Connor McInness and Lexi Earl were crowned as the 2023 Mr. and Miss Amazing after an annual pageant at the Tooele High school auditorium on Friday night.
The Mr. and Miss Super Amazing Pageant began in 2010 after one of Rebecca Ford’s — a special education teacher at Tooele High School — students wanted to participate in the homecoming pageant.
After the idea was presented, one of Ford’s peer tutors had the idea to put on their own pageant for those with disabilities.
Each year now, Ford and her paraeducators and volunteers put on the special pageant for those with special needs ages 14-22. 2023 was the 11th pageant.
Initially, Ford spoke with the principal of Tooele High, who allowed the group to put on a pageant right before spring break. The pageant’s original name was the “Amazing Pageant”.
“We did our own little pageant and there were maybe 10 kids in it,” Ford said. “There were maybe only 40 people in the audience, and we charged a can of food to get in. It was so tiny.”
Even though the first year’s pageant was small, Ford was determined to continue.
“I thought that this was a great concept that we could build on,” she said.
The next year, Ford opened the pageant up to students with special needs ages 14-22 from all over the district, not just Tooele High School.
That same year, the pageant was renamed the “Mr. and Miss Super Amazing Pageant.”
“I’ve always thought people with disabilities are amazing,” Ford said. “I think the name kind of stuck, because there wasn’t anything like it at the time. There’s nothing like this for boys and girls together now. We wanted to focus on abilities, not disabilities.”
During the years, the pageant grew more than expected. This year, more than 1,000 people showed up and 15 contestants competed.
“It literally blows my mind that this is as big as it is now,” Ford said. “It is way bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. It is bigger than us.”
Students with special needs love to participate in the pageant.
“It instills confidence in them,” Ford said. “People with disabilities are used to being there but never being the ones in the spotlight. This pageant means so much to them … They are all so unique and amazing in their own way.”
Admission to the pageant was $10. The proceeds will help cover future pageant costs and provide funding for students in the special needs program to participate in prom, sports programs, festivals, field trips, and community experiences, according to Ford.
This year’s pageant started with a welcome message from Ford.
“This is literally the best day of the whole year,” she said.
The National Anthem was sung by Liam Roche and the flag was presented by Boy Scout Troop 1109.
After the National Anthem, Ford introduced the judges who included several prominent figures: Utah Governor Spencer Cox; Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn; Lindsey Larsen, Miss Utah 2022 and Sarah Cronk, an advocate for people with disabilities.
After introductions, it was time for the pageant to begin. Each of the 15 contestants took to the stage in their “famous wear”, dressed up as their favorite public figure, tv character, or celebrity, and each took a turn answering a question.
Contestants dressed up as a Tooele High School football player, Taylor Swift, a barbarian, Bowser from Mario Kart, Gabrella from High School Musical, and Tom Cruise.
Questions included, Who is someone you look up to and why, what is your dream job, what is your favorite food, and what are you thankful for?
Next was the talent showcase where contestants entertained the audience with their unique skills.
Skills included basketball, woodwork, singing, piano playing, magic tricks, and riding a bike.
During intermission, a silent auction was held.
After intermission, contestants returned to the stage to show off their formal wear while Ford read their bios, which highlighted their skills and talents, and special abilities.
While contestants were getting ready for crowning, the Tooele High School Drill Team performed a hip-hop number.
Then, Mr. and Miss Amazing 2022, Sean Peatia and Lisa Stuart took to the stage one last time as pageant winners before passing on their crowns to this year’s Mr. and Miss Amazing.
After judges’ scores for the event were tallied, contestants lined up on stage as they were given awards.
Each contestant received an award.
Kelden Hermel won Mr. Congeniality and Ashlynn Schalk won Miss congeniality.
Fourth attendant for the gentleman was given to Isaiha Peay, third attendant was given to Brock Lawrence, second attendant went to Ezra Christensen, and first attendant went to Colbey Garrard.
For the ladies, third attendant was given to Makala Lewis, second attendant was presented to Elizabeth Jensen, and first attendant was given to Kenidee Benton.
Justin Reich was given the duke award and Sabine Stokes was given the duchess award.
Ryan Higgins was presented as the prince of the evening and Heather Thomas was the princess.
Finally, Conner McInnes and Lexi Earl were presented as Mr. and Miss Amazing, ending the evening.
During the famous wear and on-stage question portion of the evening, McInnes dressed up as Zach MacMath, a Real Salt Lake player.
He was asked, “Who is your favorite teacher and why?” He told the audience his favorite teacher was Mrs. Ford, because she is funny, nice, gives great hugs, and makes him laugh.
During the talent portion of the evening, McInnes took to the stage to host the “Conner and Cocoa show” with his dog, who was terrible at doing tricks but made audience members laugh.
McInnes is 16-years-old and a sophomore at Tooele High School.
“He loves school and enjoys learning,” Ford said. “He is extremely great at math and Conner has an amazing memory.”
He loves watching sports and attending Real Salt Lake games in person. He also enjoys playing on his I-Pad, traveling with his family, playing with his twin brother, and visiting his grandma.
McInnes cheers on his peers in whatever they are doing, according to Ford.
Conner enjoys making friends and making others laugh.
Earl dressed up as Betty from the Flintstones as part of the famous wear competition. She was asked what her favorite drink is, to which she answered, “Dr. Pepper”.
For her talent performance, Lexi rode around the stage in a red bike to “Ridin’” by Chamillonaire.
Earl is 15-years-old and a freshman at Tooele High School.
She loves Dr. Pepper, her family, long walks on the beach, algebra, politics, intermittent fasting, engineering, and her dogs, according to Ford.
She also loves riding in the car with her grandparents but hates stoplights.
“The most special thing about Lexi is her ability to light up a room and influence those around her,” Ford said.
Ford wants to thank community members for attending the event, the program’s sponsors, her paraeducators; Mama Coster, Chelby Garcia, Tammy Bulloch, and Denise Cummins, peer tutors who helped escort the contestants, and her high school friend, Brett Bevan who inspired her to work with people with disabilities.
Ford has been a special education teacher for over 16 years.