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There she is

Miss America is in town this weekend to serve as mistress of ceremonies for a teen competition.

Miss America is in town this weekend to serve as mistress of ceremonies for a teen competition.

July 01, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - When asked what part of the country she has liked best so far, Miss America Jennifer Berry paused.

Someone suggested Maryland, and Berry smiled.

"Hagerstown," she said.

Aside from Hagerstown, Berry, 22, said she enjoyed her trip to Honolulu to participate in Miss Hawaii's preparation weekend because it was her first trip outside the continental United States.

Berry, of Tulsa, Okla., was in town this weekend to serve as mistress of ceremonies for Friday night's Miss Maryland Outstanding Teen competition.

The competition is relatively new, but Miss America said she thinks it's a great addition to the Miss America competition.

"I have seen a lot of these teen women coming in more prepared than the Miss girls are," Berry said.

Special appearances at such pageants and acting as national spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving have made her time as Miss America "a year like none other," Berry said.

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For the most part, Berry follows a strict schedule of appearances, she said.

"I go where they tell me," Berry said.

Among her most memorable moments was visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Berry said.

"I had the opportunity to walk up and say 'thank you,'" she said. "That really touched my heart."

Because she travels about 20,000 miles a month, has been home only four times this year, and changes time zones every couple of days, Berry said she has to pack carefully.

She usually carries one evening gown, a couple of cocktail dresses, four or five suits and some "normal clothes," such as jeans.

Anything more won't fit in the two 50-pound suitcases airlines allow, Berry said.

The Miss America pageant has changed over the last few years, moving from Atlantic City to Las Vegas and signing a broadcast deal with CMT. Berry said the changes have been good for Miss America.

In Las Vegas, "they literally rolled out the red carpet," she said. "They were so excited to have us there."

When her reign as Miss America ends in January, Berry plans to take some time off before heading back to school to finish her degree in elementary education.

"I think it'll be an interesting time in my life," Berry said.

Because Berry started competing in pageants at the age of 17, "I don't really know my life without this organization," she said.

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