After two years New Hampshire has a new title holder of Miss New Hampshire as Ashley Marsh from Laconia was crowned on Saturday night.

Competing as Miss Winnipesaukee Marsh wins a $20,000 cash scholarship and will represent New Hamsphire in the next Miss America pageant scheduled for December at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

"We were with her this morning. I think it's very surreal for her right now. She's on her way to a dance competition this afternoon so she's had no time to rest or reflect,"  Her aunt, Wendy Hanley told Seacoast Current on Sunday morning, adding that she is "super proud" of her niece.

"Her and her mom worked really hard to get her where she is. She's been dancing since she was two," Hanley said. "When she was three years old she made the comment that she wanted to dance on the Miss America stage and now she's going to have that opportunity."

A total of $100,000 in scholarships was awarded by the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Competition including $1,700 for each non finalist.

Runner up Kaitlin Soucy, Miss Isle of Shoals receives a $10,000 scholarship and discounts from several colleges while Jana El-Sayed, competing as Miss Stratham, won the pageant's 2021 overall interview award and a $1,000 scholarship.

Marsh takes the title after Sarah Tubbs from Sandown held it for two years because the pageant was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Hanley said the wait was hard but definitely worth the wait.

One of the benefits is the scholarship money will help her have little or no college debt once she graduates, Hanley said.

Ashley Marsh after being crowned Miss New Hampshire (Miss NH Scholarship Competition via Facebook)

Belknap County Sheriff Bill Wright joined a chorus of congratulation on Marsh's Facebook page.

"She has worked for this for many many years, always shows up to represent and she is also a native of our county. Great job to her mom, Dawn Marsh who has always been Ashley's #1 fan!!! Just pure excellence! We share your joy," Wright wrote.

Marsh attended Springfield College and a had a social impact initiative called Fit For Life which resulted in a scholarship for kids age 4-18 in the Lakes Region to help them participate in summer sports camps, youth sports, karate, gymnastics and other kids programs.

Hanley said that despite pageants falling out of favor in recent years there are benefits that last a lifetime.

"It's hard to explain but if you watch them grow up through these pageants just the self confidence they gain, the ability to communicate and carry on a conversation with people is amazing and it helps them get through school," Hanley said.

She said that was evident during the competition when they were asked questions about current affairs such as the pandemic and transgender athletes.

"People who are not informed would have been hard pressed to answer those and they all did a fantastic job,"  Hanley said.

The pageant, celebrating its 75th anniversary, was moved from its usual location at the Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy in Derry to the Doubletree Hotel in Manchester because of concerns about capacity limits during the planning stages.

The Center of New Hampshire, home to the Doubletree, is also home to the New Hampshire State Union Armory which hosted the first Miss New Hampshire pageant in 1925.

The Miss America Pageant in April signed a three year deal with Mohegan Sun with its 100th anniversary competition scheduled for December. The pageant called Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey home but moved to Las Vegas in 2005.

It returned to Atlantic City in 2013 but moved to Connecticut in 2019 after a dispute over funding from the city over production costs. The Miss America Pageant was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Note: this story was updated to include comments from Wendy Hanley and to update the scholarship amounts.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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