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Sisters to vie for state crowns in pageants this Saturday

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By Jenny Hartley

Two little girls from Lancaster have won big at state beauty pageants, and more importantly, have become friends on the road to state titles.

Hailey Sanders, 6, is competing this weekend for the title of Wee Miss at the Little Miss Teen Miss South Carolina pageant in Hartsville on Saturday. Hailey is the daughter of Nikki and Jeff Sanders of Lancaster.

Hailey, a North Elementary School student, is going for her third state title. In 2004, she won Wee Miss Tiny Tot South Carolina and Little Miss Tiny Tot South Carolina in 2006.

Her sister, Ashtyn, 3 is competing for Wee Miss Tiny Tot, so mom Nikki has a lot of preparation to do before Saturday.

"I'm a nervous wreck right now," Nikki Sanders said on Thursday. "Maybe on Saturday I'll be a little more excited."

Hailey's friend, Aubree Rape, is going to crown the new winner for Wee Miss Tiny Tot 2007 at Saturday's pageant.

Aubree, 5, was Miss Tiny Tot South Carolina in 2004. She has just finished preschool and will be a Discovery School student next year.

The families didn't know each other before they got involved in pageants.

And Sanders said she didn't know what she was getting into when daycare workers suggested that Hailey enter a pageant for the first time. They rented a dress from the Dianne Shop in Lancaster for the first one.

Aubree's mom, Tonya Rape, and Sanders say this pageant is less about beauty and image and more about self-confidence and personality.

The girls wear pageant dresses, and walk with a parent onstage to show off their personalities. Unlike some pageants, the girls at this young age are asked not to wear heavy makeup.

"They concentrate more on the natural look and personality," Sanders said. "They want it to be age-appropriate."

"Everyone thinks it's all glitzy glamor, but this one's real natural," Rape said.

It's unusual for girls to win multiple titles, the moms say.

The girls win savings bonds for scholarships. Their entry fees and ad sales raise money for the Palmetto Health Children's Hospital in Columbia.

Rape said the pageants are good for the girls.

"They develop a lot of self-confidence," she said. "They make a lot of friends and get to travel the state."

Aubree isn't competing in Saturday's contest.

"I'm pretty relaxed this year," Rape said, with a laugh.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at 283-1151