Mr. Urbana, Crowning Charity in the Community

Photo | Izzy Lowery (L and R) Emily Yi and Eliza Tews are all smiles as the new Mr. Urbana, Jared Burdette, is crowned on Dec. 5.

Photo | Izzy Lowery
(L and R) Emily Yi and Eliza Tews are all smiles as the new Mr. Urbana, Jared Burdette, is crowned on Dec. 5.

Contestants went head-to-head in the 17th Annual Mr. Urbana competition on Dec. 5. This male pageant raises money for the Rock Creek School, which provides special education programs for students ages 3 to 21 with cognitive disabilities, many of whom require specialized equipment. This, along with the high student-to-staff ratio, requires a good amount of funding—and that’s where Mr. Urbana comes in.

This year’s competition has so far raised a total of $11,200, with many competitors continuing to collect money. The fundraising is one of many factors in the competition’s scoring criteria. Other categories include seasonal wear, a talent competition, formal wear and a question-and-answer session. The contestants, all seniors, are assigned a month of the year to represent during the competition.

Beginning in November, contestants raise money through requesting donations that are gathered in a decorated collection box. They also participate in a spirit week with themes like “around the world” and “favorite movie character day.”

Jared Burdette (Mr. September) said his favorite spirit day was Inanimate Object Day. “The costumes are always so random, he said. Inanimate Object Day is “the funniest out of the rest.”

The night of the competition, contestants open the show with a number choreographed and performed by Urbana High’s dance class. The seasonal wear event requires contestants to create and model an expressive outfit that represents their month, while the formal wear event gives them a chance to dress their best and introduce their selected escort. The talent competition involves a delicate balance of skill and personality, featuring acts like singing, dancing and skits.

Burdette reflected, “Rehearsing the dances for talent was really difficult but … was also really fun.” Performing is “a feeling that doesn’t compare to anything,” he added. “I’ve played soccer in front of a stadium full of people, but being on the stage was still a totally different feeling. … The crowd is so close to you and you can hear them so vividly.”

The last category is the question-and-answer session, where the audience gets to learn more about each contestant and their views through a series of questions. Once all categories are completed, the judges must make the difficult decision as to who will be crowned this year’s Mr. Urbana.

The winner of the 2019 Mr. Urbana competition is Jared Burdette (Mr. September), with Nick Narvaez (Mr. March) as runner-up and Ryan Gill (Mr. October) in third place. “It was a pretty crazy feeling to win,” said Burdette. “I was extremely surprised … since all 12 of us worked so hard for the last month.”

Gill shared a similar sentiment. “Third place is literally the best thing I could ask for,” he said. He values the experience. “I learned to be myself and to take chances” as well as “to get out of my comfort zone.”

Burdette cited his biggest supporters as his mom, who “helped … so much with all of (his) costumes and ideas” and Alison Horst, a math teacher at Urbana High who “was really excited about the whole event. … (She) would ask me questions every morning and just supported me all around.”

Since its inception, Mr. Urbana has raised more than $100,000 for Rock Creek School.

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