Silver stories

(First published in the November 15, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Wausau’s first Silver Pageant was created with the goal of making sure senior women’s stories aren’t lost


Theresa Haase is organizing the Wausau Area Silver Pageant to preserve women’s stories

Theresa Haase has known for a while that’s she wanted to do something special to honor elderly women in the community. While working at Mountain Terrace Senior Living, an assisted living facility in Wausau, she by chance landed on the idea of a silver pageant. “When I work there, I sit and listen and have coffee with the ladies and [hear] these stories they tell me— things like, ‘I was 20 when I came over on this ship,’” Haase says. “When they are gone, so are their stories… We just don’t think about what they’ve been through.”

She had called the Marathon County Historical Society to find a way to encapsulate their history, throwing around ideas like an exhibit, but nothing stuck out to her. One day someone told her about seeing a pageant in New York City that showcased older women. Haase decided she could make something like that happen here.

She formed a committee to organize Wausau Area Silver Pageant with the purpose of designing an event to share those histories. “Let’s face it, a lot of people aren’t coming into assisted living facilities or even an elderly person’s home, or some people are afraid to do that, and they are missing out on so many amazing stories and accomplishments,” says Haase. “So, the whole purpose [of the pageant] is to honor them and share those stories with the younger generations.”

At present, organizers are looking for pageant nominees via a short one-paragraph nomination form that can be found on their Facebook page. Nominations will be accepted until Dec. 15. The event is open to women 75 years and older. Committee will make personal visits to narrow the field down to the final 12 participants for the show.

This won’t be a typical pageant. Nominees will be judged on their stories as well as a talent segment. To keep in the pageant theme, contestants will also don gowns on stage. There’s no cost to participate and if a lady doesn’t have a gown, Silver Pageant will provide one.

Once on stage, each contestant and their escort will sit in front of a giant screen which will display their 90-second video story to the audience. The talent portion is a pretty loose concept, says Haase “They could sit on stage and talk a little about a quilt they made 20 years ago, or sing, or it could be anything.” The finalists will be narrowed down like a typical pageant until a winner is announced.

The judging panel will include Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei, WAOW Channel 9 meteorologist Justin Loew, a representative from the Marathon County Historical Society, and staff from Mountain Terrace.

There will be a playbill listing contestants and during any downtime, the program will honor those who didn’t make the finalist cut. There will be a beauty hour and luncheon for the nominees before the actual show kicks off.

Heidi Lefferts nominated herself for the pageant with some encouragement. At almost 75 years old, she has lived in many places on the globe, including the Czech Republic, Germany and England, and for the last 14 years in the United States. To a comment that her life sounds interesting, Lefferts responds, “One would say.”

The first annual Wausau Area Silver Pageant will be held February 23, 2019, at 2:00 pm at the Wausau East High School Auditorium. Nominations are due by December 15. There is no fee to attend the show or to participate. For more information contact the Wausau Area Silver Pageant via its Facebook page.