Miss Montana 2006 - Christie Hageman

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Where do I start? The time that Evangelina Duke said to me, “You should run for Miss Montana” and I laughed at her not knowing anything about the program? Maybe up on stage with only two of us left and each of our names starting with the sound “krIst.” Or perhaps talking with the Billings Gazette on the cell phone directly after my “first walk” as Miss Montana? I’m not sure exactly when my journey began but now my year as Miss Montana is closing.
I truly can’t believe the growth that has occurred from last June to the present. My year has been full of meeting gracious people, seeing gorgeous sites, and learning vital career and life skills. There certainly have been challenges but overcoming them is all a part of the Miss Montana education. I hope that I have given back to this state as much as it has given me. The young lives in this state that are so impressionable need Miss Montana to be a great role-model and to give positive guidance. With so many changes in our society and tragedies in the last year, this is one area we cannot compromise in.
The best piece of advice I heard this year and one that my generation needs to take is the fact that “It’s not all about you.” It’s about the people who got you where you are and the lives that you influenced on your way. With that being said, let me thank a few people who have made my year happen. The IMAGE board and the massive number of volunteers in this program, thank you: I’ve always been impressed with the Glendive community and all that they accomplish strictly through volunteer means. Thank you, Avice and Cami, for the many hours that you dedicate to the program. To all the former Miss Montanas that I have encountered during my year: your wisdom and grace is undeniable and I am honored to join your ranks. To everyone who has supported and encouraged the endeavors of my platform and purpose in my year…I appreciate it all. To my support system: my parents, my sisters, Ray, and many family members…I am blessed more than I can express. Thank you Lord. Oh, and I can’t forget my grandma for telling everyone she knows and meets that “She’s the grandmother of Miss Montana”

So now it is time for another lucky young lady to start her adventure. I wish her the same fulfillment as I have experienced and hope that she will continue the positive impact that is our goal. I have been proud to represent this great state. Thank you.

Sweet Home Miss Montana Week, June 10-18

On Sunday, June 10, I met all of the Miss Montana contestants at registration and began the pageant week in Glendive. The week went by so fast with numerous events around the community and lots of rehearsals at the high school. I am still amazed at the workings of volunteers in Glendive and all they can do.
Kristen Garlock Brook, Miss Montana 1997, was one of the Emcees and we got to know each other very well during the week. She is so much fun and we had a blast both on and off stage!
Each contestant performed beautifully and I am so proud of every one of them. We talked a lot about the benefits of the program simply just by competing and I hope they each left with a feeling of worth and growth.
I wish Kristen Mantooth, Miss Montana 2007, a year full of great experiences and skills.

MMOT Red Carpet Arrival

The twenty-one Miss Montana contestants arrived in Sidney at the Miss Montana's Outstanding Teen Program to a red carpet welcome and interviews with KUMV-TV news anchor and many cameras flashing.
Holly Matz, Miss Montana's Outstanding Teen 2006, greeted the contestants and Miss Montana who were escorted by Ryan Doll.

Miss Montana's Outstanding Teen Program -- Sidney

One of my privileges in the Miss Montana program is acting as a “big sister” to Miss Montana’s Outstanding Teen. This is a similar position to Miss Montana aimed at a younger age group with the same high standards of scholarship, service, style, and sophistication. Miss Montana’s Outstanding Teen 2006 was Holly Matz from Missoula. She has done a fine job with her platform of Healthy Lifestyle Choices and her entertaining jump robe routine. June 8-10 was the MMOT pageant in Sidney and I was there to help the contestants prepare for the afternoon pageant on Sunday. We worked on stage walking and presentation as well as some talent coaching. The girls did a great job and were very enthusiastic. I was so proud of all of them and congratulations to Chantell Bury from Glendive who was crowned Miss Montana’s Outstanding Teen 2007!

Princess Party (American Heart Ball)

One of my last events in Billings was a fun one that stemmed back to the Heart Ball I attended in February.
One of the items at auction was a “Princess Party” package that included having lunch with Miss Montana. So, I attended a princess party at Juliano’s on June 6 with a small group of wonderful little princesses.
They arrived and departed via limousine and each presented me with a rose! We had a little “crowning” ceremony, a wonderful meal, and I sang a few Disney princess songs. Every one of them was dressed to the nigh and VERY well behaved.
I enjoyed it just as much as they did.

HKM Engineering

I have worked at an engineering firm in Billings during my school breaks for about 5 years and they have always been wonderfully supportive of me in my schooling and my Miss Montana ambition. They asked me come and sing for them before my reign was over. On June 5 I talked about my year and how it was coming to an end quickly. They enjoyed the songs and were quite interested in what I did as Miss Montana. Now can anyone tell me, when was the last time Miss Montana officially appeared before a roomful of engineers?

American Legion Girls State-Helena, MT

A few days later in Helena, Girls State was held at Carroll College where I was asked to speak to the girls on June 4. A roomful of high school juniors (entering seniors) at first was a little daunting, especially when they had been sitting through presentations in the morning for several hours. One of the chaperones mentioned that I should try to be funny or something to get them re-energized. Hopefully I was funny anyway but I began by teaching them the Montana song and having them spell out the word by creating the letters with their bodies – something I’ve done with my school presentations all year. At least it got them up and moving. I talked about service and how it often gets lost in our generation because of a decline in integrity and good decision making skills, and our attitude of “it’s all about me.” Afterward I opened up the room for questions and the funniest one was, “How many pairs of shoes do you have.” To my surprise, my answer was disappointing to them…I didn’t have as many as they expected. I estimated at around 30-40…that’s a lot! And my dad will be the first to agree! I stayed to have lunch and sat with a table of very excited girls..they were funny.

