THOMASVILLE -- Miss Thomasville Whitney Cleveland didn't walk away with the title of Miss Georgia 2003, but she didn't leave the competition empty handed, according to her father, Alan Cleveland.

Whitney is spending time this week at Lake Lanier relaxing after a strenuous week of competition in Columbus during the 59th annual pageant. She arrived in Columbus to begin rehearsals Saturday, June 21. Competition began Monday, June 23, and the final night was Saturday. She was allowed to leave Sunday morning.

"Whitney had a wonderful time, made good friends and a lot of bonding took place. All the contestants were very supportive of each other, and that helped her get through the week," her father said.

"Obviously Andrea Bailey was the judges' choice because of her pageant background, and the correct choice. After having worked on her platform of The American Red Cross -- A Symbol of Hope for many years, it's a worthy platform and needs to get more nationwide recognition. We expect big things for her as Miss Georgia or Miss America," he added.

Whitney sang "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" for her talent presentation in her first trip to Miss Georgia. She will continue to promote her platform topic, adoption, after she gives up her Miss Thomasville title.

Her father noted the tremendous amount of mail and gifts Whitney received during the pageant week, saying it kept her spirits up. "We are so appreciative of the support from back home, especially from our church family at Dawson Street Baptist Church," he said.

Once the contestants arrived in Columbus, they were sequestered and not allowed to have contact with anyone other than pageant officials until the first night of on-stage competition. They visited with family and friends for only 15 minutes after each preliminary.

Whitney is also the daughter of Dorcas Cleveland. She has one brother, Jonathan. All are from Thomasville.

"We were very impressed with Whitney in such a competitive year," said Harold Singletary, producer and director of the Miss Thomasville Pageant.

Singletary pointed out the success of two former Miss Teen Georgia America Pageant participants in this year's top 10 at the Miss Georgia Pageant. Miss Albany Kelley Bradshaw was named to the top 10 last year at Miss Teen Georgia and Miss Georgia Agricultural Fairs Angela Varnadoe was a runner-up at last year's teen pageant, also.

The teen pageant is designed to be a stepping stone to the local level of competition in the Miss America system. The event allows contestants to be expressive and gain exposure to the Miss Georgia and Miss America Organizations. Through the Miss America Organization, more than $42 million in scholarships are offered each year.

A Thomasville native was featured prominently in the pageant production. Michael Ruddell was the master of ceremonies and featured vocalist. He has been the featured vocalist for the past three years.

The Thomasville franchise was recognized for its in-kind scholarships and cash awards by the Miss Georgia organization officials.

The franchise placed No. 10 for the cash awarded out of the 46 franchises. The local preliminary awarded $2,900 last August to its contestants.

"We, the board, started revamping our awards structure two years ago, and we wanted to be among the top franchises. Our goal is to increase the cash award by $400 each year. Our long-range goal is for every contestant to receive $100. We want to make it worthwhile for her to compete," said Singletary.

The franchise was named No. 1 in the amount of in-kind scholarships awarded at $28,800.

"We are so lucky to have Thomas University to help. If contestants want to stay here and go to school, they can. When they stay here attend school, give to the community and promote their platform, everyone benefits," Singletary added.

The 51st annual Miss Thomasville Pageant will be held July 19 at the Municipal Auditorium.

"We are looking forward to the Miss Thomasville Pageant on July 19 and wish the new Miss Thomasville all the best," Cleveland said.

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