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Guest Column

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by Dan Schiedel

I remember 1967 very well. I was 10 years old and full of ideas and dreams, but the most vivid dream I had was to be at the Miss USA pageant. I'm sure it was every young boy's dream at one time; the women were beautiful, the bathing suits awesome and the glamour stunning.

Well, I've grown since 1967, but the lure of attending the pageant never wore off, so you can imagine my excitement to be asked to be a part of the Miss USA Pageant as a preliminary judge. The experience was far from what I had dreamed of as a child of 10, but the glitz and glamour were still there.

In preparation for the judging, I studied the delegate's biographical information provided by the Miss USA organization. I began thinking about the questions I might ask the 51 intelligent, poised women. Friends and family helped me think of just the right things to ask, and I eagerly anticipated meeting the women who had been tirelessly preparing for this moment.

Saturday morning dawned rainy and cool, and my mind was whirling with questions that would confuse even the most sane individual. All of the judges met at the Grand Victorian hotel and were bused to the clubhouse of one of Branson's premiere golf courses.

Although we couldn't talk with each other about how we would judge the candidates, we were all wondering what the others were thinking. After a briefing about scoring, we were taken to another room and seated at individual tables.

The first 25 candidates arrived, and the room was filled with tension, anticipation and a lot of perfume and hairspray. Good thing I wasn't allergic to anything! Each candidate was paired with a judge, and a bell signaled the end of the four-minute interview. After a morning of interviews, we had lunch and parted company until the next day when we interviewed the last 26 candidates.

Every candidate was intelligent, beautiful, poised, talented, and qualified. After the interviews, we again had lunch and parted ways.

We were reunited again Monday evening for the presentation show, which included the evening gown and swimsuit competitions. A hard job, but somebody had to do it!

This time we were seated at computer terminals in front of the stage at the Grand Palace. This was a live show and we were part of it. I was stunned, flabbergasted and a bit nervous.

We had to score each of the 51 women numerically from 1.0 up to 9.99 for two separate contests. It seemed the show would never end, which was fine with me since I was living my dream. But it did end, and we left not knowing who the top 10 were. We would have to wait until Friday night along with the rest of the nation.

Friday evening finally arrived.

The show was phenomenal, and the women were more beautiful than ever. Within the first 30 minutes of the program, the top 10 were revealed to us. From 10 it went to five, then to three, then to one.

I was surprised, as were many of the audience members, that the first runner-up didn't win, but then realized that any of these women were perfectly capable of winning. They were all Miss USA in my book.

(Dan Schiedel is director of production and corporate communications for Ozarks Public Television.)

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