Children's Miracle Network Telethon for Shodair

The partnership between the Miss America Organization and the Children’s Miracle network has been quite fruitful thus far in Montana. Each of our contestants running in the pageant in June has raised at least $250 each with many raising much much more.
I also had been given the opportunity to help our Montana hospital, Shodair, raise funds through their annual telethon. The telethon was aired live on CBS affiliate stations throughout Montana on June 2. They aired on location from the hospital and had many guests.
One of the first segments featured me talking about our partnership and singing the Montana song. Throughout the day I helped answer phones and talked here and there. Miss Rodeo Montana, Megan Hardy, was also there and we had another great time joining forces at an event.
Another highlight during the day was presenting the check from the Montana Dairy Queens. From my personal history with DQ and since I helped several of the Billings Dairy Queens during Miracle Treat Day on August 10, 2006, I could talk from experience about the work Dairy Queen does to raise money for Shodair Hospital.
I had one memorable call that came from Kalispel. The gentleman on the phone first said, “Wow! How did you get the band Styx on your telethon? You guys are good!” I explained that he was watching the national broadcast but the phone number on the screen was for the Montana Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Shodair. He then said that he would pledge $100. About mid-conversation I mentioned that he was talking to Miss Montana. His response… “Holy smokes! Then why don’t you double that pledge!” Wahoo!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cinco de Mayo ~ Laurel JC Style

Since we had such a great time in January together, the Laurel JC’s asked me to attend on of their community get-togethers on May 5. Originally it was a “JC Idol” contest but another event in Billings promoted as “Idol” was taking place that evening. So instead they just made it a Karaoke Party. I convinced my parent to attend with me even though they said they wouldn’t sing karaoke that night…they changed their minds about that later. Being Cinco de Mayo, they decorated in that theme. It was a casual affair and I sang a few numbers for them like “At Last” (Etta James), “Independence Day” (Martina McBride), “Proud Mary,” and “Suds in the Bucket” (Sara Evans). Then my dad and I sang “Unforgettable” which we’ve done together in the past. Both of my parents sang a few other numbers which was fun because I have never heard them sing Karaoke before – they’re pretty good!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

GMC Volunteer Appreciation Tea

The Glendive Medical Center held their annual volunteer appreciation tea where they asked me to sing and visit with the volunteers.
There were fabulous finger foods including wonderful chocolate covered strawberries!
They had a great turnout from their large base of volunteers who are integral to the operations of their facilities which also encompass the Eastern Montana Veterans Home. During the open house format, they recognized the importance of volunteer service and also acknowledged their young volunteers who have put in an amazing amount of hours in one year.
Once the tea had wrapped up, I changed into more comfortable traveling clothes and was on my way back home after ten days in northeast Montana.

Lambert School

April 19th I was in the same “region” but a few hours drive away in Lambert. A former Miss Montana Outstanding Teen, Jacqueline, and a 2007 Miss Montana contestant, Gillette, are from Lambert so the students were somewhat familiar with the Miss Montana program. After I did two presentations there I drove another hour and a half to Glendive.

Froid Invitation

On April 18th I was in Froid giving one presentation for the entire school. As I was setting up beforehand, one of the teachers walked in who I recognized right away. She had taught in Rapelje for many years and therefore was familiar with my family. They say that Montana is simply one big “small town.” I’m believing that more and more.
I was honored to be asked to participate in the graduation ceremonies of the lone senior, Roxie. Governor Schweitzer will be the commencement speaker. Unfortunately, I had to decline as I will be out of state to attend my sister's commencement where she will receive her MBA on the same weekend.
At Froid I also had the opportunity to speak on "Right Decisions-Right Now" in connection to my personal platform. The students were also preparing for prom.

Leadership School Commencement

From Circle to Sidney in the afternoon, I spoke at the Sidney Leadership Program Graduation.
This eight month program through the Sidney Chamber of Commerce is designed to enhance the leadership of individuals and therefore increase the quality of leadership in the community. The event happened to fall a few days after the Virginia Tech shooting which gave me a passionate basis to form my speech.
I challenged the graduates and attendees to use the skills that they refined and participate in their communities. The only way to prevent this continued decline of desensitized violence is to demand change. Demand the change by positively impacting as many lives as possible and instill compassion, understanding, and discipline by one’s own actions and example. Reverse the title of this new generation from “gimme-gimme generation” to “giving-giving generation” and refuse to accept destructive behavior.

Circle School Visits

Tuesday (April 17) was a long driving day--345 to be exact but I had a driver! Even though I am scheduled for a general region of the state, it can still involve hours of driving within that region.
The day began in Circle (a good 2.5 hours drive) where I presented to the elementary grades in the Bo Peep Centerm had lunch with the middle school at the high school, and then presented at Red Rock.
It was with the younger grades that one little girl asked me, “Where does your crown go when you go to sleep?” Such a cute question! I answered with my crown carrying case, “See this clear case? It goes in here and even sits on a little pillow!”
A few days earlier I was asked by a boy at Rau School, “How many hours a day do you have to wear your crown?” I guess they expect me to wake up and pin it on :)

Singing with Medicine Lake students

In the afternoon of April 16, we made our way back over to Medicine Lake where I thought I would visit the choir class. It ended up being the entire school (minus a few track participants) and we had a casual talk about music and singing. Then they sang a few things for me and I sang a few things for them. It was like an extra music class in their day.
It was a great day to talk about 'Right Decisions-Right Now' as they were busy preparing for their prom.

