Sarah Grace Rains channeled her inner Hank Williams Jr. when asked why she likes competing in pageants.
“It’s a family tradition,” said Grace. “It’s a bonding experience for us.”
Grace was crowed Fairest of the Fair on Monday night at Grandstand Arena, emerging from a field of 45 contestants to claim the title. She follows in the footsteps of her mother, Tonya Cantrell Rains, who won Fairest of the Fair in 1995.
Wearing a white dress and dazzling the judges with her wide smile, Grace navigated the stage, and the microphone, with ease. When asked what she would wear if she could only wear one outfit for the rest of her life, she answered shorts and a T-shirt because she enjoys playing sports.
Grace was a two-sport standout at WCHS, playing basketball and softball. But running isn’t her source for fitness.
“I hate running,” she said. “It gets you too tired.”
She has been competing in pageants since age 4 and is a former winner of Little Fairest of the Fair. She estimates she’s won pageants “five or six times.”
Mother Tonya summed up the emotions of many parents when asked how she felt about Grace winning.
“I’m still nervous,” she said.
Kalie Mae Elrod finished as first runner-up, followed by Emma Shelton as second runner-up and Celeste Bivens as third runner-up.
Arden Cummins won the title of Miss Congeniality as voted by her peers. Martha Townsend accumulated the most online votes to win the inaugural People’s Choice Award. It cost $1 for each vote with the money donated to charity.
It’s the third mother-daughter combination to win Fairest of the Fair. Mary Lynn Hayes Mayfield won the inaugural Fairest of the Fair pageant in 1957 and was followed by daughter Lori Mayfield Roach in 1981.
Alpha McCoy Rhea won the crown in 1967 and was followed by daughter McKenna Rhea in 2005.
In addition to the court, girls making the Top 10 were Cummins, Carrie Maxwell, Hallie Jo Pennington, Araya Buchanan, Emily Green and Haylee Hutchins.
Rounding out the Top 21 were Gretchen Stuart, Lily Kell, Abigail Ellis, Grace Grissom, Whitney Caldwell, Sadi Higley, Erin Lane, Jasmine Dillon, Kenley Cathcart, Kylie Simerly and Townsend.
As for her pageant career, Grace Rains advances to the Tennessee Fairest of the Fair competition by virtue of her win at the local level. She’s not sure if she will participate in any pageants after that.
Grace is a member of the WCHS class of 2019. She’s currently enrolled at Motlow with plans to attend MTSU after that.