Clayton finishing Miss Independence reign

Published 2:14 am Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lifestyles & Features Editor

BELHAVEN — Kimberly Clayton is a tractor-driving champion, a college student and entertainer.
And, for the next 24 hours or so, she’s the reigning Miss Independence.
Clayton won last year’s beauty pageant, a fixture of Belhaven’s celebration of America’s Independence Day, last summer. Friday night, she’ll pass the title and sparkling crown on to another deserving young woman.
The 19-year-old daughter of Terry and April Clayton, she’s a graduate of Pungo Christian Academy. She’s studying business management at Beaufort County Community College. She hopes to graduate from BCCC with a two-year degree and then transfer to North Carolina State University to study agriculture.
She’s a self-proclaimed farm girl who includes riding four-wheelers as one of her favorite leisure-time activities. She also likes going to the beach, being on the water and spending time with friends.
And that part about being a champion tractor driver? While in high school, Clayton represented PCA’s Future Farmers of America chapter in a state-level tractor-driving event. The only girl among the 50 competitors, she took first place, to the chagrin of her male challengers.
Clayton said some people, including herself at times, are surprised that she’s a beauty queen.
“I used to think pageants were just for the pretty girls, but once I started participating I found that it’s about much more than a pretty face,” Clayton said.
For a relative newcomer to the world of pageantry, Clayton has more than held her own among seasoned contestants. In 2008, she was crowned Miss Engelhard Seafood Festival, and a few months later she was a runner-up to Miss Independence. She re-entered the latter contest again last summer, and won.
The last year has been a busy one for Clayton as she fulfilled her duties as Miss Independence 2009. She raised funds and worked as a volunteer for Children’s Miracle Network, and she’s perfected her beauty-queen wave by appearing in parades in Belhaven, Bath and Washington. She’s also been a featured guest at other area pageants, including Miss Beaufort County/Miss Summer Festival, Miss Engelhard Seafood, Miss Grifton and Miss Neuse.
Although her year as a titleholder ends Friday, don’t count Clayton out when it comes to pageants. She’s toying with the idea of entering a local Miss North Carolina/Miss America preliminary pageant.
Meanwhile, 11 young women are hoping to be the one she crowns as Miss Independence 2010. Vying for the title are Jordan Cooke, Allison Armstrong, Victoria Robbins, Kayla Paul, Megan White, Jennifer Woolard, Elizabeth Harris, Janel Robinson, Sydney Colbert, Kaitlyn Banks and Alexis Peed.
During rehearsals for Friday’s Miss Independence pageant, Clayton readily shared advice with this year’s contestants.
“Don’t be scared, it’s a friendship-building experience,” she said. “Just have a good time. Be yourself and let your personality show.”
The 2010 Miss Independence pageant will be held at Belhaven’s Wilkinson Center, beginning at 7 p.m. Admission is $7 a person, which covers that cost of a souvenir program with a photograph of each contestant.