Annual Parade of Favorites competition crowns winner, courts tradition and progress
Junior studio art and intercultural studies major Lydia Thompson was crowned 2017 Ms. Parade of Favorites for the Lee University tradition’s 55th year.
“Honestly, it is kind of weird,” Thompson said. “It was a shock to me and is super humbling because everyone that was in it was incredible. They were all so talented and so kind.”
Thompson, who represented Cleveland Against Sex Trafficking, said her dedication to the club was her motivation for taking part in Parade of Favorites.
“There are a lot of people who are passionate about the issue, but they don’t know we already have something on campus directly focused on that,” Thompson said. “I want people to know even if they don’t have the time to commit to join another club, we do have something on this campus that’s bringing awareness to sex trafficking.”
Director of the event and senior communications major Cierra Motes seconded the ideal of Parade of Favorites as more than a shallow competition.
“Parade of Favorites is a tradition,” Motes said. “The setup is a pageant, but there’s a selected charity each year the group works with throughout the process, and there’s a financial donation given to them.”
The charity this year was the Andor Project which is a non-profit Boys and Girls Club affiliate that empowers young men through teaching practical skills and leadership.
As well as supporting local organizations, Motes said Parade of Favorites is unique because it is the only student-led event on campus.
As director, Motes chose “Illuminate” as this year’s theme to create a more interesting production.
“Having the theme of Illuminate has allowed us to do more dynamic things with the event,” Motes said. “Rather than just having a theme that provides us with props on stage, we are able to use lights and music and movements throughout the show to reflect the theme.”
While Parade of Favorites is commonly viewed as merely a pageant, sophomore psychology and public relations major Chmira Gilliam said POF is much more.
“The message of POF goes deeper than being crowned Ms. Parade of Favorites. It’s the behind-the-scenes stuff, like service, that truly matters when it comes to this event,” Gilliam said. “In an involuntary way, it gives students somebody to look up to.”
While praising the basis of POF, Gilliam did challenge the diversity of club representation in the event.
“I don't think it was really balanced,” Gilliam said. “We have a lot of Greek clubs on campus and all of those were represented, but there are many other clubs on campus that were not.”
Thompson, whose club is fairly small in size, said the program is slowly welcoming auxiliary clubs.
“As we are getting more small clubs involved, I think it's becoming more balanced,” Thompson said. “From what I understand, it used to be majority Greek life.”
Thompson said heavy student involvement creates an environment that fosters new relationships between classmates.
“Lee does a good job of trying to push the idea that we should all be unified, and Parade of Favorites really puts that in action,” Thompson said. “It was a lot of work, but the relationships that we built with each other made it worth it.”
While holding to tradition, Parade of Favorites continues to change year by year with new clubs and representatives. It will take place again next fall.