This was definitely the week of preliminary pageants in Arkansas! What an exciting week! We held five separate preliminaries, and I attended a fundraiser for an upcoming pageant preliminary!
Because of our strong preliminary pageants, Arkansas is definitely unique compared to other states! Very few state pageants have more than 40 contestants competing for the state title. Yet, unlike our state, many states with over 30 contestants have different opportunities for contestants to qualify for the state pageant. Arkansas is one of the very few that awards only one crown per preliminary. Other states may present 2-4 different crowns to the top contestants in a single preliminary pageant. The smaller states hold open state pageants, where anyone can sign up to compete for the state title without winning a preliminary pageant. I consider the Miss Arkansas Organization a huge success because of our strong preliminary pageants, which are only possible because of the directors and volunteers!
Women's Inc. Magazine released the article on Laine Berry and The Royal We. I was tickled for her, and happy to be on the front page of the magazine!
To begin a very busy week, I headed to Fort Smith on Monday to celebrate with the Miss University of Arkansas at Fort Smith contestants at Joe’s Grill and Cantina. This restaurant donated $2,300 to Children’s Miracle Network so that 20 contestants can compete in Miss UAFS without paying the CMN entry fee. Supporters of the Miss UAFS pageant packed the restaurant, and the radio station advertised the event. It was a lot of fun and very successful!
At Perryville High School I spoke during a Tuesday morning assembly that was completely organized by the EAST Lab students. The students wanted to discuss suicide prevention and created pamphlets and goodie bags for their fellow classmates. I felt my presentation about second chances and mentoring was especially appropriate for that discussion because youth in crisis may not recognize the opportunities that are available to them. After playing the “Name That Tune” game, I ended the speech with an emphasis on relationships. When we take notice of the people around us, we can make a difference and help prevent teen suicide.
The girls that scheduled the Perryville assembly.
Wednesday was a great day as I met with many people. I started by taking a tour of the Youth Home, an organization that helps change lives and save families in Little Rock. I enjoy meeting and encouraging organizations that effectively promote second chances and empowerment for my generation.
I spent the afternoon visiting with sponsors and practicing my talent. At Gallery Salon, Jerry Davis showed up to take some pictures of me getting a pedicure while wearing a formal gown and crown! Haha! It was pretty fun! I met with Tommy Lyons at Venue to pick up a few gowns for the weekend’s preliminary pageants. I also borrowed dresses from Rebekah Lane and The Royal We! I am very thankful that I have so much help!
Thursday, I drove to Russellville to meet Dr. Jim Collins at the Russellville Rotary Club. Jim’s introduction of me included some of his typically funny jokes. I enjoyed sharing stories from Miss America and talking about my platform. The audience was mostly men, but the precious little girl who came with her daddy was the most excited to meet me! Haha! She wanted to ask me questions throughout the entire lunch meeting!
Mr. Jim Collins and me!
My next stop was Pottsville Middle School to speak to the 6th grade class. The president and vice-president escorted me into the gym and introduced me to the class. The kids were so well behaved and participated throughout the entire program! I mentioned that they could find me on Facebook and Twitter, and I have never received more Facebook notes from another event. I loved it! This one is so encouraging:
“You have really influenced me to do a lot of good things!! I wanted to thank you for that!! I think that you are very smart and very pretty!! I liked to hear about what you did in the lab!! They for sure picked the right Miss Arkansas!”
Being introduced by President and Vice President!
Thursday night, I met all of the Miss Arkansas Tech University contestants and helped with their rehearsal. The director, Dr. Jim Collins, asked me to share some advice and encouragement with the girls … something I always love doing! I was even more excited about the pageant on Friday since I had spent time with the contestants. My parents met me in Russellville, where we ate dinner with the judges. Renee Fronabarger (Nay-nay) was my official chaperone, and we had lots of fun together! I performed twice and crowned the new Miss Arkansas Tech University, Claire Hodgson. I then met Claire, the judges, and the Miss Tech pageant crew for a wonderful post-pageant celebration at Jim’s house. Overall, it was a VERY well-run pageant and enjoyable weekend! Thank you, Jim, for including my parents and me!
Dinner with the judges before Miss Arkansas Tech University
Miss Arkansas Tech University, Claire Hodgson
Saturday morning, I headed to Arkadelphia for the Miss Ouachita Baptist University brunch with contestants and formers. The brunch was something that I initiated to get to know and encourage the girls competing. I sent invitations to all of the formers and several came for the brunch. Even more formers showed up for the pageant! I wanted the contestants to recognize the Miss OBU legacy, a sisterhood of which I am very proud to be a part! It was powerful to hear the testimonies of the former Miss OBU titleholders, and I know the contestants enjoyed them! We shared lots of laughs and support!
All contestants competing in Miss OBU
I then traveled back to Little Rock to speak to the Lutheran Laymen’s League about my platform. They attentively listened to my speech and asked questions for 45 minutes! I appreciated their enthusiastic support for my platform and my passion for working with young people. It was definitely a feel good moment!
Returning to Arkadelphia, I prepared for a busy evening with six wardrobe changes! Directors Justin Harper and Kirt Thomas always do an incredible job of producing the show, and this year was no exception! I was so thankful for the help of emcees Bethany Whitfield and Bethany Briscoe-Toney, former Miss OBU titleholders, and John Jacob Lively, Student Senate President. Once it was time for the opening number, the audience was teeming with excitement! The welcoming applause when I entered onstage for the first time made me feel right at home! The contestants faced stiff competition throughout the pageant. The court of honor was very entertaining as they kept the show rolling. I was sincerely touched by Bethany Whitfield’s kind remarks as she dedicated her performance of the vocal solo “Legacy” in my honor. Becca Woodall worked very hard to produce an awesome slideshow of my year as Miss OBU and Miss Arkansas. The night was practically perfect until the announcement of the awards. We were all onstage when two BATS swooped above the audience several times to stir up a commotion. We laughed and joked about it before moving on to the crowning. Congratulations to Mary Lacey Thomson as she capably executed a Faith Hill song and captured the crown! She will be an outstanding representative for my alma mater!
Bethany Toney, Mary Lacey Thomson, me, and Bethany Whitfield!
Kirt, Mary Lacey, me, and Justin
Also, congratulations to the three other young women who were crowned on Saturday! Maegan Inzer will be returning to Miss Arkansas this year as Miss Greater Jacksonville! Congrats to Alex Farmer for earning the title of Miss Western Arkansas! Sarah Sutton was named Miss Greater Camden; welcome to Miss Arkansas!
On Sunday, I spent the evening with the youth and parents of Woodlawn Heights Baptist Church in Conway. Every year, they have a True Love Waits program, and I was invited to be the keynote speaker of this year’s program. I always use a water illustration while I speak on purity, and I felt like I really connected with that audience through the illustration. Afterwards, I enjoyed meeting the group of inspiring young men and women!
Advice for this week: We can never say thank you enough! I think each titleholder could list the benefits and personal growth she has received from competing in the Miss America Organization. However, that opportunity is only possible because of those who volunteer! Please recognize the generous people who direct, coach, judge, and sponsor so that you may have a good pageant experience. We are forever indebted to them for their help and service! My favorite form of appreciation is an old-fashioned written thank-you note! Since being crowned in July, I have written approximately 1,200 thank- you notes. I hope you take time to thank those who volunteer with the Miss America Organization!