Director tells Gunnison Council the Miss Gunnison Valley Pageant is struggling
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—The director of the Miss Gunnison Valley Pageant told the Gunnison City Council that, without help, the half-century old pageant would likely have to end.
On Wednesday, June 17, Kara Jensen visited the council meeting to implore the city for much-needed financial support.
According to Jensen, there will be no pageant this year, due to the public health restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it might not happen next year either due to difficulties raising funds to run the pageant.
Jensen said the donations from businesses are on the decline, and the pandemic has made it even worse. She asked the council if they would consider increasing their annual donation to the pageant to keep the tradition going.
“Everything helps, but I don’t feel like donating to Miss Gunnison is a top priority in the valley anymore,” Jensen told the council. “I would like to change that. Make it bigger, more fun, get more girls in. It’s such a great thing for the girls; they learn so many skills. We try and teach them as much as we can in the few months we have.”
According to Jensen, before she took over directing the pageant years ago, there was an account that always had plenty of money available to run the pageant and pay the scholarships for the royalty, but the funds had been mishandled. Although some of the money had been repaid, Jensen said they basically had to start fundraising from the ground up and things never got back to where they once were.
“Every year I go out and personally try to get donations from the local businesses, but everyone is struggling right now,” Jensen said. “Other cities give their pageant and budget and they work with that. I have even put a lot of my own money into the pageant. Right now, if it weren’t for the fundraising by me and other members of the committee, Miss Gunnison wouldn’t happen.”
Jensen said funds were so tight the pageant still has yet to pay the scholarship for last year’s queen.
The approximate cost to run the pageant each year is about $3,000, Jensen told the council. That money pays for the winners’ scholarships, pictures, decorations, a group luncheon and other things.
Jensen says Gunnison City and Centerfield both donate $500 to the pageant annually, and Mayfield donates $100, but said that amount needs to go up to keep the pageant going.
Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay asked if Jensen had tried raising donations from the Lion’s Club and Jaycees. Jensen replied they had declined in the past, and so she had not asked again.
“I have been in your shoes before,” said Nay. “I was the pageant director for five years and I know the struggle. We only have a small budget for donations, but Miss Gunnison is an important part of the valley.”
Councilman Rodney Taylor said, “A lot of the girls who participate in this go on to really bless the community. The scholarship helps them go to school, they come back afterwards and really make contributions to these towns.”
Nay and the council agreed to consider raising the city’s donation, and would discuss the matter in the upcoming budget hearing.
“I am going to do my job and go to all the cities to ask the same thing,” Jensen said. “I was supposed to retire from Miss Gunnison already but I haven’t. I love my girls and the relationship I have with them. My biggest goal is for these girls to walk out of the pageant friends, even if they weren’t friends before, and be united.”