(KUTV) — The Days of ’47 Royalty Pageant has been a Utah tradition for over 80 years, but the number of young women who compete in the pageant has declined drastically in the last few years.
The 2018 pageant drew only 9 contestants — the lowest number ever.
Judy Binns, a former contestant and current pageant director, said she is concerned about the big dip in numbers.
She competed twice in the early 90s, when it was very different.
“When I competed I was contestant number 83, then contestant number 76 the next year,” she said.
Binns said after the 2018 festivities, there will be a meeting to discuss improvements and ways to make the pageant more appealing to today’s young women. Nobody knows for sure why women aren't applying for the competition.
She said some of the changes that should help are posting the application online — it’s always been submitted on paper.
Promoting the pageant more on social media will also have to be a priority, Binns said.
This year, Queen Lauren Bell was very busy posting about her experiences on social media.
Constance Huntsman, the pageant's producer is also with the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, the organization that hosts the pageant.
She said the pageant has no promotional budget, it’s always been word of mouth, with mothers and grandmothers encouraging girls to compete.
Although the pageant draws Mormon women, she said contestants don’t have to be Mormon to take part — it’s a non-denominational event.
Huntsman said the pageant does require — and always will — that young women prove their pioneer heritage. The pageant defines “pioneer” as anyone who was born in the State of Deseret/Utah Territory between July 24, 1847 and May 10, 1868.
“We could have Native American girls," she said. "We have five Native American tribes here in Utah."
Huntsman reviews the applications and chooses the finalists. She acknowledged the contest does not draw a diverse group of contestants, but wanted to remind young women the pageant has come a long way .
The pageant also awards a $3,000 scholarship to the queen and a $2,500 scholarship to each attendant.
“We are looking for modern women that are accomplished, intelligent and forward-moving,” she said.
Binns said she would like to see more diversity in the Days of ’47 Royalty.
"We can truly enrich the lives of more people if we have more diversity in the contestants," she said.