Photo by James Parrish
Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan sings.
Photo by James Parrish
Photo by James Parrish
Festivities for the Miss Nebraska pageant kicked off on Wednesday with a night where patriotism and state pride were the themes.
Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan, NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson and country music singer Patrick Thomas were the special guests for the special event held in the North Platte High School theater.
Scanlan opened the night by singing a couple of songs that showed her versatility. The first song was a sweet ballad and she followed with an upbeat country number.
After singing, Scanlan started to speak about her experience as Miss America. She said she had traveled to 37 states, five countries, over 50,000 miles and had traveled on 200 airplanes.
But the number that meant the most, Scanlan said, was four -- as in the Four Points of the Miss America Crown, which were style, scholarship, success and service.
The Scottsbluff native stated what each of those four points meant to her. She said that true style to her is having confidence in yourself and she talked about how competing in beauty pageants helped build her confidence because she was able to let go of the fear of failure.
The second point was scholarship and that was what motivated Scanlan to get into pageants. She dreamed of going to law school, but being in a family of seven children, the neccessary money wasn't going to come easy. So by competing in pageants, Scanlan earned scholarships to fund her education.
Scanlan then talked about success and although its definition varies with everyone, she said success to her is "following your passions and what makes you unique."
Case in point, when she was growing up, Scanlan started a hobby of designing and creating clothes out of duct tape, which has continued to this day. She never gave it up, even if it made her look strange in the eyes of others, because it was what she loved to do.
But the most important of the four points for Scanlan is service. She described the four bracelets she wears on her left wrist.
The first represents her platform of eating disorders. The second one she received while visiting a children's hospital in Haiti. It has her first name on it. She said a young boy had made it for her.
"No matter how much or how little you have, you can always find a way to serve others and the bracelet from Haiti is a constant reminder of how we can help others," said Scanlan.
The third bracelet was also from a children's hospital, which she received on a trip to Germany.
Through her experience as Miss Nebraska and Miss America, Scanlan said that the best way she can serve is to "accept myself and others for the way they are".
The fourth bracelet represents the United States military. She said those men and women can not be thanked enough because if it weren't for them, she wouldn't be able to to have fulfilled the dreams she has as Miss America.
With that, Scanlan ended by singing "God Bless America," for which she received a standing ovation.
NASA Astronaut Clayton Anderson, a native of Ashland who will serve as a judge for the pageant, was the next guest.
Anderson showed footage of expeditions into space with video and a slideshow. In one of the pictures, Anderson sported a red Husker baseball cap, cargo pants from Cabela's and a sleeveless shirt given to him by Larry the Cable Guy, while holding a baseball bat that was used in the 2010 College World Series, which was the final CWS played at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium.
Anderson said that he is glad to be a judge for the Miss Nebraska pageant because he feels they are great representatives of the state.
"I am honored they would have me come and judge these ladies," Anderson said. "Anything that reflects well on this great state is something I want to help with. These ladies, with their talent and skill, represent what's good about Nebraska."
As a NASA Astronaut and Miss America, Anderson and Scanlan have both achieved things no one else from Nebraska ever had before.
"Teresa and I have a lot in common," Anderson said. "We're both very proud of our heritage and we both want to inspire kids to do great things."
After a 15-minute intermission, Patrick Thomas came out to entertain with his set of songs.
Thomas, a contestant during season-one of the NBC reality singing show, The Voice, started out sitting on a stool and playing acoustic guitar, filling the auditorium with his rich voice. After a few songs, he switched to the piano.
After following two distinguished Nebraskans, Thomas, who hails from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, knew that, as an outsider, he may have to do something extra to win over the crowd. Fortunately, he got it from his friend, Miss Nebraska Kayla Batt.
"Kayla told me that if I really stink that three words would save me," Thomas said after performing Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis." "Go Big Red!"
After getting a pop from the crowd, Thomas said, "I wish it was that easy everywhere else," which got some laughs.
Thomas went back to the stool and his guitar, but he finished on the piano. On his second to last song, he sang a duet with Batt and then ended the night by telling the story of his 93-year-old grandfather who fought in World War II before launching into his last song, Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA".