Eight girls to vie for Miss Destin 2021; to reign over the 73rd Destin Fishing Rodeo

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

The applications are in and eight young ladies have tossed their names into the ring to vie for the title of Miss Destin 2021. 

The pageant was delayed last year because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but was finally held in July with Lauren Adams being crowned Miss Destin 2020 at Shoreline Church. 

This year, the pageant is on track to take place May 8 again at Shoreline Church with Christian Garman as host for the event. 

The eight contestants vying to be the next Miss Destin are (from left) Whitney O'Keefe, Savannah Pitchlynn, Molly Bettinger, Kaylie Sparks, Kathryn Ballard, Kasidy Braden, Ella Kathryn Campbell and Bella Wasson.

The eight girls vying to wear the crown are Kathryn Ballard, Molly Bettinger, Kasidy Braden, Ella Kathryn Campbell, Whitney O’Keefe, Savannah Pitchlynn, Kaylie Sparks and Bella Wasson. 

More:Pageant road to Miss Destin a bit different in 2020

More from 2020:Miss Destin coronation delayed

With the title of Miss Destin comes a $2,000 academic scholarship. The pageant is not a beauty contest. Contestants are judged on personality, communication skills and availability to fulfill the duties of Miss Destin at the 73rd Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Before the pageant, the girls will participate in a Soda Party on April 6, a Harbor Cruise on April 29 and a Judges Tea on May 2. The girls will have individual interviews with the pageant judges as well as an opportunity to enjoy an afternoon with other contestants and their parents. 

"We’re so happy to have these eight contestants,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. “And we’re also excited to be able to have the event in the spring this year. It will give our Miss Destin an opportunity to serve a full year.”

More:Miss Destin Lauren Adams juggles school, work and fish, and loves every minute of it

More:MISS DESTIN 2020: ’I’m not scared to touch a fish’

As a matter of fact, Miss Destin 2020 Lauren Adams will be given a proper sendoff April 15 at the Inn on Destin Harbor with a farewell party. Donaldson said invitations have been mailed, but any captain, Rodeo volunteer or sponsor who does not receive their invitation can call 850-837-6734 to let organizers know they plan to attend. 

Although Miss Destin’s primary function is to represent the Destin Fishing Rodeo at weigh-ins every day during October, it’s more than that. She serves as a public figure throughout the year, representing Destin at many functions. 

Here is a little more insight on this year’s contestants and why they want to be Miss Destin. 

Kathryn Ballard

Kathryn Ballard, 17, 11th-grader at Fort Walton Beach High School. She is the daughter of Bowen and Ginny Ballard. 

"I love everything about where we live and think everyone should see Destin the way I do,” Ballard said on her application. 

Ballard believes she would be a good Miss Destin because, “I am not scared to get my hands dirty. I love salt water and I believe that our city is one of the best.” 

Molly Bettinger

Molly Bettinger, 17, 11th-grader at Fort Walton Beach High School. She is the daughter of Mary Lynn and Joe Bettinger. 

“I would like to be Miss Destin 2021 because some of my earliest childhood memories are being at the Rodeo with my older sister and aspiring to be that girl in the crown one day. For my sister Alyssa, who is my best friend and personal hero, that day came for her when she became Miss Destin 2015. She has always been my biggest inspiration and role model, and I would be honored to hold the same title that she did,” Bettinger wrote on her application. “I want to be Miss Destin because the docks have always been home to me and I want to give back to this community that has given so much to me. I love attending the Rodeo and seeing the daily catches. Also, what girl doesn’t want to wear a crown? 

“I believe I would be a good Miss Destin because I grew up on the docks and have total respect for all of the hard-working people that make Destin the 'World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.’ I have worked for some of the city's greatest fishermen and have experienced firsthand what is required to make the docks successful. I also have been volunteering at many big social events throughout the community for years. I would describe myself as very down to earth and loyal. I hold myself responsible and keep up with my commitments, which I believe are important qualities of a Miss Destin.” 

