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From left, Junior Miss Manchester Abigail Hoy, Little Miss Manchester Gracie Morris and Miss Manchester Julia Brocato stand alongside judges Colleen Frances, Sandy Mancha-Wright and Steve Wantz after their coronation during the Manchester fire company carnival June 29.
From left, Junior Miss Manchester Abigail Hoy, Little Miss Manchester Gracie Morris and Miss Manchester Julia Brocato stand alongside judges Colleen Frances, Sandy Mancha-Wright and Steve Wantz after their coronation during the Manchester fire company carnival June 29. (Submitted photo, HANDOUT)

Miss America was not a beauty pageant for Gracie Lou Freebush in the movie "Miss Congeniality," nor was the Miss Manchester contest focused on beauty for 2015's Miss Manchester Fire Prevention Ambassadors, who were judged primarily on their fire safety knowledge and public speaking abilities.

Miss Manchester Julia Brocato, Junior Miss Manchester Abigail Hoy, and Little Miss Manchester Gracie Morris were awarded their crowns as they accepted their roles as fire prevention ambassadors at the opening night of the Manchester fire company carnival June 29.

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Until July 2016 when they crown their successors, the Miss Manchester winners will serve as spokeswomen for the Manchester fire company, which sponsors the competition. They now also have the opportunity to compete for the Carroll County Miss Fire Prevention title, as well as the Maryland State Firemen's Association Miss Fire Prevention title, depending upon their age group.

The Miss Manchester title is for young women ages 16 to 23; the Junior Miss title is for girls ages 11 to 15; and the Little Miss title is for girls ages 6 to 10. Living in Manchester is not a requirement to apply.

After a short interview the night of the carnival, the three Junior Miss and 10 Little Miss applicants were asked a fire safety question on stage in front of a panel of judges. As the only applicant for Miss Manchester, Julia was not interviewed. Instead, she gave a speech on fire safety.

"It's not a beauty pageant," said Erin Drumheller, chairperson of the Queens Committee. "It's not about getting all dolled up ... it really is about fire safety."

Drumheller said the Miss Manchester competition is not meant to make girls feel like they have to be a certain height or weight to compete. Though the competition isn't about looks, competing girls are asked to dress in formal attire.

Although there is no scholarship attached to Miss Manchester, the competition gives winners experience with public speaking, as well as serving as a resume-booster, Drumheller said.

Miss Manchester ambassadors are responsible for helping at the 2015 Manchester fireman's carnival, attending fundraisers held by the Manchester fire company, riding in parades, and going to different schools and daycare centers to talk about fire safety during fire prevention week in the fall.

"I just believe you really do have the opportunity to get so much out of it," Drumheller said. "It really is one of those things where you get as much out of it as you put into it."

Miss Manchester

From gymnastics to cheerleading to 2015's Miss Manchester, 16-year-old Julia Brocato, of Manchester, sets many goals for herself.

"She is a very headstrong little girl — soon to be woman," Julia's mom, Jennifer Brocato, said.

Julia had wanted to be Miss Manchester for several years, Jennifer said, and finally this year she is.

Julia is a leader and a role model for others, especially for the children she will be talking to about fire safety as a part of her Miss Manchester duties, Jennifer said.

"She's not shy at all. She doesn't take the back seat on things," Jennifer said.

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Julia said she would like to go to school to study radiology, though modeling is also one of her dreams.

Julia's dad, Chris, said that his daughter's resilience is exemplified by an experience she had at 14. Instead of being scared to continue gymnastics after suffering a concussion while practicing, she passionately wanted to get back to it. After several weeks of recovery, Julia was able to compete again.

"I've just seen her overcome so many issues and fears, especially in gymnastics," Jennifer said.

Although Julia traded in gymnastics for competitive cheerleading, both sports have helped her to become who she is, Julia said. After she quit gymnastics in 2014, Julia started cheerleading for Manchester Valley High School her freshman year and transitioned to competitive cheerleading her sophomore year.

"Anything she puts her mind to she does great," Chris said.

Junior Miss Manchester

It is not every day that a turtle casts aside its shell — but 15-year-old Abigail Hoy, of Manchester, crawled out of hers to become 2015's Junior Miss.

"I was just picturing her as a little girl up there [and] thinking how much she had grown up over the years ... She used to be more reserved and shy ... she's becoming more of her own person," said Tim Hoy, Abigail's dad.

Frank Ward, Abigail's club softball coach for the North Carroll Hotshots, said he was caught off guard when Abigail became Miss Manchester — not because he thought she could not do it, but because he had a hard time imagining his rough-and-ready softball player in a fancy dress.

"It caught me by surprise I'll be honest," Ward said.

But Abigail said she did not think it strange to jump from being a softball player to Junior Miss Manchester — it was just something she wanted to do to help the community by spreading awareness about fire safety.

"If you set your eyes on it and make it a goal you can do whatever you want to do," Abigail said.

One of Abigail's dreams is to become a pediatric surgeon.

"Honestly, I think that she will end up achieving her goal and end up being a doctor because that's something she's very passionate about," said Abigail's stepmother, Heather Hoy.

Abigail has always loved helping people — from being a Girl Scout to volunteering as a camp counselor, said Stephanie Trout, Abigail's mom.

"She's very kind and caring. [She's] very interested in encouraging people her age to better themselves," Trout said.

Abigail uses her positivity to help her teammates to see the bright side of every situation, Ward said.

"She has the best spirit of any girl on the team. She's always positive and nothing gets her down," Ward said.

Little Miss Manchester

She may be the youngest Manchester ambassador, but 10-year-old Gracie Morris, of Manchester, is not short on things to say.

"It's really fun and you get to help the community," Gracie said of being Little Miss. "It's really fun getting to work with the people you look up to in the fire department."

Gracie said one her friend's dads is a firefighter, and she thinks that it is "really cool" that he gets to save people from fires and teach people not to play with matches.

Getting to meet new people and teach them fire safety is something that she is looking forward to in her role as Little Miss, Gracie said.

"This has just made her day," her dad, Brandon Morris, said of Gracie becoming Little Miss. "When she won it her face showed it all."

Being around people is hardly new to her, Gracie's mom, Emily Morris, said.

"She's a social butterfly. She likes to have friends. She's a talker," Emily said.

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Not only is she good at making friends, but Gracie also loves doing crafts — from crocheting and beading to writing her own paperback short stories, Emily said.

Gracie also helps people when she can, Brandon said. For a few winters Gracie has gone around the neighborhood offering to shovel people's sidewalks, not for money but just to help others.

"She's a very good person as a whole; she always wants to help to somebody. She wears her heart on her sleave," Brandon said. "To me she's just the perfect little girl."

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