Vying for the crown in Hagerstown

June 17, 2004|by Chris Copley

Royalty returns to Hagerstown this weekend.

After a splashy week of public appearances around Hagerstown, 24 women from across the state will begin competing tonight to be crowned Miss Maryland 2004.

Glamour and entertainment are the hallmarks of pageants, and this year's - the 69th annual Miss Maryland contest and the 33rd held in Hagerstown - is no different, according to longtime pageant producer Bev Bonarigo.

The show will have plenty of entertainment. The 24 contestants will sing and dance individually and perform group dance numbers. Miss America 1993 Leanza Cornett, a professional singer and contributor on the television show "Entertainment Tonight," will emcee the pageant.


Miss Maryland 2003 Marina Harrison, third runner-up in last year's Miss America pageant, will crown Miss Maryland 2004 and also sing and dance with this year's contestants. The audience will glitter with a number of tiaras and crowns - visiting Misses from other states and Maryland girls who have won pageants for younger ages.

The score sheet

The basic format of the pageant has not changed, Bonarigo said. Contestants will present themselves in swimsuits and evening gowns, participate in a brief onstage interview, and perform their talent over the course of two days of competition tonight and Friday.

A panel of judges will score each event and compile a composite for each contestant - the talent performance counts for 30 percent of the total, the swimsuit and evening gown presentation count for 10 percent each, the short interview counts for 10 percent, and a longer, private interview between a contestant and judges counts for 40 percent.

Ten semifinalists are selected at the end of the night on Friday. On Saturday, these 10 contestants repeat the swimsuit, talent and evening gown events and are scored again. At the end of the evening, judges select five finalists - Miss Maryland and four runners-up.

Fourteen of last year's contestants are returning, including Miss Western Maryland Tiffany Hawbaker, a Hagerstown native who was Miss Potomac in 2003. Ten contestants are newcomers, including Miss Washington County Alaina Rowe, also of Hagerstown.

Both Hagerstown residents will sing during the talent competition. In fact, most of the contestants will sing, Bonarigo said. That's unusual.

"We have 18 singers - two also play the piano - five performing in tap dance and one in baton," she said.

The contestants will perform on a set decorated in pink swaths of cloth with silver accents.

"I'd seen several pictures of Marina in pink, and she looked good," Bonarigo said. "And it's the 'in' color this year, so I said, 'Let's do pink.'"

Something old, something new

While most of the pageant will stick to the traditional pattern, there are changes in the national program that are rippling down to state pageants, Bonarigo said.

One change has been incorporated into the Miss Maryland pageant. At last year's Miss America pageant, contestants competed for the first time in a casual wear presentation.

"The casual concept is to see the contestants as they really are," Bonarigo said. "When they dress in evening gown, it makes them look older. But if they were dressed to go to a rock concert, they'd dress casual. Obviously, in the pageant, it's going to be good-looking casual wear, but it's a more youthful look."

Bonarigo said the casual wear competition at this year's Miss Maryland pageant is a demonstration only; it will not count toward a contestant's final score. Next year, it will be a part of the official scoring.

A bigger change is on the horizon, she added. Organizers for the Miss America pageant will rearrange the order of events in order to give onstage events more weight. Beginning this year, the private interview between each Miss America contestant and the panel of judges will take place after the onstage competition instead of before. Bonarigo said this change addresses a concern that some contestants have placed better than they should have due to judges' impressions following the private interview.

That change was announced too late to be incorporated into this year's Miss Maryland pageant, but it will be a part of next year's pageant.

More than skin deep

Bonarigo said that the pageant is more than just a pretty show. Physical appearance is important, but so is emotional preparedness, a network of support, a strong community service goal and much more.

Contestants learn to present themselves to advantage - to dress well, to make themselves up suitably, to carry themselves with poise. They also learn to handle a variety of situations ranging from speaking in public to working with children to lobbying politicians.

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