Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From 8 million in NYC to 6,000 in Hoopeston…

I took a trip down memory lane this weekend, going to National Sweetheart in Hoopeston, IL to cheer for Hannah Wright, Miss New York’s Sweetheart. The National Sweetheart Pageant is a competition for the 1st or 2nd Runners Up around the country to compete against national caliber competition…with none of the pressure and all of the fun. It is an incredible learning opportunity and experience, but even more importantly, a time where you truly connect with the girls and make amazing lasting friendships because you can all relate to each other with something uniquely special.  The biggest thing I took away from competing at Sweetheart two years ago was something I shared with a few of the girls.  You experience “competition” in a new light, with new feelings and attitudes that you can reflect upon at your next state competition.  In that time of stress and natural pressure the next year as the returning runner up, you can remember how you felt at Sweetheart: full of stress-free excitement, having an inordinate amount of fun and genuine pride in yourself and the other girls. The reactions of preliminary winners, finalists, every announcement on the Sweetheart stage is so exciting to watch and truly unique.  But when I saw it last night, and then I saw their dance party on stage after the competition, I turned to my mom and Hannah’s parents and just said, “THAT is what Miss America is.” I didn’t make Top Ten or win any award on the Sweetheart stage, but it fueled me with wisdom, memories and friendships that carried me through my journey towards becoming Miss New York and will continue on to Miss America. 

During the day on Sunday, I got to spend some great time with Kaitlin Davis, one of New Jersey’s finest, of course eating sweet corn at the National Sweet Corn Festival of which National Sweetheart is a part, and then spent the rest of the day with Pauli Mayfield, Miss Iowa, and I so much enjoyed the conversations we had. She caught my eye in Orlando and she definitely upheld her reputation in getting to know her better. She’s the real deal.  Back to the pageant, the competition was fantastic and Top Ten was a group of really really strong girls.  If you read my blog, you probably read my Facebook or Twitter and already know the results, but just in case you missed it…

Top Ten:
Prelim Talent: NY IA AL    Non-finalist Talent: IA    Overall Talent: NY
Prelim Swim:  CA AL GA NC

4th RU: Arkansas, Amy Crain
3rd RU: Florida, Diana Kelly
2nd RU:  New York, Hannah Wright
1st RU: Kentucky, Ann-Blair Thornton
National Sweetheart: Indiana, Brittany Hagan

Every time Hannah’s name was called, I got soooo excited (and obnoxious in the audience I’m sure – I lost my voice…again…to prove it.)  I just love this girl and I am so proud of her.  New York is really takin’ names this year!! From Alison at MAOT to Hannah at Sweetheart….ahhh I guess pressure’s on!  Someone sent me “Oh no, I hope Hannah’s not disappointed in 2nd RU.”  Are you kidding me!?  She was just named 2nd Runner Up in a national Miss America-level pageant! That’s unbelievable!  Of course it’s more fun to hear your name as the winner, but what a phenomenal achievement.  I’m so glad I was there to watch her, spend some time with her parents, and cheer all the girls on. You should all be so proud.  The tradition WILL continue – you will definitely see some of those girls on the Miss America stage.  And the other tradition will continue too…they may not all be from the Top Ten J

On the drive back to the hotel, I told my mom that I find myself so often using the words UN-believable…UN-real…with so much emphasis and almost bewilderment when talking about my year as Miss New York and my time in the Miss America Organization in general.  It’s not from a naïve place, because I feel like I really know MAO and have witnessed so many of the amazing people within it.  However, my experiences, the people I meet, the things they’re doing, the talent and charisma and intelligence they possess, all continue to impress me and inspire me.  And it’s making it all absolutely believable; I guess I just continue to realize how incredibly blessed I am to be a part of it.

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