Misty Jennings had won every beauty pageant the town held, but she lacked the movie-star good looks (or the money to acquire movie-star good looks) to compete at the regional or state level. She therefore had to take the unprecedented step of inventing pageants to compete in, in order to maintain her status as a big fish in a little pond and to pad her resume for what she no doubt thought would be her triumphal entry to the regional scene.

Thus came about the Miss Highway Patrol Troop 117 Pageant, the Miss QuickStop Gas Pageant, the Miss City Parks and Recreation Pageant, and of course the Miss Haverton Oil and Gas Extraction Company Incorporated Pageant. There were always entrants enough to fill out the ranks from among the county’s starry-eyed young ladies, and Misty was if nothing else savvy about how she did things. Promotional considerations were often handled out of her own pocket; she usually only took home half of the advertised first prize by private agreement, and she was quick to trade “favors” for judges and sponsors to work practically pro bono.

That was the genesis of the Miss Dounton Street East Contest, which everyone expected would be much like the various iterations of a Misty Jennings coronation that had gone before.

They were wrong.