Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Miss New York 2011!

It's been just a week since my last day in Staten Island, and it was only two weeks ago that I was packing to leave for Miss New York State Week! It's hard to believe that after ten months of excitement and preparation leading up to the big state pageant, that it is now over. I have spent the last seven days digesting it all - relaxing, spending time with my family, friends, and of course, the best pageant boyfriend a girl could ask for. Oh, and of course, all of this has been done over FOOD! So, I suppose I have made you all wait long enough, so I will get to it, and share with you some of my most fond memories of the week!

Monday, June 13 (City Hall with Mayor Bloomberg, Staten Island Ferry, Postcards, Burrough Hall, Mr. NY)

It all started out at 2:30am on June 13. It wouldn't be a story if there wasn't some kind of adventure to kick start the week, so here we go. After hours of being on hold with Travelocity, in regard to the flight that I had booked and a Travelocity website error that changed it on me, just 48 hours before departure, I had a new flight, paid, in full. With a departure time of 5:40am from Syracuse, my dad and I were up VERY early Monday morning to drive to the airport, of course leaving time to check my luggage and get through security. In the past, I have been stopped and checked because of a make up brush that resembled a possible weapon, so as you can imagine, having packed for a PAGEANT, the contents of my luggage are a little concerning! It's a good thing I had other worries upon my arrival to the airport to distract me from looking suspicious at TSA. Oh yes, a trip to the airport is seldom smooth. After making a wrong turn - granted it was 4:45am, and dark - my dad and I spent fifteen minutes circling a clover leaf, over and over and over and over again. As we rounded the corner of the same turn a fourth time, I really started to freak out. I'm watching the digital clock in the car change from 5:10 to 5:11, and know that I should be at the airport. Finally, we get ourselves straightened out and arrive at the airport, but not without hurry. The stress didn't stop there either. After rushing to the US Airways check-in desk, and heaving my suitcase (that I had reluctantly agreed to check) onto the scale, I was greeted by the desk attendant: "There are no guarantees that you'll make the flight. Your bag is 17 pounds over - that's $90." Now, if you know me well, you know that I do not respond well to poor customer service, but at this point, I knew I had to get to my gate, and fast. I throw her a credit card, and in no less than a sprint, kiss my dad goodbye as he checks the bag, now labeled "HEAVY", and head for security. I have never realized how much of an inconvenience it is to take off your shoes at this point, and unload specialty items from your carry on, until this morning when I really just needed to get through. Needless to say, once I was through the scanner and had all of my belongings, I took my morning run, barefoot, through the Hancock International Airport. It's a good thing my Miss NY preparation included running, because I just made it to the gate. Actually, I had several minutes, but of course was still shaken by the idea of having to take a later flight. And just as I thought I was finally going to be able to sit down, the flight attendant informs me that there may not be room for my carry on, which I must add, was literally packed with every single piece of my competition wardrobe. My family and I had lost our baggage, temporarily, on a vacation to the Caribbean, and the event was so scarring that we now try to carry on as much as possible. In fear of losing my entire competition wardrobe including my evening gown, talent gown, shows, jewelry, and other outfits, my mom and I strategically packed the regulation size carry on. With this in mind, I said to the flight attendant, "I'm competing in Miss New York, and that is where I am going right now. That bag has my gowns and competition wardrobe - I need it." They found room. :-) The rest of the trip went very well, with the exception of being bumped up to an earlier flight without my checked luggage that caused me to wait at the airport. But hey, I'd rather wait for baggage than lose it! It was at the airport in Newark that I met up with my first MNY (Miss New York) sister and roommate, Miss Buffalo, DesireƩ Wiley! A friendly face after my hectic morning was just what I needed!

Arriving at the hotel, after a speedy and crazy ride with a nice shuttle driver, made everything seem so real! All of my MNY sisters were checking in to their rooms, unloading cars chocked full of pageant gear, and mingling with family and friends in the lobby. I was excited to get to my room and unpack, and of course, freshen up from my flight - our bus was leaving at noon for our first appearance! We all met in the lobby, and for the first time since our spring workshop, we were all together as a class! (A quick note - we refer to the group of contestants as a class...not sure why, but it makes sense because of the closeness that we share the sisterhood that develops, and all that we learn. In the words of Christina Moore, Miss Brooklyn, - "I love that we refer to it as a class!") It was very exciting boarding the bus for the first time, especially because it had Claire and Alison's faces on the side of it - like we were all famous!