Television and Radio Interviews

Monday (April 16) was media day in Williston, ND.
After calling my Godparents in Sidney to tell them I would be on the radio and the TV news, my Godmother said, “You do remember that you are Miss Montana, right? These are all North Dakota stations. Don’t be switching states on us now.” :)
The reasoning behind all of the media through Williston is because a large portion of northeastern Montana receives their news and radio stations through North Dakota. They will cover weather in parts of Montana that the Montana news stations will not.
I did two television interviews and an on-air interview with the radio station. Holly, my Miss Montana Outstanding Teen, and I will return June 8 for more interviews to promote the Teen program to be held in Sidney on June 10 and the Miss MT program to be held June 14-15-16 in Glendive.

You Never Know When, Where, and Who ......

On Sunday (April 15), I sang special music at the Volmer Lutheran Church – a small church in the rural Dagmar area.
Before the service began I was chatting with some of the men and one ('Big Ed'Smith who ran for Governor of Montana) mentioned he was in the legislature. I asked him when he was in the state legislature and if he happened to know my grandfather who served a long time ago. He said something to the effect of, “Well I’ll be… If this isn’t Alvin Hageman’s granddaughter!”
Mr. Smith knew my grandfather well and said they sponsored many bills together even if they weren’t on the same side of the aisle. He told me that’s how things got done “back in those days” :) A piece of legislation was sponsored by someone from both parties because it was for the good of the people they represented, not just for the loyalty of the party.
My grandpa has been gone for over 10 years but it’s so moving to hear people talk about him who knew him in other capacities than I did.

District 13 Music Festival

Once at the Hoff Ranch, the weather was beautiful.
For the next two days I was at the Medicine Lake School for the District 13 Music Festival. I was an adjudicator for choirs, vocal groups, and solos. Being my first time adjudicating, I was a little nervous but soon found my comfort in the music as I always do. The students were great to work with and I heard some wonderful selections. The music directors were quite open and complimentary which made me so relieved that my experience and education came through!
I performed several songs at the Saturday evening Honors Concert along with their All-District Band and high scoring selections from each school. I had never experienced an audience of that size clapping along to one of my songs…that was cool!

Snow, Snow, and Rau School

In the afternoon of April 11, I visited Rau Elementary School on the other side of Sidney. My Godmother, Vicki, is a retired teacher from Rau and was happy to accompany me to both schools that day. They have a large area rug in the library of a U.S. map. When talking about the National Anthem Project, I thought it was great to be able to show the students Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. If you don’t know the story behind the Star Spangled Banner, it is well worth your time to read it and while you’re at it, check to make sure you accurately know the words ;)

The weather still wasn’t the best in the afternoon when I was scheduled to travel north. I knew I shouldn’t head out when Avice called and said, “Well, I’m not in the snowbank any longer and am back home now, but I’m not going out again. Stay in Sidney and stay safe!” So I waited another day and did some interviews at the radio station and the newspaper in Sidney.

Springtime in Montana: Brorson School Visit

A ten day excursion to northeast Montana in April marked with snow should not surprise any of us. We are all thankful for the moisture but my spring fever is ready for some more sunshine.
A storm came through the state around April 10 and I was on the road from Billings in rain. By the time I reached Sidney, they had a nice blanket of snow and threats of freezing ice on the highways. I stayed with my God-parents and was happy to arrive before conditions worsened.
The next morning I almost didn’t believe it when I was told that my first school to visit had a total enrollment of five students. Sure enough, Brorson School outside of Sidney has five students, one teacher, and one aide. The most outspoken, of course, was the youngest – a kindergartener and one of only two girls. The other students were in 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades.
I believe this qualifies as my most intimate group yet :) They were fun to work with and we were all on a first name basis by the end of the hour – imagine that!

Golden K Kiwanis

The Kiwanis Club is another major service organization that is so valuable in the community.
The Golden K Kiwanis meets regularly at the recreation center in Casa Village (Billings) and has often asked Miss Montana to speak at their meetings over the years. A gentleman by the name of Ralph has hosted and introduced a few of the Miss Montanas and is quite proud of the job. Although he forewarned me on the phone, when I arrived on Monday, April 2, he walked me into the meeting room exclaiming, “Eat your hearts out old buggers!” Quite the character he was.
They asked me to speak for 30 minutes about my experiences as Miss Montana and what I have learned during my year. Needless to say, I had plenty to talk about and much that the members could relate to – especially the National Anthem Project and highlighting its importance. The group was very receptive and they even sang the Montana song to me!
Among the large group I found some familiar faces: former teachers, church members, family friends, not-exactly-related relatives…the norm for me in Billings.

