Small Town Christmas

Small Town Christmas

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Call Me Old-Fashioned

Call me old-fashioned, but I love the Miss Kansas Pageant. I know it's not in vogue for modern women of today to admit their affection for pageants of any kind.

But my connection to the Miss Kansas Pageant began back in elementary school when it was a special outing with my Grandma and Grandpa Neelly. We put on our church dresses, buckled on our Mary Janes and headed off to the Municipal Building in Pratt.

I've been going ever since. And tonight, a new Miss Kansas will be crowned in Pratt. I'll be there, minus the Mary Janes.

My folks continued the tradition by taking the granddaughters. Jill and my sister's girl, Paige, were especially enamored of the beautiful dresses sparkling in the footlights and the carefully coiffed hair.

The Miss Kansas pageant is celebrating its 55th year in Pratt. The venue has changed to Pratt Community College. There are other changes, too. The talent portion of the pageant - always my favorite part - has been shaved to fit the Miss America pageant's time frame.

The contestants' evening gowns have gotten a lot more sophisticated, while the spectators' wardrobe has gone steadily the other direction. Tonight, the audience will be garbed in everything from jean shorts to evening dresses.

I was definitely missing my girl as I drove down to Pratt on Thursday night for a night of preliminary competition. This was an event we always did together.

But two of my nieces are attending this year. Abby and Paige arrived to root for one of Abby's friends from K-State. (Go Hillary Boyle, Miss Arkansas Valley!)

As a little girl, Abby admits she would have been much more inclined to attend a contest to choose the next Power Ranger.

But Jill and Paige were all about the pageant. Given any opportunity, Jill would develop pageants of her own. Most birthday parties of a certain era included a pageant, complete with dress-up clothes and crowns. (It also required this mother to be a diplomat in the distribution of the favored clothing and the coveted title.)

My sisters and I had plenty of pageants involving our Barbie dolls. The Barbies got to wear the fancy clothes, but we provided the talent, usually a piano piece, vocal solo or baton twirling act.

We eagerly anticipated watching the Miss America Pageant on television each September. We got to stay up past our bedtimes to watch until the 11 PM conclusion. These days, the Miss America Pageant seems to be struggling to find a television network that wants it. It's kind of sad for this girl who saw Debra Dene Barnes get crowned Miss Kansas in 1968 on the Municipal Building stage and then watched as Bert Parks sang, "There she is, Miss America" as she took the national title in Atlantic City. For Jill and Paige, their Miss Kansas to Miss America moment was with Tara Dawn Holland back in 1997.

Today, I'll be finalizing my Top 10 list. I'm sure the judges will be calling any minute for my evaluation.