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No queen to reign in Latrobe this 4th of July

| Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

Latrobe's annual Fourth of July celebration will have the traditional fireworks, food, music and amusement rides at Legion Keener Park and its huge parade throughout the city's downtown, but it won't have a Miss Fourth of July Pageant for the first time since 1970.

The city's Fourth of July Celebration Committee canceled the annual beauty pageant five months ago because no girl had registered and only two said they were interested in competing, said Carol Greenawalt, committee chairwoman. The committee had hoped to attract 10 teenage girls from the Derry Area and Greater Latrobe school districts, or those with a Latrobe mailing address.

The news was disappointing to the first and last winners of the Miss Fourth of July pageant.

"As a past participant, I find that it is a shame that this year's pageant has been cancelled due to lack of interest," said Vivian Moore Ligato, a former Latrobe resident who won the first pageant in 1970.

Greenawalt said that it has been difficult in recent years to get girls to enter the contest. Only seven competed last year and five the previous year, Greenawalt said.

"The girls have other interests and they don't want to commit the time. Their interests are different" than years ago, Greenawalt said.

But Nicole McCleary of Derry, the 2011 winner of the contest, said she believed that there would have been a sufficient number of contestants to compete for the crown, if only the pageant committee had given the girls more time.

"You can't say there's not enough girls who want to do it. I had at least 10 girls who were interested," said McCleary, 19, who graduated The 19-year-old 2011 Derry Area graduate is attending a Pittsburgh beauty academy in hopes of becoming a beautician.

Although some of McCleary's friends may have been interested in competing this year, "the girls did not follow her," Greenawalt said.

The committee had to know there was enough interest in the pageant several months before the event "in order to invest the time and money to have the pageant," Greenawalt said.

A lack of interest was not a problem in 1970, when 24 girls competed in the pageant, including Ligato's sister, Bonita, and some of her friends. Ligato was a 19-year-old student at Edinboro University when she came home for a summer job as playground instructor only to find her mother, Marion, had given her another duty - entering in the newly-formed pageant.

"It was a wonderful experience. It was very well-organized," said Ligato, who is an artist now living in West Chester and mother of three adult children,

Despite the disappointment of the pageant ending, McCleary said she enjoyed her year's reign as Latrobe's Miss Fourth of July. She got to ride in the parade and represent the city at the Westmoreland Fair last August, McCleary said.

"It was really, really fun," McCleary said. "I got to meet a lot of people."