Between the acts, Esther You liked the jocular camaraderie behind the curtain, creating a relaxed atmosphere for her to perform on the violin and sport a bathing suit or her evening gown on the way to the title of Miss Greater Springfield.
"Backstage, we'd dance to the music, making faces," said You, a resident of Vienna. "We were just having fun. We were really lax. It made it easier for each other."
The action occurred at Greenspring Village, Saturday, March 28, as five contestants vied for the title of Miss Greater Springfield in front of an audience that was made up of Greenspring Village residents and members of the pageant mainstream. The master of ceremonies was Marshawn Evans, Miss District of Columbia in 2001, and the judges consisted of Dale Bradshaw, Sydney O. Garth, Helene Harris, Jerri James and Bonnie Myers. They all had experience on Miss America turf. Miss Greater Springfield is part of that track, with You set to compete in the Miss Virginia pageant next.
Accompanying You on the podium was Acasia Barrett from Woodbridge; Shaundra Fleming, a George Mason University student from Carlyle, Pa.; Elizabeth Perdue from Fairfax; and Gillian Ramsey from Springfield. Ramsey, a 2002 graduate of West Springfield High School, won the first-runner-up award, while Barrett won the executive directors' award and Perdue won the second runner-up. Prizes for Miss Greater Springfield included the crown, a $1,000 cash scholarship and a trip to Miss Virginia pageant in Roanoke, Va. First runner-up received $300 cash scholarship, and second runner-up was given a $200 cash scholarship.
LOCAL BUSINESS owner Jerry Burks was one of the organizers. He sent 25 applications out to young women who expressed an interest weeks before the pageant. The number of contestants was narrowed to five.
"We did have eight, but three [women] had job offers and turned it down," Burks said.
You's family was there to enjoy the pageant as well and enjoyed her moment of fame.
"When we heard her name, we were so shocked," said sister Deborah You. "She did it just for a good experience."
A graduate of American University with a degree in communications, You works as a script writer for Fox Channel 5 news and lives with her family in Vienna.
For the talent portion of the pageant, You played the violin, which accounted for 30 percent of the score. The rest of the score was divided into interview (40 percent), swimsuit (10 percent), evening gown (10 percent) and overall presence (10 percent).
Ramsey was familiar with the inner workings of the Miss America pageant
"We've been to the Miss America pageant every year," Ramsey said. "It was so much fun."
Rebekah Maynard and Elizabeth Battorf were there from GMU to root on their friend Shaundra Fleming. By the time Fleming told them about the competition, it was too late for them to apply.
"We're just being supportive friends," said Maynard. "Next year, we'll do this."
This was the first year of the Miss Greater Springfield Pageant, which was conducted by a group with close ties to the Miss America competition. It is on a local level where the next step is the Miss Virginia competition and then Miss America.
"We're one of only three pageants in Northern Virginia," Burks said.
The other two are Miss Arlington and Miss Northern Virginia, which takes place in McLean.
"The locals like this are preliminary to Miss Virginia," Burks said. "It's the training ground for the young ladies for the rest of their lives."