My Own “Little Miss Liberty”!!

Hello Everyone!  I wanted to take a break from my normal posts, and as a ridiculously proud parent, share some great news about my daughter, Annika.  On the 4th of July, my daughter participated in the Annual Little Miss Liberty and Little Uncle Sam Pageant, held in downtown Massillon, Ohio.  My daughter was named the First Runner-Up!!  My husband and I are so in love with our little girl, and we couldn’t be happier that she has blessed our lives in so many ways. 

Here are a few articles in the local newspapers:

From the Jackson Observer-Reporter:

A little patriotism PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2008

Observer-Reporter Photo

By Susanna Smith / Observer-Reporter

  Some may not think of dancing the Hokey Pokey as much of a talent, but it was the only talent that mattered in Massillon’s Little Miss Liberty and Little Uncle Sam pageant Friday morning.
Twelve girls and three boys fighting for their respective titles put their left foot in and their left foot out (as only 4-and 5-year-olds can do) on the Lions Lincoln Theatre stage in Massillon while parents cheered and snapped photos.
“I love working with little ones,” emcee and director Nicole Garlando-Bernes said. “I wanted to make the pageant fun for the kids, not just the adults.”
To accomplish this, there were no costume changes, no talent shows and no pressure. After the 15 youngsters lined up on stage, Garlando-Bernes squatted down next to the children and let them introduce themselves.
Then the music started and the little ones followed her lead in the Hokey Pokey and the Freeze dance. Except for the emcee’s announcement, no one could have guessed what the dances were since the performance consisted of jumping up and down and running in circles.
“They’re judged strictly on personality,” Garlando-Bernes said. “We’ll let the judges decide how to judge that.”
After judges selected Little Miss Liberty and Little Uncle Sam, as well as two runners-up in each category, Garlando-Bernes crowned the winners (with tiara and Uncle Sam hat) and handed out teddy bears to the top six. She reminded all other participants that they were winners, too, as she handed each a bottle of bubbles.
One of the three judges, Lynda Blankenship, said it was almost impossible to pick three kids. The process involved jotting down contestant numbers of eye-catching children, then comparing notes and seeing who caught the eye of more than one judge.
“I think Massillon is full of really, really cute kids,” Blankenship said. “Little sweethearts, every one. In my opinion, they all won.”
The kids began showing off their personality well before they walked across stage. Little ones wearing red, white and blue twirled in circles in the theater foyer while parents watched.
Four-year-old Jyannah Elder, practicing her beauty queen wave, looked at her mother and said, “I’m going to win because you want me to win.” In less than an hour, Jyannah made her mother proud as second runner-up.
A particularly twirly little girl, Chloe Cook, waved miniature flags around to show off her patriotism.
“Her aunt was in the very first pageant down by City Hall,” her grandmother said. “I bet that was 21 years ago.”
Previously, the event was part of the city’s annual July Fourth “Picnic in the Park” celebration, but the picnic hasn’t taken place for two years. Therefore, the Ananda Center, a non-profit advocacy organization headquartered at the theater, re-instated the pageant this year.
When winners were announced and parents were dismissed, 4 and 5-year-olds streamed out the lobby doors to blow bubbles. But the media held back the top six. This particularly distressed the first runner-up Annika Lehman, who grimaced through the photo shoot while badgering her parents about going outside.
When her father finally carried her to the front door, she said, “I feel really great, and I got bubbles, too! Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles, bubbles, bubbles …”
Crown or no crown, the 15 little pageant winners effervescently bounded back home ready to entertain their families with the un-restrained joy of a patriotic preschooler … and bubbles.

Little Uncle Sam: Gavin Gresser
first runner-up: Zachary Miller
second runner-up: Dominik Lanzo

Little Miss Liberty: Alyssa Yingling
first runner-up: Annika Lehman
second runner-up: Jyannah Elder

Staff photos by Susanna Smith.
Annika Lehman walks up the stage ramp to join her competitors on stage for the Little Miss Liberty pageant at the Lions Lincoln Theatre in Massillon Friday morning. Lehman was voted first runner-up.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 July 2008 )


From the Massillon Independent:


Kids’ pageant, bands, booms mark return of ‘4th’ events

Kevin Whitlock
Arionna Lantzer, 4, of Navarre, waves from the stage at the Little Miss Liberty and Little Uncle Sam contest held at the Lions Lincoln Theatre


