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Cheerleader, mascot race to be belles of the (foot)ball
Maggie Norton, left, is the Red Elephant mascot and Parrish Brown is a cheerleader. Both will be at the Georgia Dome today for the state championship game, then make a quick turnaround to get ready for the Junior League Charity Ball. Both girls are in the running for Belle of the Ball. - photo by Tom Reed

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What happens when you are presented with not one, but two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities on the same day? How do you choose?
If you are Gainesville High School seniors Parrish Brown and Maggie Norton, you don’t choose. You plan well, put on a smile and hope for the best.

Brown, a cheerleader, and Norton, the GHS mascot, will both be performing at the Georgia Dome at 4:30 p.m. today as the Red Elephants battle Peach County for the state championship.

As exciting as a state championship game may be, the girls have another event to get back to in Gainesville.

Both Brown and Norton are Belle of the Ball candidates in the 58th annual Charity Ball, sponsored by the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County. The opportunity to be a Belle is only awarded to senior girls who are selected by a sponsoring civic group. In order to win the crown, the girls have worked for months to raise the most money for the league, which will be used to support the group’s community outreach programs.

“Two or three days into the playoffs, I noticed that the dates were the same for the ball and the (final) game,” Brown said. “When I realized that, I started to get a little nervous.”

But for the girls with school spirit in excess and a strong sense of commitment, choosing one event over the other was never a possibility.

“I wouldn’t miss (either) for the world,” Norton said.

Instead of spending all day getting dolled up for the ball, the girls have minimized their beauty routines and are focusing on the essentials.

“I can’t get my nails because the (Georgia High Schools Association) rules say that (the cheerleaders) can’t wear polish or have long nails,” Brown said. “And I can’t get my hair done either (in advance) because I’ll be wearing it up in a ponytail for the game, so I’ll probably just put my hair in a bun for the ball.”

To save even more time, both girls say they will probably have to resort to doing their make-up in the car during the hour-long trip from Atlanta back to Gainesville.

For Norton, planning activities down to the very minute will make the difference in making or breaking her busy day.

“I’m taking the ACT at 8 a.m. at West Forsyth (High School). After that I have to get ready for the game and then get home to get ready for the ball,” Norton said. “And sometime between the ACT and the game, we have to pick my brother up from the airport because he is my escort for the ball. Win or lose, (we) have to leave the dome by 8 at the latest, in order to make it to the ball in time.”

According to the girls, there’s only one thing that could derail their plans.

“There’s always the possibility of traffic,” Norton said.

Realizing their dilemma, Junior League members pushed the grand entrance of the belle candidates to 9:45 p.m. to give the girls a little more time to prepare.

“We’ll have to change really quickly — luckily, we both live really close to (where the ball is being held at the Chattahoochee Country Club),” Brown said.

“But everything should all work out.”