Springfield hoping to benefit from hosting pageant

Springfield will host the Miss Ohio USA and Miss Teen Ohio USA pageants starting Friday, bringing as much as $500,000 in economic benefits to Clark County.

The state pageant has spent 15 years in Portsmouth, but was looking for a new home this year due to a scheduling conflict, said Melissa Pitchford, executive director with Proctor Productions, LLC, the firm organizing the event. It was also beginning to outgrow the space and accommodations available, she added.

Springfield had been trying to find ways to bring the event here, and kept in touch once pageant officials said they planned to take a look at other cities, said Chris Schutte, director of Visit Greater Springfield.

The pageant brings more than 120 contestants, and often their families and friends, to Springfield, providing a boost in revenue to area hotels, restaurants and other attractions in the region.

“In general, the impact for an event like this is felt throughout the community,” Schutte said. “It’s the exact reason we go out and try to get these events.”

Most contestants and their families are staying at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Springfield or at the Hampton Inn Springfield, 101 W. Leffel Lane. The event will fill as much as 75 percent of available rooms at the Hampton Inn throughout the weekend, said General Manager Connie Smith.

“It’s going to fill us up,” she said. “It’s definitely going to help us out, especially for November, because November most hotels in Springfield really start to slow down because it’s getting toward the holidays.”

It also gives hotel staff a chance to direct guests to local restaurants, as well as area museums and other attractions, Smith said.

“If it isn’t for the local hotels, people would never know about things like the Hartman Rock Garden,” Smith said. “We love to promote stuff like that and we love to promote anything that’s local.”

Contestants started arriving Thursday night for the event. Preliminary events take place Friday evening and the finale is Saturday evening, Pitchford said. Contestants won’t have free time to see the city, she added, but their families will have plenty of downtime to visit area restaurants and attractions.

Visit Greater Springfield, the new name for the city’s visitor’s bureau, has focused more attention on attracting similar events to the city in recent years, Schutte said. Having venues like the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center and the Clark State Performing Arts Center downtown allows it to market the area as a convention district, he added.

A convention district committee is also looking at what steps the region needs to take to attract more and better events, Schutte said.

“That’s kind of our next logical step, to see how can we grow it,” he said. “We know it’s important, we know it has a great amount of impact.”

Next weekend, The Ohio State Youth Convention will bring another 1,000 visitors to the city. To attract bigger events, the area will likely need to attract more hotel development, Schutte said.

“We can be that stepping stone market for a lot of other events and meetings and conventions that may not need or want the size and expense of Columbus,” Schutte said. “We’re affordable, we’re incredibly easy to access.”

The pageant is a big production that requires hours of rehearsals from the contestants, said Sarah Newkirk, the reigning Miss Ohio. She competed in the event five times before finally winning last year.

“What I noticed and what kept me coming back is it built a lot of confidence and I gained a lot of speaking and interview skills,” she said of the event.

The pageants were previously a joint venture between Donald Trump and NBC Universal, but were recently taken over by WME/IMG.

The winner of this weekend’s event will compete in the Miss USA Pageant.

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