This article appeared in the Beaver County Journal following JessiKate’s crowning. The author, Linda Peterson, has given permission to publish the piece here.
JessiKate Riley, 20, who grew up in Beaver, was crowned Miss Utah on Saturday, June 17 at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City. She is the daughter of Amanda and Doug Riley and the granddaughter of Allen and Barbara Farnsworth and of Mike and Kathy Riley. While her family moved to Highland last year, JessiKate still considers Beaver home, listing Beaver as her hometown on the pageant program.
“I always say I am from Beaver. I grew up there and have never lived in Highland,” she said. “I want to thank everyone in Beaver for always believing in and encouraging me.”
“Growing up in a small town is the best. It teaches you to be persistent and to persevere and the value of hard work. Beauty and talent can only take you so far … not all the way,” she said.
JessiKate holds the title of Miss Panoramaland 2016 and previously, Miss Heart of Utah 2015, Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen 2014 and Southern Utah’s Outstanding Teen. She was second runner-up to Miss Utah 2016 last year where she won the talent competition.
“I was shocked,” JessiKate said of her win this year. “There were a lot of very, very qualified girls. I hope to represent Utah well.”
In being named Miss Utah she received a $10,000 scholarship and the use of a 2017 Genesis from Murdock Hyundai throughout her reign. She also received the Glenn Harmon Instrumental Music Award and a $500 scholarship, as well as a $200 scholarship during the third night of preliminary competition.
A senior at BYU majoring in violin performance who hopes to pursue a career as a studio recording artist, JessiKate played her own arrangement of “Praeludium and Allegro” on the violin in the talent portion of the pageant. She has been playing the violin since the age of 3, traveling first to Cedar City, then St. George and later to Provo for her lessons.
Her grandmother Barbara Farnsworth said JessiKate was always advanced for her years and tended to play with older children so when they went off to school before she did, she needed something to keep her busy.
“She was bright and need to be challenged a bit,” Farnsworth said.
She has been a student at Interlochen School for the Arts and played with the Lyceum Philharmonic through high school. Even today, she still practices three to four hours a day (except Sundays) on a 115-year-old Austrian violin she calls Sam.
“It started out as kind of a joke and then it stuck,” she said of the name.
“The violin is a very personal thing to me. The way it helps me—music is almost a second language to me,” she said.
“It has been a joy to watch JessiKate grow up with such a wonderful passion for music,” her other grandmother, Kathy Riley said. “She has been very dedicated and has put her whole heart into her music and she has been a wonderful role model for many young people. She should do really well as Miss Utah.”
JessiKate’s platform is “Finding ValYOU Within, which focuses on helping youth overcome insecurity and anxiety. It’s a very personal crusade for JessiKate who has dedicated more than 75 hours so far to her platform.
In sixth grade, JessiKate suffered from trichotillomania, an anxiety disorder where people have an irresistible urge to pull their hair out. She had a lot of family and friends who helped her through it.
“I had to learn to accept who I was and my differences,” she said. “Through my music and their support, I learned I was created to be the person I am.”
JessiKate, who still deals with the disorder, wants to share that message with youth all across the state.
“I want to visit every county and every school district in Utah,” she said.
She also hopes to use this opportunity to spread some positivity.
“I want the state of Utah to get to know me as a person, to know that they can approach me, that I’m genuine and care about them,” she said.
Farnsworth said it won’t be hard to convince people.
“A number of people came up to the family and told us what a nice girl she is – including her roommate – how kind and how nice she just is. Little girls just flock around her,” Farnsworth said.
JessiKate will also serve as a state ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network and hopes to raise at least $1,000 for the program.
She will compete in The Miss America Pageant, one of the top scholarship organizations in the country, on Sunday, Sept. 10, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Currently, she is busy meeting with sponsors and preparing for Miss America. She hasn’t decided on what she’ll play but will definitely be playing her violin for her talent.
To win the talent award at Miss America would be “the coolest experience ever,” she said.