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At left, a tearful Amanda Longacre of Bear describes receiving word from the Miss Delaware Pageant that she had lost her crown Thursday. At right, Brittany Lewis speaks after inheriting the crown Thursday night at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino. / THE NEWS JOURNAL

DOVER, Del. - A new Miss Delaware was crowned Thursday after the one selected earlier this month got the boot - for being too old.

Brittany Lewis, 24, originally the contest's first runner-up as Miss Wilmington, got the sparkly crown Thursday night in a brief ceremony at the Dover Downs Hotel Casino.

With her new title comes scholarship money, a year's contract as Miss Delaware and a September shot at Miss America in Atlantic City - all lost by Amanda Longacre, also 24.

The Miss America Organization website says contestants must be 17 to 24 years old.

Longacre will turn 25 in October.

Numerous calls to officials at the national and state organizations seeking comment were not returned Thursday.

Longacre won the title June 14, but was disqualified because of her age.

"Following the Miss Delaware Pageant, it was determined that Amanda Longacre exceeded the age requirement in order to be eligible to compete therefore, the Miss Delaware 2014 title is awarded to Brittany Lewis," the organization said in a release. "The Miss Delaware Pageant is proud to congratulate Brittany and wishes Amanda the very best on her future endeavors."

The news release also was read at the crowning, but with the announcement that no questions about it were accepted.

The Miss Delaware website, where she was pictured among other contestants early Thursday, went blank Thursday afternoon.

The photos were gone and the only message was "The Miss Delaware Website is currently being updated. Please check back soon."

"I feel like I'm being erased," Longacre said Thursday, fighting tears.

Lewis' first comment after being crowned broke the tension in the room and got a hearty laugh from the crowd of about 60 people.

She touched her crown and said, "This thing's a little heavier than I expected."

Board member and legal counsel Elizabeth Soucek - Miss Delaware first runner up in 2007 ?? told gathered media that questions would be limited to those about Lewis.

She later told The News Journal she had directed Lewis and state pageant officials not to comment in any way about Longacre's disqualification, "due to the possibility of pending litigation." She did say, however, that qualified contestants could not turn 24 before Dec. 31, calling that "a Miss America rule."

The question closest to the subject in Lewis' traditional post-crowning news conference was whether "the circumstance of her crowning" would affect her experience. Lewis beamed, saying, "Not at all."

She said she looks forward to serving the people of Delaware, representing the state and honoring the memory of her late sister, who was killed in a domestic violence incident in 2010, a loss reflected in her pageant platform of domestic violence awareness and prevention.

Asked about her reaction to hearing she would be elevated, she said she was "running around the room and jumping up and down."

Lewis, a dancer since age 3, grew up in Brigantine, N.J., and is a mass media and broadcast graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia.

She has lived in Delaware for two years, teaching at Prestige Academy in Wilmington through the Teach for America program.

Asked her birthdate - a question allowed by Soucek, who said Lewis could only answer questions she approved - she replied, "July 21, 1990."

But it was not as joyous of a day for the former winner.

Longacre frequently choked up and fought tears while talking Thursday about being disqualified and stripped of her title, contract, scholarships and shot at Miss America.

"I'm just heartsick," she said. "I'm just really heartbroken."

A representative of the state contest recruited her to compete, she said, and her birth certificate and driver's license, along with her resume bearing her birth date, repeatedly were submitted as she competed for Miss Pike Creek, then Miss Delaware.

"And it was verified with a director that I was eligible to compete, as long as I was 24 at the Miss America pageant," said Longacre, who turns 25 on Oct. 22, after the national pageant.

But Longacre said Miss Delaware officials repeatedly approved her for the local and state competitions.

She said they told her that, as long as she was no older than 24 at the time of the Miss America competition in September, she was "verified to compete."

"I competed on the local and state level and even signed my national contract and it was notarized and no one said anything to me and it was all notarized with my birthday on the contract," she said. "I gave them all the proper documents."

Then, last Tuesday, Longacre said pageant officials sat her down unceremoniously and told her they had bad news and said she was disqualified because of her age.

She said they told her the national contest says Miss America can't be older than 24 during her year with the crown.

Longacre said she also has to forfeit about $11,000 in scholarships - from the local and state competitions.

Longacre said she held fundraisers for the state organization and suspended her master's degree studies in social work because she was required to take a year off to serve as Miss Delaware.

"I had already gotten my headshots done and met with a vocal coach and met with my social media sources and everyone was so excited," she said.

She even had designer Tony Bowls in the process of sketching her "dream gown" for the Miss America contest.

"They are making me forfeit everything," she said. "It's really humiliating because I did nothing wrong."

Her attorney, Mark Billion of Wilmington, told The News Journal her financial losses top $5,000 and may be close to $10,000 already, not counting her loss of potential future income.

"We believe there's a breach of contract here," Billion said.

Plus, he said, he feels just plain sorry for Longacre.

"If everyone agreed these were the rules and Amanda spent all this time and money ?? and she's not going back to school because they told her she was Miss Delaware ?? you just feel bad all the way around.

"What's flabbergasting is that there are so many things they could have done that would have led to a far better outcome," he said. "She competed and did all this work and we feel she's deserving of more than what she's getting."

Billion said he has tried repeatedly to reach out to the state and national contest organizers.

"Not only did we not get the courtesy of a response," he said, "we haven't gotten anything from them saying she is disqualified."

Longacre also feels the sting of being lumped in with dethroned pageant winners whose disqualifications have ranged from criminal behavior to internet pornography.

She said she feels most embarrassed for her family and other staunch supporters.

"I'm being treated as if I did something morally and ethically wrong," she said. "I'm just really heartbroken,"



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Miss Delaware, 24, loses crown for being too old

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