Montana FFA State Convention

The Future Farmers of America held their state convention in Billings March 28-31. I was asked to speak at their Thursday delegate luncheon and to judge their prepared speech contest.
I had encountered some of these young people on my previous travels at the State 4-H Congress in Bozeman, an FFA Banquet in Stevensville, and other schools. I have always been impressed with the leadership qualities of these young men and women, and was even more so after listening to their public speaking. I even learned some intriguing and valuable information from their speeches.
The luncheon was fun sitting with the state officers and also Miss Rodeo Montana and Miss Teen Rodeo Montana. They are both very personable ladies and we had a lot to talk about comparing and contrasting our positions and programs.
I am encouraged when I see organizations like FFA making a strong positive influence on our Montana youth. I wish more young people would get involved with service and character building organizations to experience the same benefits. I know my experience with Job’s Daughters had a tremendously positive impact on my teenage years.

State Finalist Forum

Well, I guess the first signs of a winding down year have shown. The twenty-four finalists for the 2007 Miss Montana Scholarship Program have been selected and the State Finalist Forum was held in Billings on Saturday, March 24.
I was happily satisfied with the potentials for my successor. I am excited for these lovely young women to start or continue their journey with the Miss Montana program. I have often conveyed in my speeches as Miss Montana that in this program, it is not just the top places that receive “prizes” like other pageants. Every contestant receives scholarship and benefits of personal growth no matter where she places.
This year, each contestant is guaranteed at least a $600 scholarship simply by completing the pageant. Over $190,000 in applied scholarships will be awarded. I just wish more people would realize the good that this organization does, not just for the development of the young women who compete but the affect it has on schools across the state and the many causes that Miss Montana works for.

Ag In the Classrooms Awards Luncheon

The third day in Helena I attended the Agriculture in Montana Schools luncheon awarding the winners of their annual bumper sticker contest. I was the keynote speaker and was impressed by the other guests in attendance.
At the head table I sat between the Secretary of State, Brad Johnson, who was the emcee for the luncheon, and Lieutenant Governor, John Bohlinger. I looked on both sides of me and thought, “I’m the keynote speaker?!”
The event was held at the Jorgenson’s Inn and they had tacos for the meal. This was a good choice considering the wide age range of the attendees – six year olds to sixty year olds. I spoke on my own first-hand agriculture education growing up with family on the farm and how it helped me educate others when I lived out of Montana in urban areas. The afternoon went well and the students’ artwork on the bumper stickers was great!

CMN-Shodair-Montana Legislature

March 20, was a special day for one young girl and the Shodair Children’s Hospital. Every year the Children’s Miracle Network hosts Champions Across America by bringing one patient with a success story from each state to gather in Washington D.C. and Florida to promote the cause of the Network.
Shodair is Montana’s only CMN hospital and they chose a young lady named Nicole to be Montana’s Champion. She has had an enormous journey of courage and recovery.
March 20 was the press conference announcing Montana’s representative accompanied by a proclamation in the Montana legislative session. I was asked to speak at the press conference representing the partnership between CMN, the Miss America Organization, and the Miss Montana Scholarship Program. Since this alliance, the Miss Montana Scholarship Program and Shodair Hospital have begun many awareness and philanthropic projects.
After the press conference and lunch at Shodair, I attended the legislative session where Nicole was introduced on the floor of the House and the Senate during the reading of the proclamation. She is a very courageous yet soft spoken young lady. I was touched by her story and encouraged by her mission of recovery.
I returned to Shodair in the afternoon and visited some of the patients. I sang for them in three different age groups and learned a lot about how their hospital operates. I was amazed at how they responded to music and I wish each of them the best recovery possible.

Meeting the Lt. Governor of Montana

My travels to Helena on March 19-21 were filled with a variety of events.
Upon my arrival on the 19th, I met with a group of people organizing the Global National Youth Service Day in Helena on April 21. This planning committee included representatives from AmeriCorps VISTA and the Governor’s office of Community Service. Before our planning meeting, I met Montana's Lieutenant Governor, John Bohlinger. He invited me into his office where 40 students from Circle, Montana were visiting. He and I talked briefly to them about civil service and the job of Miss Montana.
One of the questions asked by a student was, “Where did you get your boots?!” Not exactly the type of question I was expecting but it’s all a part of the job.
I answered, “Well, I’m pretty lucky that these particular boots were sponsored by Dillards in Billings.” I believe she was already planning a special trip to the Dillards shoe department the next time she was in Billings.
After a few pictures with everyone, the planning meeting began. I’m excited about the many activities planned for this event and look forward to returning in April.

DeMolay Legion of Honor Banquet

I guess my dad lucked out this year when he was put in charge of finding a speaker for the DeMolay Legion of Honor dinner in Billings on March 18. He simply recruited his own daughter who happens to be Miss Montana.
The DeMolay Legion of Honor is a group of men recognized by the organization for outstanding service benefiting the Order. They meet once a year with a prime rib dinner and a guest speaker. This year they had both a talk and a little entertainment.
After speaking on my experiences and benefits of Masonic involvement, I sang a few tunes for them. This was another life marker because I knew most of the people and remembered them mainly from my childhood attending Masonic events with my family.
Now it was my turn to stand in front of them and speak about experience…a bit ironic in my mind.

