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Prelude to the pageant

Hagerstown women are among Miss Maryland hopefuls

Hagerstown women are among Miss Maryland hopefuls

June 14, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN

shappell@herald-mail.com

Two young women from Hagerstown were among the two dozen smiling Miss Maryland hopefuls crowded onto a Valley Mall stage Sunday.

While both said they are trying to win the one-year honor for the scholarship money and to further their causes, they are on opposite ends of their pageant careers.

Miss Washington County Alaina Rowe and Miss Western Maryland Tiffany Hawbaker were among pageant winners from throughout Maryland attending the kickoff of events leading to the Miss Maryland Scholarship Pageant, which begins Thursday night at The Maryland Theatre. The new Miss Maryland will be crowned Saturday night at the theater.

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Rowe and Hawbaker, who were crowned during February competitions at Hagerstown Community College, were all smiles and appeared quite relaxed as they embarked on a busy week of rehearsals, competitions and appearances at local restaurants.

"They feed us so we can't fit into our evening gowns and swimsuits," Hawbaker joked.

The Hagerstown residents are competing for scholarship money, various prizes and a spot at the 2004 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.

Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the event is in its 37th year in Hagerstown and is one of local tourism's biggest annual draws.

Hawbaker, 23, said this is her "last chance" to win the crown, as she will exceed the maximum age by next year. Hawbaker has been involved in Miss America preliminary pageants for six years.

"When I first got involved, I was just looking to get scholarships for college and I liked to go anywhere I could sing," she said. "Now, this is my way of competing."

Hawbaker's platform is abstinence education. She will perform the song "Why Haven't I Heard From You?" at the pageant. Hawbaker is a graduate student at Shippensburg (Pa.) University studying mental health counseling.

Rowe, 19, has competed in just one pageant, where she successfully became Miss Washington County. Rowe attended HCC this academic year and plans to study at Salisbury (Md.) University this fall.

Rowe will perform "This is the Moment" from "Jekyl & Hyde" and her platform is Gear Up, a mentoring program putting college students with high-schoolers.

"You're close enough to relate and not too old to have forgotten what it's like for them," Rowe said. "They still respect you."

While Rowe is still learning the ropes this week, she said she is enjoying the camaraderie already forming among the contestants.

"It's like a big family," she said.

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