By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Trudy Widmer and her daughter Morgan never miss watching the Miss America Pageant.
This year, they threw a party to watch a familiar face in the competition -- Megan Ervin, who won Miss Quincy and went onto take the Miss Illinois crown.
"We know Megan," said Widmer, director of the Little Miss Quincy Scholarship Program.
Party invites went to Miss Quincy Scholarship Program titleholders from 2011, the year Morgan won the Little Miss Quincy crown, to watch Ervin compete for the coveted crown on national television.
"We're rooting for Megan," said 8-year-old Morgan, a third-grader at Ellington Elementary School, sporting a Megan button. "She's nice and fun."
Ervin is very sweet, kindhearted and easy to talk to, said Kaylyn Orpet-Hulett, Morgan's best friend and another former Little Miss Quincy.
"She has a lot to offer -- poise, grace and a lot of entertainment for everyone," Kaylyn said.
Addi Ippensen, a former Miss Quincy Oustanding Teen, said Ervin just needed to be herself, promote her platform and "demonstrate Miss America qualities" like being a leader.
"She'll be great," said Addi, 15, a sophomore at Payson Seymour High School.
Any sightings of Ervin during the pre-pageant show caused the girls and their friends to gather around the television, and the excitement continued to build among the girls and their moms on one of their biggest nights of the year.
"It's like football for women. It's our Super Bowl," said Robin Johnson, whose daughter Sierra was Miss Quincy Outstanding Pre-Teen.
For the Widmers and their friends, the Miss America party is becoming a tradition.
"We did this last year as well," Widmer said. "I've always loved pageants, I've always had an interest in queen pageants."
With the local connection to one of the candidates, this year's party was even more fun.
Ervin's success "obviously will encourage participation in the pageants. There's so much to be gained from it," said Penni Ippensen, Addi's mom. "As adults we look at that it takes so much to step on the stage and talk to strangers, but they've been doing it. It's so natural for them."
Glued to the television set, the girls dreamed of the future -- and maybe their own try for Miss America.
"I think it would be a really good experience, be fun," Kaylyn said.
"It would be cool," Morgan said.
Addi, though, was content just to watch.
"We'll see what life brings to me," she said. "Right now I'm good where I'm at with the titles I have."