St. Patrick's Day Parade (royal in 50 year-old beauty)

The St. Patrick’s Day parade has been a long held tradition in Billings and when it was threatened to be eliminated due to “insurance reasons,” local citizens decided to take the organization into their own hands. “Save our parade” was formed and found great support in local businesses and volunteers.
On Saturday morning, March 17, I was scheduled to ride in the parade in a convertible donated for use by one of the Moss family members. My mom dropped me off at the starting point but her eyes lit up and volunteer hand shot up when they weren’t sure if they had a driver for my car (a 1957 baby blue T-Bird convertible).
You see, it didn’t have much to do with driving her daughter as it did driving this classic car. The chairman of the “Save our Parade” committee asked if she was that much of a pageant mom. She laughed and said, “No, I just really like cars.”
When we walked to the car there was a driver much to her dismay. However, the car carrying the mayor, Ron Tussing, needed a driver so that’s where she ended up. Instead of watching her daughter in the parade, my mom was driving the mayor – and some people wonder how those jobs are assigned…Luck.
The turnout was wonderful and my smiling muscles were duly conditioned

Heart Ball, Princess Package, & Gelato

I returned to Billings on the 16th to attend the American Heart Association Heart Ball at the Holiday Inn Grand Ballroom. I greeted the guests at the door in their black tie attire and sang a few songs for them as they began dinner.
Along with a silent auction, their live auction is a main attraction. One of the items was a princess party package that included a signed picture of Miss Montana (imagine that) and a fun day of princess activities.
I was “Vanna” again, walking the items through the tables and encouraging the audience to bid. After dinner they had arranged for a local gelato store to serve yummy gelato for dessert. However, that plan was spoiled after a dinner guest got a little anxious for dessert and tried to help himself before the designated time. The glass cover on the refrigerated display shattered and the ice cream was ruined…ooops. It seemed much more funny afterward and I’m sure the story will be told in humor by the responsible party.

March 14: Western Heritage Art Show

My next adventure was in Great Falls for the Western Heritage Art Association show. The weekend of March 14 is an extremely busy time in Great Falls for artists. There are many shows exhibiting a great variety of art. This show was based at the Holiday Inn and had many amazing artists and fabulous pieces.
I began with the awards program recognizing the judged pieces displayed in the lobby. Artists voluntarily submitted a piece to be judged and then were eligible for awards and even some cash awards. I had never attended an art show and soon became educated on the area of art. It fascinated me probably because I could relate it to the many qualities sought after in music. I chatted with a number of the artists visiting in their gallery rooms and learned how the life of an artist is much the same as a musician :)
The night of the 15th was the quick finish when the artists complete a piece in a specified time and then auction them off with 50% of the proceeds going to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center Association. During the auction I helped display the pieces acting as “Vanna.” I was amazed at the process and was even more surprised to see a sculptor participating. This was another culture expanding experience for me and I enjoyed it very much.
My thanks to the association for making me honorary member!

Retirement Homes & Flu Bug

After returning home from Dutton and Brady, I came down with a bug that left me feeling pretty crummy for a few days. So much in fact that the retirement homes where I was scheduled to sing during the next week had to be canceled. Not until March 8 was I well enough to visit Tendernest out on the west end of Billings. I sang to two groups of residents who were very happy to hear me. I will try to reschedule those who I missed later in the spring. They all deserve a little entertainment.

Dancing Stars: February 10

The Billings St. Vincent’s Hospital, in conjunction with Spirit of Women, put together a Day of Dance with local “Dancing Stars” on February 17. Well, I guess Miss Montana qualifies as a local star so that meant I had to learn a dance.
I gave them plenty of options saying that I love to salsa and swing…but I think I was the youngest in their group of celebrities so that qualified me to dance….Hip Hop. It turned out to be a lot of fun. They paired me with Chris Dixon, the quarterback of the Billings Outlaws indoor football team who was much more familiar with Hip Hop than I certainly was. We learned the dance from Kasey at CDS the Edge and performed it in front of a good size crowd in center court of Rimrock Mall.
The aim of the event was to raise awareness of heart disease so they had great information and testing stations for cholesterol, blood pressure, stroke assessment, and so forth. The dancing was just a fun excuse to come out and learn!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dutton & Brady -Sneakers & Heels (March 2)

Once I finished in Missoula, I set out for Dutton in the afternoon. I drove Highway 200 through Lincoln for the second time this year, and was again in awe of the beautiful landscapes this state possesses. The other fascination that kept me entertained if not simply attentive, was watching the weather. It amazes me when the sun is shining and I drive into a foggy cloud where it snows tiny sphere-shaped balls of snow. Then literally three minutes later, I’m back in sunshine with long range visibility. It’s the same awe struck feeling of watching a rain cloud move down a long valley while still standing in the sun, but knowing the rain will arrive soon. It reminds me of how helpless we are in comparison to the forces of nature.

I arrived in Dutton and learned that the schools in Dutton and Brady (15 miles north) are combined with the grade school and high school in Dutton, and the middle school in Brady. Therefore I would make three presentations between the two schools. I stayed with the music teacher which is a big advantage because she took me over to the school in the evening and set up what I would need in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I would be presenting in an auditorium! Yes, it was a smaller auditorium, but the performer in me appreciated the formal space. They have a great facility for plays and concerts, of which, I happily learned, they take full advantage. Over at Brady with the middle school, we had a more intimate space in the lunchroom which I think worked very well since it was a smaller group.
I made a funny mistake with them, but because we were so close, I caught it before I began my presentation. Walking in from the car, I wore my comfortable casual sneakers and carried my high heels in my bag. When I was setting up, I hadn’t even noticed that I forgot to change my shoes. When the students came in, I heard a few whispers and looked down with a little embarrassment. I quickly changed them and one of the girls said, “I didn’t think those shoes matched your skirt too well.” At least they know I’m human :)

Missoula's Hellgate Elementary School

When I returned to Montana, I was back on the road for school presentations the next day, February 28. I drove to Missoula with a watchful eye on the weather and gave two presentations at Hellgate Elementary school on March 1. The students knew both the National Anthem and the Montana State Song very well. I never tire of hearing a couple hundred students singing these two songs with great energy. It is refreshing every time I hear them. I would like to acknowledge that at this school and many others, the PTA sponsors my school presentation. I am grateful for their interest and support in enriching their students by keeping music an important element of their education.

