The judges arrived on Friday in the early afternoon for orientation, where we met Gerry- the judges coordinator. She filled us in with the scoring procedures, as well as some demonstrations and scoring examples to ensure we all understood which scores were appropriate for which stage presence. Gerry has been involved with pageantry since 1992 when her daughter first competed. She has judges pageants of various systems across many states, but mentioned Miss USA locals are her favorite. We would receive reimbursement for travel, and
Throughout the rest of the weekend Gerry humored us with her classic wit, and pushed the candy bowl at us each time we went into the judges’ chambers.
But first, the youth division on-stage categories. Girls between the age of 5-12 had their moments to shine in evening gown, escorted by a family member or friend. Then, they returned to the stage for the onstage-introduction. Instead of simply stating their name, age, and hometown, contestants found creative ways to squeeze in interesting facts, community service, and career aspirations into 30 seconds. Wow.
On Saturday morning, the Princess, Junior Pre-Teen, and Pre-Teen contestants had their private interviews. Unlike the Miss America panel style interviews I am used to, NAM contestants follow a round-robin interview style. Each girl has only one minute with each judge. Each judge prepared the same 2-3 questions for every girl in the category, so each girl gets the same experience. Each contestant would also give the judge their resume, which could be used for another question if time allotted. Using my background, I pressed the girls to look past their rehearsed answers, and let me really get to know them. Some of these girls were so well spoken, it was difficult to remember that they were so young! Many spoke better than some adults.
Although meals were included with our judges package, J and I took a nice walk up both directions of Main Street looking for a local food place to enjoy. There wasn’t much in the business district, so we ended up getting lunch at the Legacy of Radisson Hotel.
After lunch was the finale! The judges received the list of the Top 10 and Top 5 girls from preliminaries, to watch specifically during finals. Gerry taught us a neat chart to track the Top 5 girls, as every contestant modeled her evening gown once again. We took notes on the Top 5, to help us with our ranking. That final walk really makes an impact, girls, so always have your game face on from the moment you first step on stage to the moment the winner’s name is called. It could be you!
We had the morning off, so after sleeping in and catching a late breakfast we poked around the hotel like tourists.
Then in the evening we started the whole cycle over with Junior Teen and Teen. There are literally five competitions rolled into two completely separate pageants. The older girls modeled their evening gown, and gave their onstage introductions.
The morning was reserved for interviews. Some of the girls will transition so well as they move up in categories and into older systems. I asked some difficult questions, and was very impressed with the answers. I was shocked as how many discussed self harm and eating disorders. We need to listen to our youth, clearly they are ready to reach out and help the community and their peers with these difficult life concerns.
Two more beautiful young ladies joined the ranks as New York’s Teen and Junior Teen!
Visiting NAM queens throughout the weekend included South Texas Princess and New Jersey Preteen. Miss NY’s Outstanding Teen, Cady Ruth, even showed up! She was 1st runner up last year, and competed with many of these girls.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I hope to be invited back next year to judge an Optional event!