#039;Miss GG#039; ready for exciting pageant week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What does Miss Greater Greenville Christen Clarke expect this week at the state finals in Birmingham?

&uot;To be very, very busy – we’ll be rehearsing even on some of the preliminary nights,&uot; Clarke said in a phone interview last Friday. The 21-year-old student and dance instructor was making last-minute preparations for her Saturday trip to Birmingham, getting ready for a jam-packed week.

She has already attended an orientation meeting held in early March covering rules, regulations, wardrobe requirements and ever-present paperwork. At a pre-pageant workshop in May, her entire Miss Alabama wardrobe was previewed.

This week, there are press parties for contestants to attend, a golf tournament, interviews, meetings – and those many grueling hours of rehearsal. Christen and her fellow Miss Alabama hopefuls will also be expected to go back to their dorm rooms at Samford University each night and write some of the 100 or so thank you notes they will send to volunteers and sponsors.

There certainly won’t be time to get bored.

Preliminaries begin today and continue through Friday night with the much-anticipated crowning of the new Miss Alabama taking place on Saturday night at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.

Christen will be one of 50 young women vying for the Miss Alabama title and the thousands of dollars in scholarship monies that go along with it. As a part of the Miss America Program, she is participating in the world’s largest source of scholarship assistance for young women, with over $42 million in scholarships given at state, national and local levels combined.

Just as they are in the local preliminaries, the Miss Alabama contestants will be judged in swimsuit, talent and evening wear categories. The contestants are divided into three separate competition groups – Mu, Alpha and Sigma – with Clarke in the Alpha group.

For Clarke and her fellow Alphas, Wednesday – tonight – will be evening wear competition; Thursday night, talent, and Friday night, swimsuit. Interviews – the most critical part of the competition – will be held during the day and are not seen by those attending the preliminaries each night.

The goal for the Miss Alabama judges is to find that well-rounded individual possessing intelligence, grace, fitness, talent, self-confidence, good character and concern for the community to represent the state at Miss America in Atlantic City.

As of Friday, Clarke wasn’t feeling nervous. Though she is anticipating a few &uot;butterflies&uot; before going on stage in Birmingham, she feels ready for the challenge.

&uot;Having been to Miss Alabama last year [as Miss Lake Martin] I feel as if I do know what to expect and that helps a lot. And having so much support from the board is great, too,&uot; she said.

As for the Miss Greater Greenville Board, they have every confidence in their &uot;girl.&uot;

&uot;Christen was in the International Miss Program for a number of years; she has competed in several preliminaries and she was a 2004 Miss Alabama contestant. I think she is more confident this year because she has been there before. She’s done a great job as Miss Greater Greenville,&uot; said Sue Arnold, director for the Miss Greater Greenville Scholarship Board. A number of the board members will be traveling to Birmingham to cheer on Clarke as she continues on the road to Miss Alabama – and just maybe, Miss America. Last year’s Miss Alabama, Deidre Downs, went on to take the Miss America crown, becoming the second Miss Alabama (Heather Whitestone in 1994 was the first) to do so.

For the Miss GG Board, as for Christen Clarke, it is an exciting time.

&uot;As a board, we learn as much as we can about the Miss Alabama Program, but our main focus and goal is to provide encourage and support for our Miss GG. We want to make the Miss Greater Greenville Preliminary a wonderful experience for all the contestants who come to Greenville – and we want the year of her reign to be a special experience. We have really been looking forward to this week,&uot; said Arnold.