(UPDATE: The Miss Clark County Pageant set for Feb. 9 was postponed due to weather. As of Monday morning, Feb. 11, there was no new plan or venue yet, according to organizer Sheri Backous.)
In May 1949, Mary Elizabeth Tedford of Camas was crowned the first Miss Clark County before an audience of 1,200 people.
That was “an exciting, strange time in my life,” wrote today’s Mary E. Hardy, now in her 90s and living in Reno, Nev., which is where she was contacted by executive director Sheri Backous of the Miss Clark County Scholarship Organization and invited to the latest Miss Clark County pageant, set for Saturday.
Fifteen young women will compete for two titles: Miss Clark County (high school seniors through age 25) and Miss Clark County’s Outstanding Teen (ages 13 through 17).
The original Miss Clark County can’t make it, but the letter she sent Backous outlines a lifetime of professional success and service to others. After she graduated and got married, Mary E. (Tedford) Hardy became a popular grade-school and special-education teacher and adviser who steered her students toward charitable work. After she retired, she became a hospice volunteer and president of her local women’s club, which operated a so-called “community store” that actually functioned as a charitable supply pantry for needy hunters and fishermen in Montana.
MISS CLARK COUNTY
The 2019 Miss Clark County contestants are listed below with age, school/plan, talent and platform.
Gloria Boieriu: 19, WSU, vocal, “Give Kids the Pencil.”
Anna Countryman: 18, Warner Pacific, tap dance, “The Impact of Arts in Education.”
Mia Crocker: 18, Air Force, vocal, “Becoming a Life Enthusiast.”
McKenzie Hammond: 20, graduate of WSU, contemporary dance, “We’re All in this Together: Environmental Awareness.”
Kailey Herren: 22, Warner Pacific, vocal, “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.”
Abbie Kondel: 21, Brigham Young University, power tap, “Be Smart, Don’t Start: Drug and Alcohol Awareness.”
Vanessa Munson: 18, international affairs, salsa dance, “Hunger Hurts: Feeding America.”
Annie Straight: 19, Clark College, jazz dance, “Shared Hope International.”
MISS CLARK COUNTY OUTSTANDING TEEN
The 2019 Miss Clark County Outstanding Teen contestants are:
Emma Boonabi: 15, Mountain View High School, vocal/guitar, “Importance of Arts in Education.”
Adriana Fachiol: 15, CAM Academy, flute, “Importance of Music Programs in Schools.”
Sandra Fachiol: 16, Battle Ground High School and Clark College, vocal and piano, “Just Like You: Fighting Mental Health Stigmas.”
Morgan Greco: 13, Odyssey Middle School, opera, “Teens Accepting Teens: You Do You.”
Frankie Palandrani: 16, Skyview High School, piano, “Strength of Athletics in Young Women’s Lives.”
Norah Skogen: 14, iTech Preparatory School, monologue, “Pick Me: Supporting the Humane Society.”
AnnMarie Vickery: 16, King’s Way Christian High School, dance, “Standing Strong, Overcoming Obstacles.”
“A great many of our alumni have continued in charity and nonprofit professions,” said Backous, who is also associate principal at Gaiser Middle School. “A lot of doctors, a lot of educators. A lot own their own businesses. Miss Clark County helped them take steps forward to seek their dreams.”
One of them was Backous’ youngest daughter, Kelly, who surprised her mom by announcing that she wanted to try for Miss Clark County and won the title twice, in 2005 and 2007. Sheri Backous pitched in as a volunteering parent and board member; then, in 2015, she was asked by the Miss Washington organization to take over the Miss Clark County operation and head up an entirely new volunteer board.
“Our mission is to help young ladies achieve their scholastic and career goals” through mentoring and skill-building in areas like public speaking, resume writing, and “poise and elegance, of course,” Backous said. “They are just a delight to work with. It doesn’t matter if they win the crown, they build so many skills through this program.
“Women need to be empowered,” she said. “Despite the push for equality, there’s still some inequality in our society. Miss Clark County helps empower young women to do their very best.” The organization also includes a noncompetitive, all-mentoring Princess Program for girls ages 6 through 12.
Seventy years ago, when Tedford was a 20-year-old college student at Willamette University, studying art and drama, she won the Miss Clark County title by scoring the most points across four categories, as awarded by a panel of judges.
Two of the categories were talent and personality. Tedford sang a popular song and answered questions about herself. The other two categories were “appearance”: in an evening gown and a bathing suit. The former was described as “demonstrating the art of graceful walking, use of limbs and general poise”; while the latter, more cryptically, “was to determine how the girl handled herself under a variety of circumstances.” That’s according to a newspaper account of the 1949 pageant.
Times have changed — or have they? Women displaying their bodies in evening wear, “lifestyle and fitness” outfits and, yes, swimsuits, remain a part of the Miss Clark County competition this year. Why is that?
“Miss America was started in 1921 as a swimsuit competition,” Backous said, but it’s evolved over the years to include less of what’s on the outside and more of what’s on the inside — via interviews, talent shows and commitments to community service. It continues to evolve today, she said. In 2018, for the first time, the Miss America Pageant proceeded without the always controversial swimsuit parade. That’s a thing of the past now as Miss America strives to be “more inclusive to all women,” she said.
For some reason, though, that reform is still working its way down the chain, Backous said. This years’ Miss Washington competition has also jettisoned swimsuits — even while asking the county-based Miss organizations to continue with the old format, including swimsuits, for one more year.
Puzzling, Backous said, but almost gone. This is the final year swimsuits will be part of the Miss Clark County competition, she promised. “Talent and interview have always been the two major portions” anyway, she said.
But general appearance still plays a certain role, she said, and that’s appropriate. “Physical fitness is important. You want to look your best, you want to be your best when you’re facing the judges.”
1.0 and 2.0
It’s astonishing to Backous that 1,200 people turned out for the first Miss Clark County pageant in 1949. Annual attendance in recent years has been around 300, she said. “Society has changed. People are so busy,” she said. But she’s hopeful that the evolved “Pageant 2.0” will generate new interest, she said.
Tedford, the winner of Pageant 1.0, was too “overcome to say anything” except “wonderful,” according to the press in 1949; she won prizes such as clothing and accessories, a new hairdo and a wristwatch. She was chauffeured to the Miss Washington competition in Seattle in a fancy 1949 Nash by the manager of the local Nash dealership. “The driver’s wife acted as chaperone,” the press carefully pointed out. In the end, that year’s Miss Washington competition went to Miss Cowlitz County, Libby Aldrich of Kelso.
There are many opportunities to win scholarships and other prizes this year — from the championship titles themselves to awards like Miss Congeniality and the Miracle Maker Award. This year’s total of scholarships and prizes adds up to more than $35,000.
This year’s program will also feature introductions and a slide presentation about Miss Clark County alumnae, Backous said.
IF YOU GO
What: 70th annual Miss Clark County pageant and celebration.
When: 3 p.m. Feb. 9.
Where: Fort Vancouver High School, 5700 E. 18th St.
On the web: MissClarkCountyWA.org