MUSKEGON -- For 21 years, one West Michigan family hasn't missed a Miss Michigan pageant.
Betty Lallo of Whitehall and her daughter, Nicole Damuth, of Ada, said they make the pageant an event to remember every year by dressing up and going out to dinner, where they make their predictions about who will be the next young woman representing the Wolverine state. And now Damuth's daughter, Lucy Damuth, age 5, is joining the tradition.
There were a few years when they knew a contestant, Nicole Damuth said, but watching strangers compete is fun, too.
“Out of 20 years, we're probably been right about six (predictions),” she said. “It's just been so much fun for us. We love the example it sets for women.”
Half of the Miss Michigan and Teen contestants competed in the active wear, talent, evening wear and onstage question categories Wednesday night. The other half will compete in the preliminaries Thursday, with the teen finals Friday and Miss Michigan's crowning Saturday.
The new Miss Michigan will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and the chance to compete for the title of Miss America. She also will be expected to promote her platform and the pageant's sponsors.
Talent routines included singing, dancing and instrumental performances, and even a short painting session set to music. Onstage questions mostly focused on current events and ranged from the young women's opinions on recent sex scandals, to alternative energy, to what celebrity they considered to be a good role model for young people.
All of the contestants walked for the judges in matching sleeveless red dresses at the start of the competition, and changed into club-going outfits for the final walk of the night.
“Our opening numbers were jeans and T-shirts, so this is a huge improvement,” said 2008 Miss Michigan Ashlee Baracy, who emceed the event.
Barbara Jean Crandall Daniels, Miss Michigan 1984, also emceed and entertained the crowd during pauses in the show with her ventriloquist routine.
Current Miss Michigan Katie LaRoche performed a dance routine based on her experiences traveling overseas while working on her anti-human trafficking platform, and Miss Michigan's Outstanding Teen Brooke Rowland played the harp.
Nine-year-old Emily Salisbury, who was attending her first pageant, said she might like to compete someday.
“I liked all the singing and dancing,” she said. “It's really cool that we're seeing it here, right in the front.”