2014 Miss Huntington is not just another pretty face

Miss Huntington, Alli Harris, opens the Huntington County  Memorial Day service on Monday, May 26, by singing the national anthem.
Miss Huntington, Alli Harris, opens the Huntington County Memorial Day service on Monday, May 26, by singing the national anthem. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Let it not be said that the 2014 Miss Huntington is just another pretty face.

If Alli Harris gets anything across to people from her experience as this year's queen and a candidate in the upcoming Miss Indiana pageant, it's that this beauty queen has more depth to her character and to her mission.

"I am here as a goodwill ambassador to our community, and to brighten the eyes of those in our community and help them know that their dreams can come true," she says.

Harris knows first-hand the frustration of finding her dreams on the rocks. After the 10-year member of the 4-H program was named the 2009 Huntington County 4-H Fair royalty champion, she tried multiple times to win the Miss Huntington pageant.

The last time proved to be her charm, as she was crowned Miss Huntington on March 22. For the talent portion, Harris sang the song, "Almost There" from the movie "The Princess and the Frog." It's the same song she'll sing as she competes for the Miss Indiana crown June 18 to 21 in Zionsville.

"This song is just about perfect for me," Harris says. "The song really takes a character that has a big dream, and she's always wanted to accomplish it, but she's never gotten there yet. She's just always ‘almost' there.

"That was kind of how I was able to describe my participation in the Miss Huntington program, because I had participated for five years, gotten first runner-up twice, and there was a point in time where I almost quit. I almost decided that maybe being Miss Huntington wasn't in the cards for me. But I didn't quit. Even though I was ‘almost there,' I eventually reached my goal."

Harris, a graduate student at Purdue University studying use development agricultural education, is using her platform as Miss Huntington to promote the 4-H program. She has already earned a Bachelor of Arts in social studies. She will also focus on the Miss America organization national platform advocating for the Children's Miracle Network.

During a send-off celebration on Sunday, June 8, Harris will collect toys and items for Riley Children's Hospital, one of the hospitals in the Children's Miracle Network. The public is invited to the event, which will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Café of Hope conference room, located at Life Church, 900 E. State St., Huntington.

She asks that visitors bring brand-new items with them to the send-off to donate to Riley. A list of needed items can be found online at http://iuhealth. org/riley/for-patients-and-families/child-life/donations-to-riley/wish-list/.

There will be snacks and drinks provided at the open house, and Harris will pose for photos, sign autograph pictures, unveil the wardrobe she will wear in the Miss Indiana pageant and hold other family-friendly fun events.

"The little ones can try on my crown, they can have a picture with me, anything they'd like," she says. "I figure that around 3 p.m. I'll be able to take some time and read some books that are some of my favorites growing up about princesses and things like that."

The Miss Indiana pageant involves five segments: an interview, swimsuit competition, talent, evening wear and an impromptu question. Harris will arrive in Zionsville on June 15 to prepare ahead. Her strategy for the contest is focused on what she calls "swimsuit preparation," involving a strict, healthy diet and intense exercise.

"It's really exciting because I hope to be able to continue this diet way past Miss Indiana and just make it a life changer," she says. "I'm limiting my carbs and unhealthy, greasy foods. And I'm working out at least once a day, sometimes twice a day, whether it's cardio or a combination of that and lifting weights."

She's also keeping her eyes and ears attuned to the events of the day, in preparation for the impromptu question portion of the pageant. If asked whether she advocates for world peace, she plans to know the reasons for her answer.

"I make sure I watch the news every day to know what's going on in the word I'm living in, and try to develop a solid opinion about it that represents me," she explains. "And be able to, I guess you could say, create a conversation with the judges during my interview that presents myself as a polished young lady.

"In doing that, I do a lot of studying, I do a lot of ‘me' time, to be able to find out exactly what I think and be able to share that with the judges in the nicest way and most presentable way possible."

The winner of the Miss Indiana pageant will receive $8,000 in scholarships plus other prizes. More information about the Miss Indiana pageant is available at www.missindi anapageant.com/.