Miss Kansas 2019 shares her learning journey

Jennifer Stultz
Annika Wooton, the reigning Miss Kansas, spoke to Pratt Lions Club members last Tuesday in Pratt.

Paying close attention to social distancing and health safety, 2019 Miss Kansas Annika Wooton stopped in Pratt last week to visit supporters, lay the groundwork for artist workshops she hopes to host around the state, and to eat lunch with Pratt Lions Club members at The Front Porch.

It was a first meeting of the Pratt Lions Club since COVID-19 shutdowns, but members were happy to have such a pleasant restart to their activities. This was also a first outing for the reigning Miss Kansas crown-holder since coronavirus brought her year of speaking engagements and in-person promotional activities to a halt in March.

"It felt strange to speak out in public again," Wooton said. "But is also very welcoming and familiar. Like getting back on a bike."

Lions Club members sat 6-or-more feet apart at individual tables in the Front Porch venue, attentive to Wooton's recounting of her 7-year journey to win the title of Miss Kansas, and full of questions as she recounted lessons learned along the way.

"She's real pretty," said Pratt Lion Garey West. "But even more, she is very smart and I am so proud of her for never giving up. It's amazing that she gets to have a two-year reign now because of the coronavirus impact."

Wooton told the Lions how she learned something about herself each year that she did not achieve her goal of winning the Miss Kansas title through the years. And in the end, it was not winning that led to her greatest revelation.

"That last year, when I thought it was my last chance, I finally felt at peace with myself and it didn't even really matter if I won or not," Wooton said. "I told the judges in my interview that I was there to help others through the visibility of my platform of promoting the arts, especially creating pathways for children to see that they could have careers in art someday. That was more important to me than winning. And then I won."

Wooton claimed the title of 2019 Miss Kansas last June in Pratt, and went on to embark on a whirlwind tour of speaking engagements at schools and for community groups and clubs. When it all came to halt in early March this year, she found she had time to practice her own art and tighten her focus on her own dreams and goals.

"Throughout my years of competition with Miss Kansas and now serving as the representative or the organization, I have learned who I am and what I stand for," Wooton said. "Immediate success is great, it's what we all want. But sometimes the journey is the reward of getting there."

Wooton said with a second year of being Miss Kansas ahead of her she plans to focus even more on the arts, while continuing her unique competitive talent of speed-painting.

"I want to reinvent artists workshops and create pathways to engage community members and students about their journeys to becoming career creatives," Wooton said. "Sharing their challenges and hurdles to get to the point where they are now will be inspiring to those who might want to make art a career. This will show how it can be done."

The Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt will be a host for one of Wooton's art career workshops and she said she looks forward to firming up those plans.

She said she also looks forward to a partnership with the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism and will be doing several outdoor activities at events that feature safe outlets for gathering with friends and family.