If you’ve been following Anthony Around Town for the last couple of months, you may remember that I had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Ruby Johnson; at the time of our conversation, Ruby was preparing to head off to Las Vegas to compete in the “Miss Nevada USA” pageant. The interview was a lot of fun as Ruby walked us through her experiences in the world of pageantry (Check out the feature after you’re finished here to read all that she had to say if you missed it). This week, I was gifted with the chance to dive into the pageant scene myself by acting as a judge for the first-ever Miss Ruby Mountian competition! Marin Wendell from Everything Elko (you may remember her story from her feature here on the site as well) got ahold of me one afternoon and asked if I would be interested in participating. Besides my conversation with Ruby, I had zero experience when it came to this world (unless you count laughing at Steve Harvey’s hilarious mix up at the 2015 Miss Universe competition). However, I’m always eager to try new experiences and meet new locals, so I agreed. A couple weeks later, I arrived for day one of the pageant, anxious to see who would take the crown.
Now, you may have your own thoughts and opinions on beauty pageants (and that’s fine/fair) with that being said, Anthony Around Town is all about people. We’re all about getting to know the hearts of locals for our city and why they do what they do! And let me tell you, this opportunity allowed me to meet and listen to several fascinating young ladies who love our area and are anxious to see it thrive! This became apparent, even on day one of two, when I arrived for judges’ orientation and the girls’ individual interviews. I was brought into a room with several local women (from fitness instructors to realtors and bank employees) who would act as the other judges for the competition. It was great being able to talk with these women (Did I mention I was the only man involved? Oh, the things we do for our passions) and to get to know their relationship with our town, a little bit. One of the women on our judging team was Mattie Farnell; Maddie actually held the title of Miss Elko in 2012, so I asked her about her feelings about being on the other side of the scoring table now. “I feel like because I was on the other side, I have this compassion which wants to see them do so well. It’s so nerve wrecking being in their spot; I just want to ask them things they feel like they can be confident in. There’s a lot of pressure put on you, anytime you’re on stage you’re the only person on stage. Every person in the audience is looking at you and being on the other side, I know that so I feel for them. It’s so easy to see their strength and confidence now, being on the other side. I feel their exact nerves!” As we continued on with our orientation, going over rules/event details/and enjoying a delicious dinner (bravo, Hilton Garden Inn) we were also given a bit of the background of Miss America and, subsequently, Miss Ruby Mountian. Miss America and its scholarship foundations have given millions of dollars, over the years, towards educating young women and remains the largest provider of this assistance in our country. This vision was conveyed to us by a few lovely women volunteers involved with the competition including the executive director of the program, Stephanie Tyree. I asked Stephanie to share her thoughts on the event and what the pageant means to her. “I believe pageants like this are so important for the young women of our community to learn of the importance of serving their community and the state of Nevada as a whole. We provide scholarship dollars to the young women in Elko County to further their education every year, and we hope to have a positive impact on the lives of every young woman that becomes involved in our program in any degree. It means a lot to me to be involved with and running this program, with a lot of help from a great board of directors, because I was myself a title holder in the program in 2011. I have seen the personal growth and confidence that I was personally able to gain during my time as a titleholder and truly believe that this program does so much good for everyone that becomes involved with it. If I can instill just a little bit of growth and change in a young woman for the better I feel that I am doing just a little bit of good for our community as a whole.”
After going over all of the in’s and out’s of the event, we were then off to meet the nine (four “teen” title contenders and five “miss” title contenders) young contestants for individual interviews. What are those? Each one of the girls was brought (alone) into a room with us to be asked a series of questions for around ten minutes while trying to show us the best parts of themselves in such a short amount of time. The questions ranged from topics on their individual platforms (such as bullying, positive body image, teen suicide, shaken baby syndrome etc.) to which Disney Princess best relates to themselves. With limited time, the girls articulated how they are/would continue being involved with and serving our community. As well as how they would act as positive role models for the young people in Elko County. It was a rigorous couple of hours but it was really cool to see so many talented, well spoken, active girls with big aspirations and desires. Win or lose, it was obvious that each one of them truly did want to represent our area because they love it!
Night two was the big show. This was the main event held at the convention center, which included the talent, fitness, evening wear, and on-stage questions part of the competition. It was here where the girls really had their chances to shine. We heard monologues, violin solos, beautiful dance routines, and dresses…so. many. dresses. Miss Nevada herself, Andrea Martinez, even give us a spectacular solo. It was a lot of fun! But, finally, the night was coming to an end and it was time to crown some winners. With much anticipation, the results were in! The first-ever winner of Miss Ruby Mountain Outstanding Teen was Tia Syme! Tia’s platform was centered around adoption and boy, was she one heck of a dancer! Congrats, Tia! And, at last, it was time to crown Miss Ruby Mountian! And the first person to ever hold the title…Francie Mendive! I caught up with Francie backstage, after the show, and asked her about her thoughts on the entire experience and winning. Confidence was her big word to describe her time. She was very thankful for all the new friends she made through the event, but she was blown away by the amount of confidence in herself she was leaving with, even in that night! This was really cool to hear from her because Franci’s platform was centered around “women in agriculture.” This four-time junior world bass fishing champion, and overall outdoors girl, cares deeply about the current and future state of food and farming in Nevada and desires to see young girls grow to see the importance of their involvement in the field, as well. Not exactly the first things one would think of when they associate something with a pageant queen. Congrats, Franci; I’m glad you held tight to what’s obviously very important to you! Franci will compete for the title of “Miss Nevada” at the competition in Las Vegas, this July!
Great job to all of the young women who competed! Congrats to the winners of the Miss Elko Pageant (which was held this weekend as well)! Thanks to all of the volunteers who worked so hard to put on a great show! I was really thankful to be apart of it! Oh, and a big shout out to whoever polishes those fancy crowns! The shine on those bad boys was A+
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See you around, beautiful people of Elko!