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What I learned from Junior Miss

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By Ken Begley

The Washington County Junior Miss competition finished up last week. Miss Anna Pettus took a well-earned first place. The 13 girls were all beautiful, and the program they put on would make anyone, not just a relative, proud of our young women. My hat is off to all involved in this production of talent, poise, and athletic dance routines. I can’t imagine all the work involved behind the scenes.

I had never been to one of these programs before in its 35-year history. I really wouldn’t have been to this one except that my daughter, Brenda, competed in it.

I don’t ordinarily write about my kids in my columns except in a joking manner. Let’s face it. Who wants to hear another parent spend all their time gushing about their own offspring? So I’ve always spent my time poking fun at them instead.

But you know what? I’m going to break my rule this one time.

Why?

Because I learned more about my Brenda during the whole preparation period of about three months for Junior Miss than I ever did in the past 17 years of her life. Let me tell you a little more about it.

I would like to say that I was this really supportive dad when she told me she was going to compete. Instead, I just looked at her and said, “Well good luck with that,” and walked off.

I’m not one of those dad’s who throws himself into every one of his kids’ projects. I’m also one of those cautious (read gutless) fellows that if I can’t knock the ball out of the park when I play ball, then I don’t want to play ball.

I knew this Junior Miss program involved a few girls that had competed in similar competitions and knew their way around this “ball field” quite well. This would be stiff competition against some very polished performers.

So, my initial and continual reaction was “why bother”?

Yet, I watched Brenda swing into action in the face of my indifference and pretty much put her program together on her own.

First and foremost, Brenda needed a dress. I watched her scour the Internet looking for one that she could afford from her part-time job at Parkview IGA. You heard that right. I wasn’t paying for it. She got hers the old fashioned way. She earned it. She found one at JC Penny’s and got her grandmother to hem it up to fit.

Brenda needed a talent to present. She had taken piano lessons for a year when she was about 10, knew only the very basics, and hadn’t played a piano since. She talked with Jan Fattizzi, who runs the local theater group with her husband Scott. Brenda bartered baby-sitting services for their two young boys for piano lessons and advice on Junior Miss competitions.

Junior Miss has an all important interview process by the judges. Contestants can be asked anything and everything. You have to be quick on your feet and answer clearly and concisely. It’s an art, and Brenda knew she needed help. So she contacted Fran Carrico. Brenda didn’t know Fran personally, yet she knew Fran had experience in this area. Fran graciously gave her plenty of time and a lot of moral support.

Each contestant is expected to raise individually over $200 for putting on the show by getting other individuals to sponsor them. I don’t like to ask people for money, so I didn’t. Brenda went out on her own, calling and contacting people whereby she got over 30 sponsors and surpassed her goal.

Brenda had never done individual dance or coordinated group dance routines before. Again, she knew she needed extra instruction. She asked her cousin, Brittany Shuler, a former Jr. Miss contestant, for help. Brittany took her own talent in this area and spent many hours helping Brenda to be the best that she could be.

There are endless other little things she had to buy and pay for, and it extended right down to the campaign buttons so many people were wearing that night. Brenda wanted some for her family to wear. She couldn’t afford the ones here, so she asked Debbie Wheatley about it. Debbie took pictures of Brenda and then had 10 of them made over in Bardstown at a cheaper rate.

So from the above you can see one fact. This was one project that Brenda had to pay and coordinate entirely on her own.

I never had the guts to stretch my talents to the breaking point. I never had the will to put it all out in front of everyone to judge. I certainly didn’t have the nerve to compete in something that I had never done before. Therefore I’ve spent most of my living on the sidelines of life, knowing neither victory or defeat, while judging others that had more courage than myself.

In the end, Brenda didn’t win any of the awards given out in this competition. It wasn’t like those underdog fairytales you hear about. Like I said the competition was fantastic. Yet, sometimes it’s the experience that makes you richer. I know it did for Brenda and an unexpected result was it did for me as well.

But Brenda did win one thing.  It was my respect and admiration for a race well run based on nothing but sheer grit and determination to do the best that she could with what she had.

I love you Brenda, and I will never forget the last few months.