the national competition in Atlantic City’s Resort Casino Hotel meant more serious gown shopping; professional help with “Goody, Goody,” the sassy 1936 Johnny Mercer tune that she had performed for the state pageant; and preparing a 35-second “philosophy of life” statement.
Throughout all the preparation and the three nights of national competition Oct. 20-22, her mentor and friend was Pinehurst resident Beverly Wetherbie. Herself the 2005 Ms. Senior Virginia, Wetherbie is the current co-director of the North Carolina pageant.
Her advice to King was simple and direct: “Be yourself” and “remember why you’re here (in Atlantic City).”
“You’re here for Senior America,” she said.
Although she didn’t bring home the crown or any awards, King had a great time. She even had her own pageant-experienced North Carolina cheering section in daughters Julia (now a speech pathologist) and Leah (a fashion merchandiser and the 2011 Miss Greater Sandhills) and several members of the N.C. Cameo Club (an organization of former state pageant titleholders).
Also attending were Wetherbie and Judy Kelly, another “very supportive” co-director of the N.C. Senior America Pageant. A third co-director, Sarah Daffron, couldn’t make it.
“I had an amazing experience at the national pageant,” King says. “I met so many beautiful and talented women that I hope to see again. It was like going to camp for a week, making new friends, and sadly having to say goodbye.”
A Tennessee native, King earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and has been with FirstHealth of the Carolinas for 15 years.
The 2016 Ms. North Carolina Senior America Pageant will be held Saturday, April 16, at Sandhills Community College’s Owens Auditorium. For more information, contact co-director Beverly Wetherbie or 603-5514 or visit www.ncsenioramerica.com.
Polly King’s image from the Ms. Senior America website
A beaming Polly King was crowned Ms. Senior North Carolina in Pinehurst on June 6. She took part in the Ms. Senior America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in late October.