As much as we were star struck by the glamour of it all, we had no idea that we would be the celebrities when we arrived in Manhattan! It was a long drive from Staten Island to Manhattan, but I don't think that anyone noticed because we were all so elated to be there. It seems that we all became great friends almost immediately - talking about anything and everything like we'd known each other for years. I love that. This was only my second time in the city, and the first time I was with my mom and we covered as much ground as we could in a weekend, but one sight that I had yet to see was Ground Zero. One of the first photographs I took that week was of Ground Zero.

Our first stop was City Hall where we would meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We took several photos outside the building, on the steps, and then filed inside - a beautiful facility by the way.

Mayor Bloomberg welcomed us to the city, and took several pictures with us - what a trooper!

Upstate girls with the Mayor!

The press coverage was unreal as we met with the Mayor, and even when we left. Little did we know, the flashing cameras were something to get used to. As we left the City Hall gates, tourists were stopping and taking photos, left and right. I learned very quickly to always smile, and keep my lips on (meaning, always have lipstick, liner, and gloss!). Looking back, it probably was quite a sight to see 23 girls being herded around Manhattan, wearing crowns and sashes.

We headed to the Staten Island Ferry, where we snapped more photos with "fans" and met up with our Mr. NY contestants! (More on that in a minute!) I will share an interesting (short) story about a woman we met while waiting for the ferry. I couldn't tell you her name, because she was soft spoken and only gave us her pen name that was very unique. A poet, our new friend was a character who seemed to carry many of her possessions with her, interviewed us, asking for a "word", and took our photo, telling us she would be writing poems about us. So, for those of you in the NYC area, look for poetry including words like, "river", "believe", and maybe mentioning us girls in crowns and sashes!

A first for me, the Staten Island Ferry ride was wonderful! We got to stand on the very back of the ferry, which I thought was the best spot to be!

After getting off the ferry we walked to the "Postcards" 9/11 Memorial. An amazing sight, this memorial is in memory of Staten Islanders who perished on 9/11. What is so unique about this memorial is that it features the actual profiles of these heroes, as approved by their families.

Wow, it's a good thing we were so busy and having fun, because as I am writing about everything we did, I am realizing how long that day was! And there's still more! Don't worry, we didn't do this much EVERY day! :-)

Our next stop was at Burrough Hall, where we were excitedly greeted by the Burrough President, James P. Molinaro, who was so happy to have us on Staten Island and made sure that we had a wonderful week!

The last event on our to-do list for Monday was the Mr. New York pageant fundraiser! After a quick stop at the hotel for outfit changes and make up and hair touch ups, we walked to the Hilton Garden Inn Lorenzo's Bar and Cabaret where the pageant would be held.

With Mr. Thousand Islands, Hunt Ethridge, before the show!

Our table - with Kasey Waters, Greater Gotham, Kieren Sheridan, Fulton County, Tara Szczepanski, Metropolitan, and Allison Carlos, Forest Queen!

And the winner is, Mr. Rochester, Scott Larsen! Way to represent Upstate NY, Rochester!

That night, I think we ALL passed out as soon as we got to our rooms, because Tuesday was another early morning!

Tuesday, June 14 - Flag Day (World of Chocolate Factory Tour, Flag Day Ceremony @ The Boardwalk, Eger Harbor House, Staten Island Zoo, and Project Hospitality Soup Kitchen)

Want a way to excite 22 pageant girls during pageant week? Take them to a chocolate factory, and see who breaks down first! That was probably me! Actually, a surprising fact for many of you may be that, we like to eat, especially chocolate!

