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March 2 Rikard takes crown

March 02, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

The third time was the charm for Toni Alicia Rickard, crowned Miss Washington County 1997 Saturday night at Hagerstown Junior College's Kepler Theater.

Rickard, 19, of Hagerstown, dazzled the judges of the annual Miss Washington County Scholarship Pageant with a soaring, silky rendition of "Think of Me," from "The Phantom of the Opera," in the talent competition.

For her platform, Rickard spoke about the importance of role models in helping children achieve success. Asked after the show why she chose children as her platform, she said, "They are the future."

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Rickard will receive a $1,500 scholarship and the opportunity to represent the county at the annual Miss Maryland Scholarship Pageant in June.

It was Rickard's third attempt at the pageant crown. Rickard said she was excited to be representing the county and said the whole pageant experience has given her confidence.

But winning wasn't what she liked best, Rickard said. "I think the best part was meeting so many people," she said.

The daughter of James and Suzanne Rickard and a 1995 graduate of Williamsport High School, Rickard attends Hagerstown Junior College and plans to use her scholarship to continue her education further, perhaps in Washington, D.C.

Miriam Whiteaker, 17, of Hagerstown, won first runner-up and a $600 scholarship. A senior at Williamsport High School, Whiteaker is the daughter of Brent and Colleen Whiteaker. She performed an elegant ballet and spoke out against sex before marriage and the breakdown of family values.

Jennifer Lynn Gesell, 19, a 1995 graduate of South Hagerstown High School and a student at HJC, was the second runner-up and received a $300 scholarship. Her parents are Teresa and Gene Dayhoff and Randy and Katrina Gesell. She sang "Big Spender" from the Broadway musical "Sweet Charity" and spoke out against teen alcohol abuse.

Maria Ann Vidas, 21, a graduate of South Hagerstown High School and a 1995 graduate of Hagerstown Business College, won the Quality of Life Award for community service.

Vidas was the president of Students Against Drunk Driving at HBC and spoke out against drunk driving as her platform.

She is the daughter of Anthony and Sherry Vidas.

This year's theme was "Dance! Dance! Dance!" and the eight contestants twirled, jumped and clapped in formation on and off the stage in the opening number.

The 1996 Miss Washington County, Susan Brakeall of Hancock, performed a piano selection and crowned her successor.

A video tribute showed how she's used her winning smile at numerous events in the past year.

There are four phases of competition in selecting the winner: a private interview with the panel of judges and three on-stage competitions.

The on-stage competitions are talent, physical fitness in swimsuit, and evening wear.

Each contestant is asked a question as part of the evening wear competition.

The talent competition is worth 40 percent of the total score, and the other competitions are each worth 15 percent.

Guest entertainers included Miss Maryland 1996 Susan Alexander and Samantha Spates, who is Miss Chesapeake 1997.

Former Hagerstown resident Buddy Rizer, now a Washington, D.C. radio personality, served as master of ceremonies.

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