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Miss Black Diamond Days Pageant

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Seven local girls will vie for the title of Miss Black Diamond Days during the annual Miss Black Diamond Days Pageant at 6 p.m., Friday, June 3, in the Gillespie Civic Center.

In addition, 10 younger girls will compete for the first-ever Junior Miss Black Diamond Days title, according to pageant director Sonja Levie.  The pageant coincides with the start of the three-day Black Diamond Days street festival in downtown Gillespie. The annual event features food, entertainment, contests and carnival rides.

Candidates for Miss Black Diamond Days include Bailey Loveless, daughter of Kenneth and Patti Loveless of Henderson; Kylie Frensko, daughter of Brian and Gina Frensko of Benld; Kaci Petri, daughter of Sherry Petri of Benld; Brooklyne Ruckman, daughter of Darrel and Jaime Ruckman of Mount Clare; April Ewin, daughter of Gary and Cindy Ewin of Gillespie; Shelby Watson, granddaughter of Larry and Donna Watson, and daughter of Vicki Watson of Gillespie; and Mikayla Tarro, daughter of Dennis Tarro and Yvonne Pinkerton of Gillespie.

Bailey Loveless and GHS Senior April Ewin are returning to the pageant after participating in last year’s pageant during which Sarah Heyen, then a junior, was named Miss Black Diamond Days 2010.  The pageant winner will serve as the official hostess for Black Diamond Days, appearing in the parade on Sunday and participating in numerous other events during the weekend.  Heyen, the outgoing Miss Black Diamond Days, will crown the new queen at the conclusion of the pageant.

During the pageant, three out-of-town judges will award points on the basis of a private interview, stage introduction, an appearance in evening gown, an appearance in swimsuit and the candidates’ on-stage response to a randomly selected question.

Though not a requirement, the new queen will be encouraged to represent Black Diamond Days in the Macoupin County Fair Queen pageant in July.  “Julie Fischer and Kristen York (pageant directors) do an amazing job at the county level,” Levie said. “Whether they win or not in the Miss Black Diamond Days pageant, I encourage all my girls to go on to the county.”

Throughout the year, the new Miss Black Diamond Days will represent the City of Gillespie at other beauty pageants in the area, and at numerous area festivals and events.  “She attends almost every local parade, whether it is Mount Olive, Dorchester or Carlinville,” Levie noted.  Miss Black Diamond Days also is a presence for the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce”s Fall Festival, Tour de Coal and Snack with Santa.  She also appears in the Gillespie High School Homecoming parade and makes an appearance during the coronation ceremonies for the Homecoming Queen and King.

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Judges will choose a new queen, a first and second runner-up, and “most photogenic” designee.  The candidates themselves will pick Miss Congeniality.  A new feature of the pageant this year will be a People’s Choice award.  Audience members can vote for their favorite candidates by depositing money in boxes designated for each of the candidates.  The girl who has collected the most money will be named the People”s Choice award winner.

Money collected for the People”s Choice award will be split between the new queen and the People”s Choice winner.  The new Miss Black Diamond Days, first runner-up, Miss Congeniality and Most Photogenic will each receive small cash awards.   Levie is excited about the introduction of the first-ever Junior Miss Black Diamond Days pageant this year. Ten local girls, ranging in age from 12 to 14 will participate.

Junior Miss candidates are: Candace Conlee, daughter of Darlene Conlee of Benld; Kennedi Whitworth, daughter of Scott and Shelly Whitworth of Gillespie; Reese Marshall, daughter of Suzie and Joe Marshall of Benld; Kirsten Sherman, daughter of Leslie and Todd Sherman of Gillespie; Kaitlyn Henrichs, daughter of Eric and Gina Henrichs of Dorochester; Emily Harszy, daughter of Joe and Diana Harszy of Plainview; Erika Mabus, daughter of Richard and Annette Clark of Dorchester, and the late Chris Mabus of Carlinville; Samantha Vail, daughter of Barbara Kirkwood and John Vail of Wilsonville; Abigail Munos, daughter of Jason Boehmke and Amee Munos of Gillespie; and Baily Hendricks, daughter of Kent and Allison Hendricks of Gillespie.

Junior Miss candidates also will be judged on the basis of a personal interview and their response to a randomly selected question on stage. They also will appear in sportswear and in partywear.

For both groups of candidates, the pageant experience helps to instill a greater sense of self confidence, Levie noted.
“What I try to teach the girls in the eight weeks I”m working with them is how to walk, how to talk and how to project self confidence,” she said. “It’s a huge self esteem booster.”

When she first started working with the Junior Miss candidates, some of them were too shy to speak, she said.  “I had some that wouldn’t smile; I had some that looked at the floor if you talked to them,” she said. “Now, they stand up with their heads held high. Their self-esteem has done a 180 degree turnaround.”

A major part of the experience for Junior Miss candidates is learning how to write a resume.  For younger girls in sixth, seventh or eighth grade, the resume may include school activities, church activities and so on.  Levie said she plans to keep those resumes on file so they will be available six years from now when some of the younger girls return to run for Miss Black Diamond Days.  “I’ll be able to pull out their resume and say, “Look how far you’ve come”,” Levie commented.