Grad School Auditions

With the excitement and experience of Miss America behind me, I have set my sights on the last few months of my reign and also what lies ahead beyond June. Some may not know that the graduate school to which I was accepted in the fall of 2006 would not defer my acceptance nor hold my scholarship for a year. Therefore I was asked to reapply and re-audition this spring. I did so, but also decided to apply and audition at a few other schools as well. In February, I made the rounds and auditioned at four schools in three states in ten days…whew! When I receive word from these schools and make a decision, I will announce my plans for Fall 2007.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mission Ridge & Miss MT 1947

Mission Ridge and their Activities Coordinator, Margie, asked me to be the entertainment for their bi-annual dinner theater/fundraiser. The event turned out to be bigger and better than expected.
One of the residents happens to be among the very first Miss Montana from 1947. She and I met the afternoon of the dinner and were photographed by a Gazette photographer. We talked and conversed for a while before I did my sound check on the stage. She was introduced at the dinner and given a corsage. She had some very kind words for me and I am still impressed with her sweet nature and gracious presence. At the end of the program, I had a chance to express my pleasure in our meeting and conveyed my hope that in sixty years I might have the same grace and poise as she possesses. The next day we were interviewed by the local NBC affiliate television station as a feature story. We again had the chance to exchange pictures and share stories. It was a wonderful experience and she is such a true lady in class and dignity. I hope our paths will cross again.
The money raised from the evening was designated to the Billings Police Department for the purchase of Child ID Kits. Several volunteers in uniform were in attendance including the Chief of Police. The event was sold out and the evening was a lovely affair. I must thank my ever steadfast piano partner, Sandi, with whom I have sung many years. She even played for me at Miss America. We presented many types of music: operatic, classical, and jazz; all with the subject of love – the theme for the evening with Valentine's Day in the air.

Big Sky Elementary

On February 8, I visited another Billings school, Big Sky Elementary. I am relieved that I am visiting close schools while the weather is proclaiming the winter season. That may change in the weeks ahead, either the weather or the schedule – I’m not sure…it is Montana, you know! The students did very well, and there’s nothing like 250 young voices singing the National Anthem or the Montana song!

"THE" Miss America Pageant

The Miss Montana cheering group was comprised of more than 80 jubilant supporters. Besides family and friends, the board was represented by Avice, Cami, Linda, Colette, Cindy, and Taryn, several volunteers who help to make 'Sweet Home Miss Montana" pageant week a success also attended as did fellow contestants and their parents, former Miss Montana titleholders, sponsors, and judges. I thank Sheri Hill for the beautiful opening number dress and her daughter for the great heels, Venus Swimwear for the two great suits, and Sarah for finding the devine Steven Yearick gown and other attire, and Leanne for the help with heels, the red Jovani and the antique gold & coral Maggie Sottero that I wore for my talent "Il Bacio", and to Mary at the Red Hanger for the wonderful "bling-bling" that was admired by many. Thanks to my many coaches. Here are some photos to enjoy!

1. Gown alterations at talent practice
2. In swimsuit competition.
3. Tom -- my relative and hairdresser who gave me my on-stage hairdos
4. At visitation.

Miss America

Here are photos taken at Miss America during the week leading up to interviews, the preliminaries, and the final competition.

1. At CMN Gala
2. Dancing the night away
3. With Jennifer Berry Miss America '06 and CMN representatives
4. Dreamgirls movie showing
5. Getting ready for rehearsals in Aladdin room
On Monday we visited the Venetian Hotel and rode the gondolas. While on the boat, one of the bystanders saw my sash and said, “Hey, we’re from Montana!” I found out they were from Kalispell and I asked if they knew a distant relative who is a veterinarian up there. They said yes and I said, “Well, I’m kinda related to that family.” They were amazed, as were the other contestants in the boat. I just responded, “Montana is relatively small. I think I have relatives everywhere.”

Tuesday night we were invited to the Planet Hollywood restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. We had a nice sit down dinner and then cleared the tables to dance a little. They wanted us to relax and have a little fun before the competitions began the next morning. The manager was very welcoming and made sure we were all having a good time.

Wednesday marked the first competition of the pageant, the interview. Throughout the day and continuing into Thursday, each contestant had their turn to be interviewed by the celebrity panel of judges in a closed room. I would definitely say this was the most intense interview I have ever had and cannot imagine another one like it. However, I am thankful for the preparations I had with coaches and practices with mock interview panels. I’m not sure how I would have handled this interview without those advantages. Also on this day I did a phone interview with Diane Cochrane of the Billings Gazette and she wrote a nice article with pictures supplied by the Associated Press for the January 26th paper.

