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More tea, Miss Kitsap?

Miss Kitsap Megan Hornbuckle (far left) and Miss Poulsbo Alex Duchemin (far right) pose with Little Sisters Autumn Johnson, 10, (left) and Molly Lemmon, 9, (right) at the Sons of Norway lodge Sunday. - Photo by Jennifer Morris
Miss Kitsap Megan Hornbuckle (far left) and Miss Poulsbo Alex Duchemin (far right) pose with Little Sisters Autumn Johnson, 10, (left) and Molly Lemmon, 9, (right) at the Sons of Norway lodge Sunday.
— image credit: Photo by Jennifer Morris

Thirteen third-graders saw stars in their eyes Sunday at the ninth annual Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap Little Sister Tea Party.

Filling the Sons of Norway lodge with shimmering dresses and beaming smiles, each awaited the chance to be paired with one of this year’s Miss Poulsbo and Miss Kitsap contestants.

The chance, for them, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It’s the most special event that we do all year,” said pageant organizer Michelle Wasson. “It’s just a really nice way of women power.”

Wasson said instead of festering jealousy, pageants can be a time for girls to embrace one another’s gifts and abilities as each works toward becoming their own best person. And to incorporate Little Sisters along the way is a definite added bonus.

“It’s really a great way of paying it forward,” she said. “The fun thing about this program is how much the little girls look up to the contestants.”

And while contestants are mentored by members of the pageant committee and community, they in turn mentor their Little Sisters.

“That’s what this whole program is about, to embrace one another,” she said.

Next year will be especially meaningful, as the first class of Little Sisters will be old enough to compete for Miss Kitsap or Miss Poulsbo.

This year, six young women will vie for the Miss Poulsbo title, seven for Miss Kitsap.

Kitsap County third-graders can apply online to be a Little Sister. Sisters are matched by compatibility and location, Wasson said.

Little Sisters rehearse and perform their own production number at the spring pageant, and are then crowned by their Big Sisters on stage. All Little Sisters march in Poulsbo’s Viking Fest parade together in May, and the Little Sisters of the Miss Poulsbo and Miss Kitsap winners make appearances with their mentors throughout the year.

Wasson said while the pairings between contestants and their Little Sisters sometimes only last through the pageant season, they sometimes lead to life-long friendships.

Miss Poulsbo Alex Duchemin’s Little Sister, Molly Lemmon, 9, said she’s learned a lot in her year tagging along with Little Norway’s royal ambassador, including to “always keep your mind on what you want to do.”

The Vinland Elementary School student said she plans on being in the Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap runnings when she’s old enough, and she’s already had a taste of what pageant life is like.

“You get to wave in all the parades,” she said. “It’s been really fun.”

The year has been just as fun for Duchemin, who said she bonded with Lemmon and her entire family.

“Molly is one of my dearest friends,” Duchemin said.

So much so, in fact, she asked Lemmon to be in her wedding party when she’s married this summer. The two bonded over their similar likes and hobbies, including walking their pets and going out for ice cream.

Little Sister Moriah Graziana, an Orchard Heights Elementary School third-grader, was paired with Miss Kitsap contestant Carli Schmitz. For Graziana, meeting Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap contestants is why she wants to be a part of the pageant process.

“I think it would be interesting because you get to meet a lot of new people,” the 9-year-old said.

Miss Poulsbo contestant Karina Hoogstede, a North Kitsap High School senior, said she’s learned much from her experiences in the pageant program so far, but she’s also gleaned valuable knowledge from another public figure: Sen. Barack Obama.

Hoogstede saw the Democratic party presidential hopeful speak in Seattle last week, and said she was impressed with his presence and ability to combine the mind and the heart.

“I think I can integrate a lot of his charisma into my running,” she said. “He had such poise, and he was so comfortable, too.”

Hoogstede, a self-proclaimed former “tomboy,” said being a part of the Miss Poulsbo pageant has taught her “more about showing a composed image.” She said having a Little Sister is going to be a unique opportunity to nurture another’s passions and hobbies.

“It’s your chance to really affect someone else’s life,” she said.

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