The Independent
Posted Jul 04, 2008 @ 08:38 PM

Leading 16 children in the “Hokey Pokey” on the stage at the Lions Lincoln Theatre is a little like herding cats.
But somehow, on the Fourth of July, Nicole Garlando-Berens managed to do it.
All for the cause of resurrecting one of Massillon’s venerable Fourth of July traditions – the Little Miss Liberty/Little Uncle Sam Pageant.
“It’s been around for a long time, but they didn’t have it last year,” Garlando-Berens said. “We wanted to keep the tradition alive.”
Garlando-Berens, executive director of the non-profit Ananda Center, said the city’s Fourth of July committee approached her about co-sponsoring the pageant this year with the Lincoln Theatre.
She herself was in the pageant as a 4-year-old. “I had fun,” she said.
Parents who brought their children to Friday’s pageant said they, too, wanted to keep their memories alive.
Aaron and Jennifer Cook, of Massillon, entered their daughter, Chloe, 4, as a Little Miss Liberty contestant.
“This is the first year she was old enough,” Aaron Cook said, as Chloe twirled around waving a miniature American flag. “Now that they’ve resurrected it, we decided to do it.”
Melissa Bartolone, of Massillon, said her 3-year-old son was too shy to participate and another son had just turned 6, putting him out of the age range. The pageant was open only to 4- and 5-year-old boys and girls.
“I was forced to do it when I was little,” she said. “I just wanted to support it (this year).”
When it came time for the pageant to start, the girls lined up and walked on stage to “This Land is Your Land,” and the boys, all three of them, to “Yankee Doodle.”
After the “Hokey Pokey,” they did a “freeze dance” with Garlando-Berens’ help. Three judges – Massillon firefighter Jason Laird, Tigers cheerleader Kaylin Moustaris, and Kids Scene director Lynda Blankenship – watched and took notes.
“We just looked for the cutest kid and if they were enjoying themselves,” said Moustaris, 17. “They all looked like they were having fun. They were all so cute.”
In the end, the judges chose Alyssa Yingling, 4, as Little Miss Liberty 2008 and Gavin Gresser, 5, as Little Uncle Sam 2008.
Zachary Miller, 4, was Little Uncle Sam first runner-up, and Dominic Lanzo, 4, was second runner-up.
Annika Lehman, 4, was Little Miss Liberty first runner-up, and Jyannah Elder, 4, was second runner-up.
“She’s my Little Miss Liberty,” Dan Yingling said of his daughter, Alyssa. “She’s got a personality, like, this big.”
Kim Lehman said of her daughter, Annika, “She’s such a ham. She just loves this kind of stuff.”
Other activities on Friday were geared more toward grown-ups, especially the older set. The movie “Stars and Stripes Forever” played at the Lincoln Theatre at 4 p.m., and the Del-Riccos and ReUNITED played the CitiCentre stage, starting at 6 p.m.
Fireworks, a favorite for all ages, started at 10 p.m.


Top Places to Propose Marriage…

Our journey takes us this time to the city of Massillon, where you can find several unique locations for that once-in-a-lifetime marriage proposal.  Please consider the following:


This is one of my favorite locations in town, the Lions Lincoln Theatre. 

“The Lincoln Theatre opened Tuesday, November 23, 1915 as Massillon’s new movie house built by Massillonian John McLain and Canton architect Guy Tilden. It was considered the finest moving picture house in Ohio. The theatre was managed by F. C. Kelly and showcased the films of the Triangular Film Corporation.

The Schine Bros. took over the theatre in 1927 and installed a Style EX Opus 1560 Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ. In 1931,the theatre management changed to the Warner Brothers and the Wurlitzer theatre organ was removed in 1938.

Closed as a movie house in 1975, it was later purchased by the Massillon Industrial Development Foundation and the Ten Star Theatre in 1977. The Lions Club of Massillon purchased the dilapidated theatre in 1982 to save it from demolition. Major renovations by the Lions have helped to preserve this historic landmark.

Weekly movies and community events are presented and the theatre is staffed by Lions Club volunteers. Please check the community calendar for weekend movie listings.”

(Context source:

For more information, please check out:

Next on our tour is another beautiful location, nestled in the heart of the historic 4th Street, the Massillon Women’s Club:

Massillon, OH : This is the Five Oaks Historic Home in Massillon, Ohio.  Built between 1892 and 1894, the building is now home to the Massillon's Women's Club.

The Massillon Heritage Foundation, Inc., was founded in December 1975, as a charitable, non-profit organization to carry on preservation and restoration. Its immediate responsibility has been Five Oaks or the Massillon Woman’s Club.Five Oaks was designed by the noted Cleveland architect Charles F. Schweinfurth and built 1892-1894 for Mr. and Mrs. J. Walter McClymonds at a cost of $200,000. The name was adopted from five oak trees that stood on the lawn. An oak motif, employing designs of the acorn, leaf, and tree, is used extensively in the house. Five Oaks is a treasure in historic Massillon for all to experience.

For more information, please check out:

Another location is very popular with local sports fans, Paul Brown Stadium, home to Washington High School’s famous football team, the Tigers.  The rivalry between the Massillon Tigers and the Canton McKinley Bulldogs is over a century old, and well-known around the country.  Beyond that, the stadium is one of the premier athletic facilities in the country for high school football.  The atmosphere is always exciting.

For more information, please contact:

There are a few museums as well that would make great locations for proposals:

The Massillon Museum is located right in the middle of the downtown district, with various greens, memorials, and city government buildings surrounding it.  This wonderful tribute to the city’s rich and diverse history makes it a very special place to celebrate this moment in your lives.

Massillon Museum

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Finally, we come to our last stop during this little tour.  For those of you who have military ties, past or present, or those that enjoy military history, the Ohio Military Museum is a great venue to explore. 

The OHIO MILITARY MUSEUM, INC was founded in 1983 and established in the heart of Massillon ,Ohio. It is the only state non-profit military museum owned and operated by the veterans of Ohio. The goal of this society is to honor individual people from Ohio who have fought for the the United States of America in all wars. This includes those who have lived in Ohio, or have served in Ohio Military units of all branches of the Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserves.The individuals who are honored here include those who have died in combat, those who continue to dedicate their lives to our country, and those who have retired from the service.

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That’s all for now.  I will be updating this feature regularly.  Please feel free to email me with any comments or suggestions of your favorite locations!  I would love to add them to the list!