After treating ourselves to chocolate, we headed to the boardwalk for a Flag Day ceremony featuring a local middle school band (talk about talent!), an elementary school chorus (CUTIES!), speeches by our very own Claire Buffie and Miss New York 2009, Alyse Zwick, and of course, many honorable veterans. Although it started to rain, and gusts of wind were ruffling our dresses, the ceremony was moving and I was so glad to be a part of it.

Not the best look on my face, but hey, look at Colleen with her scarf on her head!

Next stop was at the Eger Harbor House, which is an assisted living facility for senior citizens. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what this visit would entail and wasn't expecting the excitement I found awaiting me! You could feel the happiness and excitement just pouring from the hearts of the residents as soon as we walked in. We were treated to a lovely lunch, and then had the chance to mingle. Among many wonderful residents was my friend Antoinette.

I'll admit I was a bit shy when we first arrived, and was unsure of how to approach the residents like the other girls were. I haven't spent much time in nursing homes, and didn't know what to say. Instead of standing in a corner, I pushed myself to sit with someone. Antoinette happened to be that someone! She didn't really need me to say anything at all, because she got the conversation going just like that! I gave her my autograph, and then we shared the song packet when we all sang together!

We even started a kick line for "Give My Regards to Broadway!"

Thank you to Gloria, one of the residents, who handmade these bracelets for all of us! It took her 3 DAYS!

This resident celebrated her birthday with us!

Even though it was sad to leave my new friend, and all of the residents at Eger Harbor House, it was time to spend time with the children and families from Project Hospitality! We were off to the Staten Island Zoo to meet up with a group of families from Project Hospitality, a not-for-profit organization located on Staten Island that provides services for individuals dealing with homelessness and disease, including substance use.

It wasn't long before I had a new friend at my side. Lucero, whose name means shooting star, paired up with me to visit the animals!

Among my favorite exhibits at the S.I. Zoo were the emus, the roaming peacocks, the fish, but definitely NOT the snakes! Those were Lucero's favorite! Yikes!

Oh, and how could I forget the very hungry goats! These guys wouldn't stay still long enough for a high quality picture, but we did get to feed them!

Feed me!!!

We wandered the zoo for a while and then headed to the Soup Kitchen to learn more about Project Hospitality, and of course, eat! We were treated to pizza and salad - YUM! It was an amazing experience to hear stories of the families who are helped by Project Hospitality, and we all promised them that we would do anything we could, as titleholders, to help them!

It was time for our first rehearsal, and while we were excited, it had been a long day! Off to the theatre we went, where we started rehearsal with a group ab workout, and then learning choreography! I'm not a dancer by any means, but I worked really hard to learn all of the moves, knowing that I would have to do it in front of hundreds of people on Friday night.

Charlotte, Desiree, and I working it!

It was a LONG day, but full of so many phenomenal experiences that I will cherish forever. It was back to the hotel, and to bed, but not before a quick rehearsal in the hallway with the fantastic Brooklyn Christina Moore!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - Rehearsal, Children's Museum, Botanical Gardens, Rehearsal

Wednesday started bright and early, again, at the theatre for rehearsal! Before I left for the week, my mom had said that it seemed like I was getting ready for "Ultimate Beauty Summer Camp", I think we should rename it to "Ultimate Beauty Boot Camp"! Even though I had fun throughout the rehearsals, let me tell you - it is HARD WORK. From dancing to modeling, all in heels, by the end of the day, I was exhausted!

The Staten Island Children's Museum provides interactive exhibits for children, and come to find out, beauty queens! Haha! We toured the museum, stopping to take pictures in the mermaid grotto, and rainforest, before having lunch in the museum cafe, run by learning disabled teens and adults.

Christina & I in our "grotto"...inspired by Kaitlin Monte, Miss New York 2011!

We headed outside to tour the rest of Snug Harbor, visiting a 9/11 Memorial, and the only Chinese Botanical Gardens outside of China!

Our last stop before heading back to rehearsal was at Edith Susskind's Gift Shop, also located at Snug Harbor. On top of owning her own business, Edith has been highly involved with the Miss Staten Island Organization for years! She even served on the judge's panel for Mr. New York!

It was back to rehearsal for the next two days up until the pageant, but I'll have to post about that later since I've already written a novel! Enjoy!

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