Kasidy Braden

Kasidy Braden, 16, 10th-grader at Fort Walton Beach High School. She is the daughter of Jaime and Rodney Braden. 

Braden would like to be Miss Destin because, “I was born and raised in Destin. Fishing has been one of my favorite hobbies to do with my family since I was a little girl. To me it’s a family tradition. Destin’s fishing heritage is a legacy and I would love to be a part of it,” she wrote. 

“I believe I would be a good role model for the community,” Braden said. “Destin has always been my home and I would be a great welcomer to anyone who comes here. I’m a social butterfly and love meeting new people.” 

Ella Campbell

Ella Kathryn Campbell, 16, 10th-grader at Fort Walton Beach High. She is the daughter Julie and Jimbo Campbell. 

Campbell would like to be Miss Destin because, “I value any opportunity to support my community and take pride in being an active citizen of the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” she said. 

Campbell believes she would be a good Miss Destin because, “I strive to always hold myself to high standards and represent me and my community in the best light possible.”  

Whitney O'Keefe

Whitney O’Keefe, 15, 10th-grader at Fort Walton Beach High. She is the daughter of Amy and the late Stephen O’Keefe. 

“I would like to be Miss Destin because growing up, October was always celebrated in my family because of the Rodeo,” O’Keefe wrote. “My dad loved taking us fishing even though he wasn’t a big fisherman himself. It developed in me a love and appreciation for the heritage we have here. I would be honored to represent the City of Destin. I admire my older sister for setting the finest example of serving as Miss Destin 2019 and to maybe have the opportunity to serve as she did. 

“I believe I would be an excellent choice as Miss Destin because of my appreciation and love for our city, especially our fishing community. I am kind and hard working. I enjoy being on the harbor. I have upstanding character and I would be honored to fulfill the responsibilities that are expected of this role in our community and for the Destin Fishing Rodeo,” O’Keefe said. 

Savannah Pitchlynn

Savannah Pitchlynn, 16, 11th-grader at Fort Walton Beach High. She is the daughter of Kathryn Fitzgerald. 

Pitchlynn would like to be Miss Destin because, “as a native girl here, I grew up on the docks, watching the weigh-ins, and it’s always been a goal of mine to represent a city that has always been such an important part of my family’s heritage.” 

“Being the oldest of six, I’ve naturally taken on the role of leadership,” Pitchlynn said. “I think that this will help me in my role of Miss Destin. I can be an example for the younger ones in the community by teaching them how special it is to grow up here and how to enjoy and love this village we are so blessed to call home,” she said. 

Kaylie Sparks

Kaylie Sparks, 18, 12th-grader at Niceville High. Her parents are Anne and Houston Sparks. 

“I would like to be Miss Destin because it is a great opportunity and a huge honor to have the chance to represent this amazing city,” Sparks wrote. “I have always dreamed of fulfilling this role ever since I was a little girl. From an early age I saw the Destin community come and deliver meals to my family in difficult times. This is a great opportunity for me to give back to the wonderful people that have supported my family. 

“I believe I would be a good Miss Destin because I am a great Christian role model for the young people in our community. Through my experiences, I can also use this as a platform to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. I am an advocate for this cause because I am a thyroid cancer survivor,” Sparks wrote. 

Bella Wasson

Bella Wasson, 16, 10th-grader at Niceville High. She is the daughter of Chip and Caroline Wasson. 

Wasson said she would like to be Miss Destin because, “It has always been a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid. I would proudly represent Destin with my kindness and outgoing personality. I love to fish with my dad, especially during cobia season, and would love to be on the docks weighing the fish at weigh-ins. I hope be the Miss Destin little girls look up to as I once did.” 

She believes she would be a good Miss Destin because, “I love this city so much and grew up aspiring to be Miss Destin. I watched a lot of my peers and family friends be involved in Miss Destin and have so much fun with it. I knew once I turned 16, I wanted to take a shot at it. I love meeting new people and trying different things, which is why I would be honored to have the opportunity to represent the city,” Wasson wrote.