Thursday, February 24, 2011

Welcome Home, Miss America - Nebraska Style!

Nebraska is a big state, 455 miles from west to east, with the high plains and towering Scottsbluff National Monument on the west, the rolling Sandhills and the smooth Platte River Valley in the center and the wooded breaks of the Missouri River on the east. What better way to welcome home Nebraska’s own Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, than by a cross-state road trip beginning in her hometown of Gering, stopping off in North Platte, where she earned her Miss Nebraska crown last June, and ending up in metropolitan Omaha.

We first arrived at the Scottsbluff Country Club for a VIP reception, where the excitement (and perhaps even the stress) of the Miss Nebraska Committee, responsible for organizing all three of the galas, was evident.However, all of their hard work paid off, and it was a wonderful event. A small, intimate gathering where Teresa's supporters could relax with her for awhile before the gala later. Here, Miss America and Miss Rodeo Nebraska, both western Nebraska girls compare notes.
It was only a brief, peaceful interlude before it was time to backtrack to the beautiful Gering Civic Center for the evening event. It was literally a standing-room-only crowd. 760 people were seated for dinner, and even more came just to welcome home their favorite teenager. It is easy to see that they love Teresa. The qualities that have made her a fantastic representative of Miss America obviously were in evidence while she was just a small-town Nebraska girl vying for the local title. The local pageant committee had made 200 buttons, and I don't know how many T-Shirts, and both were sold out before dinner started.

Teresa was named the Miss Scottsbluff County Fair in 2009, and then went on to win Miss Nebraska at the pageant in North Platte in June of 2010 before being named Miss America in January of 2011. The emcees of the night, Ken Meyer and Ray Richards, who have made a name for themselves hosting the local pageant for many years, told numerous stories about Teresa's popularity when she worked at the Panhandle Co-op as a carry-out girl. Below, Jessica Littlejohn, the current Miss Scottsbluff County Fair, poses with a young fan. Jessica will be competing for the title of Miss Nebraska in June.During her speech, Teresa alluded to her time at the Co-op as well, reminding the crowd that they encounter many young people each day, who are looking for guidance, leadership and support. It may be as simple as a generous tip or words of encouragement, or being excited about their successes. Just as the communities of Gering and Scottsbluff made a difference in the success that Teresa has achieved, so we all can keep inspiring our young people to reach above and beyond, to achieve their own success. Below, a young fan captures her memories of the evening.She also spoke about the opportunities she has had to work with the USO and travel to military hospitals around the country. As a proud representative of her community, her state and her country, she is humbled when she meets wounded war veterans who have sacrificed to protect the country she is representing. As you can see below, Teresa is surrounded by well-wishers wherever she goes.Teresa also encouraged us to realize every day how blessed we are, and to never take our health for granted. The Miss America organization partners with the Childrens Miracle Network, and her activities have brought her face to face with many children experiencing health crises. It has made her more thankful than ever of the health she enjoys. As an aside, it's a good thing she is healthy and strong, as the incredible schedule she has to keep this year would challenge even the heartiest young woman. Below, Teresa performs "Whitewater Chopsticks", arranged by Calvin Jones.She ended by saying that though her sphere of influence has increased greatly this year, and she is going to meet more and more people across the country and around the world, no one is going to match up to her hometown communities of Gering and Scottsbluff. As you can see below, Gering is extremely proud of her. This billboard will be placed at the entrances to the community.The North Platte community is a proud sponsor of the Miss America homecoming events across the state, and the committee showed their appreciation by including the logo of the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau front and center on the poster, along with the many others who made this event possible. It is a great feeling knowing we could help out in this way.
The Executive Director of the Miss Nebraska Pageant Jay Engel reminded everyone that the Miss Nebraska pageant is held annually in June in North Platte, as it has been for the past twenty-five years. Tickets will go on sale in May, and yes, Miss America Teresa Scanlan will be there!
I have gained such a greater appreciation for the path these young women take on their way to Miss America. From the local pageants, to winning the state crowns, to the ultimate achievement of Miss America, these young women hone their talents, gain poise and dignity, and we get to know their incredible characters, developed by a close circle of family, friends and community. Keep up the good work America. You are doing something very, very right when you can turn out young women like Teresa Scanlan.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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