Holly Harrar, Miss Philadelphia 2016

 

Holly Harrar has made the most of her year as Miss Philadelphia.

From speaking at a world conference to advocating for people with disabilities to visiting  children in hospitals, Harrar has made one appearance a week every week since her crowning last February. “I really enjoyed every single day that I was able to represent the city that I’ve loved since I was little,” says Harrar, who was also the Fourth Runner-Up at the 2016 Miss Pennsylvania pageant, a title she will compete for again one last time later this spring. “While I enjoyed getting dressed up, taking TONS of photos and wearing the sparkly crown, my favorite memories are those when I was able to make dream catchers with patients at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, read and distribute books to kids through Cara McCollum’s Birthday Book Project and march in peaceful protest for the fair and equal treatment of our disability community,” she says.

This weekend Harrar will crown the next Miss Philadelphia, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 25 at the Mandell Theatre at Drexel University.

Philly Happening recently caught up with Harrar to discuss her adventures as Miss Philadelphia, what’s next in her career journey to become a TV broadcaster, what to expect at this weekend’s pageant (there are some changes!), and her advice for the next winner.

                            Harrar with the other finalists at last year’s Miss Philadelphia pageant.

 

P.H.: We talked with you one year ago! What have you been up to in the last year during your reign as Miss Philadelphia?

Holly: I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. It really does fly by! Wish I could relive it all. In the last year, I’ve made so many amazing memories — I could write a book! I’ve been busy attending various appearances, volunteering and working on behalf of our disability community. To date, I’ve averaged one appearance a week since my crowning, all while managing to graduate from college and start my career! Now, I look forward to the many connections I’ve made for future opportunities in our region and can’t wait to continue the work I’ve started!

 

     Harrar advocated for people with disabilities during her reign as Miss Philadelphia.

                  

P.H.: Tell us more about your platform to help advocate for people with disabilities.

Holly: This cause is something that’s been a part of my life for so long and this was my chance to really do some amazing things. I spoke at the Accessible World Conference in Philadelphia where I advocated for equal opportunities for people with disabilities, joined forces with Best Buddies of Philadelphia and shared my personal experiences with everyone I met. I also raised funds to help find a cure for Juvenile Arthritis , a disease my cousin had before she passed away at 11 years-old. My family and I participated in the Walk to Cure Arthritis in Philadelphia and helped raise the $100,000 that went toward finding a cure. I also hosted the opening ceremonies and shared my cousin’s story. It was a very emotional day and year!

 

 Harrar was Fourth-Runner-Up at the 2016 Miss Pennsylvania Pageant.

P.H.: How would you describe your experience over the last year? 

Holly:  It’s hard to fully describe! I’ve been telling several of this year’s contestants just how magical and special it is to represent Philadelphia. This city loves their Miss Philly and I felt that all year long.  I wanted to do my best to reciprocate that. While I enjoyed getting dressed up, taking TONS of photos and wearing the sparkly crown, my favorite memories are those when I was able to make dream catchers with patients at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, read and distribute books to kids through Cara McCollum’s Birthday Book Project and march in peaceful protest for the fair and equal treatment of our disability community. It was challenging to manage it all but with the right support system, you can really do anything! I’m so thankful for everything. The most rewarding accomplishment came when I competed at Miss Pennsylvania. I was fortunate to place Fourth Runner-Up to Miss Pennsylvania 2016. I had NEVER gotten that close and I’ve been competing for four years. It was so rewarding to know my hard work was paying off!

 

High fiving with Swoop, the Philadelphia Eagles mascot.

P.H.: What was the coolest thing you did as Miss Philadelphia? What about the strangest?

Holly: I can honestly say everything was really fun! If I had to name a few highlights, I really enjoyed attending the Philadelphia Marathon and helping the runners warm up as they crossed the finish line. I met people from all over the world. I also got to meet Miss America, Savvy Shields! She reminded me why I pursue this dream. You sometimes run into the occasional “Are you Miss America?” or “Are you a queen?” questions. I know how to respond to the first question but not really the second. I’m bad at taking compliments, so when I’m asked to sign an autograph or take a photo, I feel silly! But I will miss being hearing “Oh my gosh, it’s Miss Philadelphia!” almost everywhere I go.

 Harrar with Miss America.

P.H.: What’s next for you ?

Holly: Right now, I’m focusing on my career! For the last three months, I’ve been working full-time as a General Assignment Reporter for Blue Ridge News 11 in Northern Lancaster County. I strongly believe my experiences as Miss Philadelphia have helped me get closer to my dreams professionally. I’m also competing one last time at Miss Pennsylvania. Only this time, I’ll be representing the Greater Juniata Valley. I’m so excited to give it another go and really hoping for the best!

Reading to  local children was one of Harrar’s favorite things to do during her time as Miss Philadelphia.

P.H.:What can we look forward to with this weekend’s pageant? 

Holly: This year’s Miss Philadelphia pageant will be at Drexel’s Mandell Theater once again! Hosting will be Miss Philadelphia 2007, Kim Rogers-Raichle along with 6abc’s Traffic Reporter, Matt Pellman. It’s going to be a fun event! One thing that’s different is the scoring scale. The contestants will compete in the typical phases: swimsuit, evening gown, on-stage question and interview. Formerly worth only 5% of the overall score, the on-stage question is now worth 20% and is based on current events! It’s nice to get an idea of what each contestant is passionate about while also getting a glimpse of how we answer tough questions under pressure.

 

             Harrar and family participated in the Walk to Cure Arthritis in Philadelphia and helped raise the $100,000 for the cause.

P.H.:  What advice do you have for the next Miss Philadelphia?

Holly: I want the next Miss Philadelphia to soak it all in. I had no idea how fast this year would go by but now that I can reflect, I really enjoyed every single day that I was able to represent the city that I’ve loved since I was little. I know she will too. It’s going to be difficult at times to delegate time with each aspect of your life, but it’s one of life’s most fulfilling challenges. Being Miss Philadelphia is unlike anything she’ll ever experience and I want our next representative to know that she can do anything she sets her mind to for the next year and the rest of her life. It’s opened so many doors for me and truly allowed me to explore I side of myself I had no idea existed. Just step out of your comfort zone! Learn something new. You won’t go wrong!

 

Bonus Feature: Read Philly Happening’s first interview with Harrar after being crowned last February