Thursday was the first night of preliminary pageants. I performed my talent and was very happy with my presentation. It can be seen online through CMT’s website. Go to MissAmerica.cmt.com and click on the “Preliminary Talent Video” located on the right column of the page. Note: requires Internet Explorer to view the video. I am about eight minutes into the video and almost the entire two minute talent is shown. After the pageant, I saw my family and close friends for the first time since coming to Las Vegas. It was so great to see everyone and hear how much fun they were all having around town.

Friday and Saturday were similar schedules with rehearsals and preliminary pageants. It was commented by many volunteers and staff members that our class of contestants has been the most enjoyable to work with in many years. We all agree it is due to the numerous opportunities we have had to meet and connect before the competition. Our time in LA had a great effect on our relations which reflected in Las Vegas. It was truly like going back to a big group of friends.

Sunday was a “day off”…but not really. It was the break between the preliminary pageants and the final night. We still rehearsed and had a big event in the evening. The first annual Children’s Miracle Network Gala was held as a joint fundraiser for CMN and the Miss America Organization. All of the contestants were in attendance as well as Miss America, many former Miss Americas, and several prominent individuals from both organizations as well as supporters. The black tie affair included steak and lobster for dinner and a fabulous show by outstanding Las Vegas Entertainer, Danny Gans. He was marvelous in his musical impressions of every major pop vocalist one can think of. It was a great evening and one to help take my mind off the big day to come…

Monday finally arrived and we began with…you guessed it, more rehearsals. But this time it was with our host, Mario Lopez! No, I didn’t get to formally meet him. They mostly had him in specific areas plus I’m not one that usually oogles over celebrities. The time leading up to the pageant was a little restless because one can only primp so much until it’s useless. Walking out on stage was adrenaline pumped and the energy from the audience was exciting. It seems that I wait so long for the moment to arrive but at the same time everything has flown by so quickly. It’s very conflicting to describe. When they announced the top 10, I had a bit of disappointment but could look at those that were chosen with pride and knew that they were all ones who deserved the honor. My roommate, Miss Mississippi – Taryn Foshee, made it to the top 5 and performed her piano talent. I am very proud of her and how well she did. I am also very happy for Lauren Nelson and am excited for all the things she will experience in her year as Miss America.

I have often said that Miss Montana is a year of education that one cannot get at any university and that it is also a year of accelerated growth learning skills and techniques while discovering more about one’s self. The Miss America experience itself can also be summed up in this same way. Although the week starts with more fun events and time to relax, the last few days accelerate to include more emotional extremes and mental demands. They are still highly enjoyable with fun events and truly kind people, but with the constant anticipation of the final night! One of many special pieces of mail I received was a package from the Rapelje 5th and 6th graders. Each of them made a good luck card for me with beautifully drawn and colored pictures. It was very touching to receive and reminded me of who I was representing…the ENTIRE state of Montana and not just myself. I feel very blessed to have been given the chance to experience Miss America and am even more moved by the amount of support from all 75 Montana supporters in attendance and everyone watching at home. Even from backstage I could hear their cheer, “M-O-N-T-A-N-A Christie, we love you!” (a play on the Montana song that I happen to teach in my school presentations). If you happened to watch the telecast, you may have noticed the huge banner and picture of me hanging from the balcony. That was put together by my executive director, Avice, as were the hand signs and the life-size cutout of me at the Miss America trade show. Thank you, Avice and the Miss Montana Board for doing so much at Miss America.

I very content with my performance at Miss America because the experience was success in itself. I know that life takes us down certain paths and the events that happen along the way are for specific reasons. It is a matter of trust and faith to know that something else lies ahead.

Elder Grove School

Elder Grove is a K-8 school just outside the Billings city limits where I gave my presentation on January 17. The gym had a stage set in the center of the floor, but not one that I was going to make use of. Their drama department was all set up for a play and it would not be appropriate to do my presentation in the “woods” :) The students were all well behaved and excited for me to go to Miss America (I left for Las Vegas two days later).

Laurel's Distinquished Service Awards

The Laurel Chamber of Commerce and the Laurel Jaycees hold an annual banquet to present their Distinguished Service Awards to individuals in the community. The Laurel Jaycees scheduled me to give a short program of entertainment during the banquet and also help them introduce their awards on January 15. The event was held on the second floor of DJ’s Steak Palace and the community was well represented, filling the room. The Jaycees stand for “Junior Chamber” and gives its members growth and development in a business sense – public speaking, community service and projects, networking, and so on. These skills were apparent as one of the members introduced me to much of the room including many business owners, school board members and administrators. The members of the Jaycees are a fun bunch and the evening went wonderfully well.

Miss MT Send-Off Party

The Miss Montana Send-off party had been a long planned and anticipated event within my family. We held the event in conjunction with the Shrine Dance Band on Sunday, January 14. I sang a few numbers with the band and had rehearsed with them in the weeks leading up to the event. We began selling tickets at the beginning of January, and before we knew it, we had over 100 sold…before the event! When the day came, the turn out jumped to 170 of family, friends, board members, parents of contestants and former Miss Montana titleholders, sponsors, community supporters, and also some Dance Band regulars.
Throughout the afternoon as the band played, I modeled my Miss America wardrobe including the swimsuit (yikes!) and also performed my talent. The local TV news station crews were in attendance and interviewed me. They have been very supportive in their coverage of my year and I am extremely grateful.