For both Miss Black Diamond Days and Junior Miss candidates, the experience teaches “life skills they will use the rest of their lives,” Levie said.   “We help them on how to prepare for a job interview,” she said. “We teach them to think on their feet, which is something you have to do the rest of your life.”

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The pageant also will feature appearances by visiting queens from surrounding communities, and past Miss Black Diamond Days winners.

-Written and Contributed by David Ambrose

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Court News

Macoupin County Courthouse News

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Cases filed during July 7 through July 13. Visit the “Court News” category under the “Community News” tab for other editions.

FELONIES

Timothy D. Conlee, 29 of Gillespie, is charged with aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, driving on a suspended license, and reckless driving in connection with a July 6 incident.

Dylan J. Arview, 25 of Benld, is charged with driving under the influence while license revoked or suspending, DUI, driving on a suspended license and driving 15-20 mph above the limit in connection with a July 5 incident.

Bobby L. Walker, 35 of Sorento, is charged with driving revoked/suspended with a DUI, driving on revoked license, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, displayed registration plate, and expired registration in connection with a June 27 incident.

Dustin W. Gooch, 34 of Beecher City, is charged with aggravated fleeing/bodily injury, unlawful display of a title, improper use of registration/title, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and registration light in connection with a June 17 incident.

MISDEMEANORS

Jordan A. Black, 24 of Gillespie, is charged with battery/causing bodily harm in connection with a July 8 incident.

Dustin R. Stieglitz, 37 of Shipman, is charged with aggravated assault/use of a deadly weapon in connection to a June 29 incident.

Steven A. Kroll, 33 of Eagarville, is charged with resisting a peace officer, fire fighter, or corrections employee in connection with a June 26 incident.

TRAFFIC

David B. Brown, 58 of Virden, is charged with cancelled/revoked/suspended registration in connection with a July 3 incident.

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Jennifer L. Roberts, 47 of Worden, is charged with driving on a suspended license and operating an uninsured motor vehicle in connection with July 5 incident.

Andrew L. Connoyer, 31 of Bethalto, is charged with improper use of registration, driving 15-20 mph above the limit, and no valid registration in connection with July 7 incident.

Megan E. Bertoldi, 37 of Gillespie, is charged with leaving the scene in connection with July 11 incident.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE FILED

  • Tasha McQuay versus David McQuay

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Community News

School board disciplines staff member; hires AD and Student Services Coordinator

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In a relatively brief meeting Monday night, the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education approved a “resolution of remedial warning” against an unidentified district teacher, and hired a new Student Services Coordinator and Athletic Director.

The actions followed an 80-minute executive session during which board members presumably primarily discussed personnel issues. The regular monthly meeting of the board was moved up by one week to fill key positions, such as the Athletic Director and Student Services Coordinator, prior to the start of the school year next month. The district was taken by surprise when former Student Services Coordinator Stephanie Bray and Athletic Director Mike Bertagnolli both announced their retirements within days of each other.

Supt. Shane Owsley said the resolution of remedial warning is a disciplinary action representing “a second strike, so to speak.” Neither the teacher or the nature of the infraction was disclosed in open session.

In other action, the board, voted unanimously to hire Shelsie Timmermeier as the district’s Student Services Coordinator for the 2024-25 school year, stepping into the vacancy created by Bray’s retirement, pending confirmation of certification and a background check. In a separate action, the board also appointed Timmermeier as an assistant high school women’s volleyball coach.

Jeremy Smith was hired, also by a unanimous vote, as the district’s Athletic Director for the 2024-25 school year. In a related matter, Smith’s resignation as middle school head baseball coach was accepted. Additionally, the board posted the coaching position as vacant for the coming school year.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Dennis Tiburzi, the board hired Alex Jasper as a high school social science teacher for the coming school year. The board also voted unanimously to hire Tate Wargo as a first-year, non-tenured physical education instructor, pending confirmation of certification. Both positions were vacated as a result of the sudden resignation of Dalton Barnes in April as head football coach, physical education teacher and social science teacher. 

In related matters, the board also hired Wargo Monday night as an eighth grade boy’s basketball coach, and accepted Jasper’s resignation as a district paraprofessional and posted the position as vacant.

In other personnel action, the board:

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  • Hired Amanda Ewin as a one-on-one aide.
  • Hired Anthony Kravanya as a freshman men’s basketball coach.
  • Appointed Melissa Heigert as a volunteer assistant high school softball coach.

In other action, the board gave routine approval to a list of policies provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. 

Supt. Owsley also provided a brief update on the progress being made on safety projects expected to be completed before the start of the school year, including installation of a new intercom system, a card-reader entry system and shatter-proof protective film on exterior windows.

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Community News

Gillespie Library, United Community Bank to host Fraud and Scam Prevention seminar on July 22

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Gillespie Public Library (Photo by Gillespie Public Library)

Friends of the Gillespie Public Library and United Community Bank are hosting a joint “Fraud and Scam Prevention” seminar at on Monday, July 22 starting at 6 p.m. at the Gillespie Public Library.

The seminar will focus on today’s common scams and frauds, which includes imposter and check scams, money mule fraud and those that target seniors. Presenters will be Jenni Alepra of Gillespie UCB and Kennen Bertolis of Carlinville UCB.

The seminar is open to the public and is free of charge. For additional questions, call the Gillespie Public Library at 217-839-3614.

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