So, I'm sure a number or you are anxious to know what happened on Sunday, but you are just going to have to wait for me to go through the play-by-play. I believe I left off on Saturday afternoon after the parade. By the way, I know I must have been tired from teh race because I forgot to mention the funniest part of the whole parade experience. I was riding along trying to ignore the muscle cramps in my hip flexors from lifting my leg to show my goofy shoes, when a couple approached out moving vehicle. The man had the digital camera locked and loaded (as Utah would say) while the woman thrust their tiny infant into my arms. I didn't realize what was going on until I noticed that the whole family was decked out in Michigan gear, including the baby. They loved my costume so much that they threw caution to the wind and handed their first born to a complete stranger while frantically snapping photos. Yeah, it was that good. The best part was that the driver of mycorvette didn't know that I had this baby in my arms and started driving off. This was by far the most bizarre experience I had all week, and it made the fact that my host family leaves their house unlocked 24/7 seem a little less of a big deal than I orginally thought. Apparently the city of Hoopeston is a very trusting community.
Evening wear and on-stage question went well. I talked, then walked, you know, the usual. The emcee asked me what small rural communities could do to promote revitalization, and I suggest a giant corn boil. Okay, I didn't, but it would have been funny. And slightly inappropriate. In reality, I suggested that they start by gathering together and discussing their needs. Pretty basic, I know, but I said it with a smile. At least this time I actually understood the question. At the end of the evening, Alabama won talent and Indiana won swimsuit. Now, if you'll recall my email from Saturday afternoon, you might be impressed by my prediction. What's more, on Sunday evening they announced an error in tabulation and awarded the tie in swimsuit to Indiana and Georgia. I think this qualifies me to join Sheila in the "latter-day Nostradamus" club.
Sunday started with a 10:30 (yay for sleeping in) visit and luncheon at the nursing home. I had a great time meeting all of the residents and had the privilege of sitting with an adorable couple. The man was 97 years old and the woman was probably in her early 70s. Both were widowed and met in the nursing home. Talk about a cradle robber. I guess it's true that the older you get, the less it matters. They were both blind, so at least we know it's not superficial. (Okay, that was borderline inappropriate.) In all seriousness, they were wonderful people with incredible stories that made me feel so grateful for all of the opportunities I have had. It was great to see how much they cared for one another.
After lunch we made a quick stop at Dairy Queen before squeezing back into out interview suits for the autograph signing session and group photo. Every time I signed my name, I would silently critique it. Sometimes the G was not right or I would skip the i altogether. When you sign your name enough in one sitting, it all starts to look strange, and I have a hard time remembering what I normally do. It's funny how no one seems to care when I sign my credit card receipts, but in Hoopeston you would have thought they could sell it on eBay. The kids loved it (and let's be honest, so did the adults), and I felt really cool becase someone wanted my autograph. It was a win (win) win situation.
Before I knew it, I was standing backstage in my red bowtie and cummerbund. I was hoping I would make top ten so that my friends and family could see me in the show, but I was doubting the possibility. I have never competed with so many talented women and any number of us could have made it. I did, however, think that if I was called into top ten, I would be right at the beginning. Why, you ask? Because I hate being at the beginning and am somehow always there. As luck would have it, I was called second. Wahoo! I was thrilled just to have made it.
I jetted backstage and quickly changed into my swimsuit, only to realized that we had much more time than I thought. Of course, without a dress rehearsal, it was impossible to time it out. Swimsuit went much better the second time around. My circle was at least the size of a quarter, and I waited until the emcee finished reading the entire card. Bonus points for me.
Then the hard part came...talent. I felt pretty calm beforehand and ready to redeem myself from prelims. The first four notes were right on, and then my worst nightmare came true. My finger slipped off the string on a slide and made the most horrendous sound I have ever made on stange. It was mortifying. The worst part was, the monitors were off (big surprise), and I couldn't hear where to pick the music up again. I played all of Csardas about two beats behind the background track with both feet planted in front of the monitor. When it ended, before the Sing Sing Sing, I looked at the producer with a face that said, "Please God, give me some background through these monitors and I promise to travel the world with my violin spreading good cheer to orphans everywhere." Michelle realized what was going on and told the sound booth to fix it. Finally, it kicked in, and I rocked out the last half of my talent. I'd say the first half was the worst I'd ever played it, and the second half was just about the best I'd ever performed it. At a certain point I had to tell myself that I had already blown it, and I just had to let it go. And that's exactly what I did.
When we lined up for the top five announcement, I knew my night was just about over. I didn't think there was any way I'd make it in after that performance. My evening wear went well, but there are only so many points you can earn for wearing a pretty dress. When the emcee called out, "Miss Michigan" for the top five, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it, and I was laughing with excitement. I was so thrilled and honored to be among the last five standing, and at that point, I was ready to grab my fourth runner-up trophy and go to bed.
Everyone nailed their on-stage interview to the point where I don't think it made any difference overall. When they announced the fourth runner-up, I said my own name in my mind and was surprised when it wasn't me. I did the same for third runner-up and was surprised again. I was in utter disbelief that I was one of the last three girls and was so thrilled when they called me as the second runner-up. The title of Miss National Sweetheart when to Miss Georgia, Kelley Bradshaw, and Miss Alabama was first runner-up.
I cannot tell you how proud I am to have made it to this point in my pageant career. Being Miss America is certainly a dream of mine, but if I walked away from this today, I would know that I had accomplished much more than I ever thought I would. The whole week was like a dream. I left like time stopped while I frolicked among the corn fields with some of the smartest, sweetest, funniest, and most talented girls I have ever met. I remember watching talent rehearsals and being in awe of the fact that these were the same women I was climbing on tractors with only a few hours earlier. It made me realize how much talent is really out there in the world and what a true gift it is to witness it. I'd like to extend my gratitude to each of the girls who competed with me for being able to rise above the disappointment of not winning their state and making this a wonderful experience. Also, my sincerest thanks to all of the volunteers and the community for making this experience a reality. It is the best preparation for "the big one" that any contestant could ask for, and I promise to work hard so that I might represent Hoopeston at Miss America next year. Thank you for your support (and all the free stuff too!). This had been a week like none other.
I'd also like to say a special thanks to the people who traveled to Hoopeston to support me. To Mom, Stan, Dan, Dad, Dave, Shelley, Angela, Sheila, and Brooke: Thank you for being my fan club. It means the world to me that you would take the time out of your busy lives to come cheer me on.
If there are contestants out there reading this, I want you to know that if you are ever eligible to compete at Sweetheart, the trip to Hoopeston is invaluable. I'm sure any one of the girls who were there would agree with me, whether they finished first or last. It is the most fun you will ever have competing.
Well, I think I have covered just about everything I could squeeze onto paper. I am back in Chicago at my mom's at the moment, enjoying my last days as an unemployed squatter. I'm headed back to Michigan this week to enjoy the last week as Miss Wayne County. It's hard to believe how much has changed in such a short amount of time. On Septemeber 25th, I will be starting my new job as an AdWords Coordinator at Google in Ann Arbor. In the meantime, I have some vacationing to do. I will probably post a final update on the Miss Wayne County website before it is all over (or just after, if I know myself). Until then...
Signing off from Cornjerker Country,