On April 13, a talented young woman will be crowned Miss Destin 2019. But in the time leading up to the big day, the contestants are busy with events and rehearsals.

The first event the girls attended was the Miss Destin Soda Party on March 26. Members of the Destin Fishing Rodeo committee and pageant volunteers got to know the six contestants as they mingled at the Destin History and Fishing Museum. During the party, the girls were assigned a project to complete that would give the committee and pageant judges an idea of who each is as an individual. This year, the girls were given a blank canvas bag to decorate and fill with items that represent them.

The girls brought their completed bags to the Harbor Cruise aboard the Southern Star on April 2, to be judged by the committee.

“There’s no advantage in the overall competition if a girl wins that project,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. “It just kind of shows if their hearts are in it and gives you an idea about their interests.”

Near the end of the hour-long cruise around the Destin harbor, Donaldson gathered the girls on the top deck of the ship to announce the winner of the project.

She was able to identify some of the girls based on their bags.

“This one has a fishing rod in it and has a football on the side … this has to be Dani’s,” Donaldson said as she held up Danielle Locht’s bag designed with painted unicorns, waves and Locht’s jersey number decorated with miniature pink pom-poms.

There were a few bags that Donaldson couldn’t place, including the winner’s, Klohe’ Johnson Silver.

“You have an old soul, don’t you?” Donaldson asked as Silver raised her hand to claim her bag. Decorated with stripes of blue and green sequins and pictures of Queen, Bon Jovi and her favorite movies and musicals, Silver’s bag stood out.

“I really felt like I got to know her through this bag,” Donaldson said.

Brooke O’Keefe decorated her bag with a small fishing net, miniature lights and small facts about herself written on different shapes of paper. Lauren Adams painted hers with her favorite things and words that described her including caring, hardworking and fearless. Marlee Tobik painted a sun on one side of her bag with bright orange, yellow and pink, with the word “smiley” painted in blue at the top. The sixth contestant, Makenzie Coe, was unable to be at the cruise but will turn in her project at the Judges' Tea on April 7.

The Judges' Tea will enable the girls to meet the judges one-on-one and answer their questions. After that, contestants will rehearse for the five days leading up to the pageant, which will be at 7 p.m. April 13 at the Destin Community Center.

O’Keefe, Adams and Locht were in last year’s pageant when Niceville High School student Ellen Brown was crowned Miss Destin 2018.

Brown said she’s had a lot of fun being Miss Destin and that her went by way too quickly. But she’s excited to graduate this spring and attend Texas Christian University in the fall.