By MADDY VITALE
Grace Oves didn’t enter the Miss Ocean City Pageant thinking she was going to win. The 17-year-old from Ocean City went into it to have fun with fellow contestants, most of whom she is friendly with.
And then something major happened, something really great for the homegrown, Ocean City High School honors student entering her senior year – she won.
On Saturday night at the Music Pier, before her friends, her parents, Alex and Donna Oves and brothers Matt and AJ, and other relatives, she was crowned Miss Ocean City 2023.
“I definitely felt like I was doing the pageant for the fun of it. I wasn’t in it to win it. I knew most of the girls from school and activities,” Grace said in an interview Monday of entering the pageant. “I looked at it as something fun to do.”
When Miss Ocean City 2022 Maddyn Randazzo crowned her successor, Grace said it felt surreal.
“I think in the moment when I was crowned, I was in shock,” Grace explained. “But afterward, I thought about how much it meant and how great it will be.”
Her close friend, Natalie Argento, told Grace she should enter the pageant. Natalie won first runner-up. Second runner-up was Jordan Fritsch, while Jessica Wriggins was crowned third runner-up. The contestants received prizes and gifts from local sponsors.
The other contestants were Callie Bellwoar, Summer Castro, Gabrielle Waid, Brielle McDowell and Ella Curtin. The pageant that was directed by city employee Samantha Heckler.
Grace, who is on the Dance Team at OCHS, wowed the audience to a tap routine to Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” a song featured in the new movie, “Top Gun: Maverick.”
She talked a little bit about her choice of dance for the talent portion of the pageant.
“I’ve been dancing my whole life since I was 2 and playing the piano since I was five. I feel more confident on stage dancing. I think for me, dance is more fun to perform,” she said.
Her selection of a Jerry Lee Lewis song from the 1950s was simple. The song is featured in a new movie, so it is timely, she noted. And it also has appeal for all ages.
“I wanted a song that the crowd would enjoy and know and with the Top Gun movie coming out, I thought it would be fun and upbeat,” she said.
Although she entered the Junior Miss Ocean City Pageant in previous years, she hadn’t for a couple of years to devote to her many other activities.
“This year, so many people reached out to me and my family and friends were like, ‘You should do Miss Ocean City.’ I think I turned in the form a few weeks before it was due.”
In addition to being an honors student and involved with the Dance Team, she also is in the Key Club, the French Club and Class Council. She is currently working at Bowfish Kids in Ocean City as a stylist.
Grace’s mother, Donna Oves, said the family is so happy. Her big brothers, AJ, 21, and Matt, 19, both row for the city in lifeguard tournaments and row at St. Joseph’s University. Grace is not in their shadow.
“She was a shy, little girl and really came out of her shell. She danced and through activities she has gotten comfortable onstage. She did so well,” Donna said. “Her dad was so proud to see his baby girl up onstage.”
Donna also said that the fact Grace won pageant awards such as Miss Congeniality really spotlights her great personality.
“The other girls chose her to be the winner. I was so happy to see that. She really had a great time. We are excited for the year coming,” Donna said. “We are at a lot of the events anyway, and the fact she will be in them is huge.”
Grace is looking forward to an extremely busy year ahead while serving as an ambassador for the city in her role as the reigning Miss Ocean City.
“I’m excited to be able to go to all of the events and really enjoy all of them and be able to participate in all of them,” Grace said. “I grew up in Ocean City and I love how much the town puts toward hosting things for people to enjoy. There is never a day something isn’t happening.”
Miss Congeniality – Grace Oves
Interview Award – Grace Oves
Poise Award – Grace Oves
People’s Choice Award – Grace Oves
Ad Book Sales Award – Callie Bellwoar
Leadership and Service Award – Jordan Fritsch
Academic Excellence Award – Callie Bellwoar
Eileen Parks Hostess Award – Jessica Wriggins
Swimsuit Award – Natalie Argento
Talent Award – Brielle McDowell