Highgate Senior Living

The residents of Highgate Senior Living were particularly welcoming and appreciative when I sang for them on January 12. I was excited when I talked about the piano player on my accompaniment CD and they knew who he was! I use a CD that I recorded with some Billings musicians a few years ago and the sound engineer removed my vocals so I could use the accompanying music and sing live. One of the piano players on the recording is my grandmother’s cousin (first cousin twice removed?) named Orland and he has played around Billings since the 1930’s. He still gets around town and has played for this retirement community with Doc McBride. This is the reason they knew him and his piano playing already. I announced my upcoming send-off party with the Shrine dance band and one lady let me know that she planned to come. They were all very sweet and complimentary.

Princess Dreams

Miss America preparations come in all forms and disguises. One normally thinks of frequent exercise and reading the newspaper as beneficial if not necessary pageant preparation. However, an already scheduled appearance can have as much benefit and experience. On January 7, I was a part of the Wedding Fair 2007 with Y93 and David’s Bridal. Besides the little girl dream of wearing big beautiful dresses, the event gave me practice for stage walking and modeling in front of a large group of people. I had done two wedding shows in the past and one happened to be in 2005 with then Miss Montana, Evangelina Duke – that’s when she suggested I look into the Miss Montana program :) .

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Special People - Special Preparations!

The days leading up to my departure for Miss America were contrasting in feelings. There was the stress of packing, checklists and preparing for a 10 day absence, but then the pampering of pre-competition appointments. I would like to thank the following for their help in calming my mind and offering their services in preparation for Miss America.
First to Tanz and Things who made sure my tan was even, my nails and toenails pretty, and my feet soothed with a pedicure…thank you!
Second to Lori at Guccione Salon for my hair needs and care…thank you! Third to Sage Salon who sponsored a much needed and appreciated massage (I should have that done more often!)…thank you!
Fourth to Billings Athletic Club and Aleisha who helped achieve those last minute touches and relieved some stress with training…thank you!
And fifth to those kind people who assisted me in my interview practicing and took a few hours to quiz and critique me during mock interviews…thank you!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Miss America: Day 3

Sunday: Rehearsals went very well. Our choreographers are very professional and fun to work with; they are relaxed and laid back but get us where we need to be and what we need to be doing. I am enjoying the rehearsals and hope you will enjoy the production.
After a quick workout in the fitness center, it was time for a photo shoot for the Children's Miracle Network.
As a special treat, we attended a private showing of the movie Dreamgirls. CMT filmed us getting off our bus, going into the Brenden Theater, having refreshments, posing Dreamgirl style, and then interviewed us afterward as to our opinions of the movie. I really enjoyed it and had a fun time --- but the costuming really caught my eye and my ears enjoyed the powerful vocals. I give it a two thumbs up and hope that you will see it also!
Last fall, before the movie premiered, my state preparation team dubbed me their Dream Girl!
It is hard to believe that on Day 4 we will be serenaded by the gondoliers while we ride through the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. We have been advised that the dessert reception will be fabulous. And of course, a photo and autograph session will complete the evening.
One week from today we will rehearse for the last time. I have found the Miss America experience to be very enjoyable, far from tense, and each moment to be fun....and the contestants and all workers are truly wonderful.

Miss America Day 2: Fashion Show Mall

At rehearsals today, Nicole (Miss MN) and my CMT roommate, Hilary (Miss Az) took a break while wearing the matching black jackets. The choreographer and producer announced that we are doing well in learning our production formations for opening number and swimsuit --- and tomorrow's rehearsals will be shortened...meaning we get an added hour of rest (or preparation time) in the morning and some free time in the afternoon!
Many of us had interviews with the local Fox news affiliate. I hope it is carried on the Fox stations in Montana.
We have two lovely ladies serving as our floor hostesses. The hostesses are from Atlantic City and are assisted by ladies from the Las Vegas area. They keep us well taken care of, informed, and on time.
There was a great turnout of enthusiastic onlookers at the Fashion Show Mall. As last year, we 'rose up' in the glass elevator platform in true fashion panache. It was fun to walk the 80' runway. I felt stylish in my new silk top from Cache, the black slacks from Sarah's, and the gold earring from the Red Hanger.
Pictured here is Taryn, my roommate from Mississippi, and the two state representatives that Montana is always between---- in alphabetical order of course-- Missouri and Nebraska. I signed many, many autorgraphs and greeted many nice people.
Tonight we also enjoyed a special VIP reception and dinner. We were seated at tables for our region. This was a great way to learn more about the fabulous ladies from the northwest.
We are having fun and enjoying one of the greatest adventures of our lives; Las Vegas is treating us as shining stars.
Thanks for the many messages and cards. Each means a great deal to me and puts a smile on my face!

Red Carpet ~ Las Vegas Style

What a busy week it has been leading up to the arrival in Las Vegas. Sunday was the send-off party at the Shrine Auditorium. On Wednesday, two presentations were done for the students and staff at Elder Grove Elementary School.
Picking up last minute essential, finalizing wardrobe, and packing consumed lots of time. Friday morning, with scarlet tagged "Montana-Aladdin Hotel-Las Vegas" luggage in tow, I was off to Las Vegas via Denver - and of course a 40 minute delay in departure from the terminal.
Arriving at the hotel, roommate Taryn (Miss Mississippi and also a member of the Alpha Group) and I filled the extra clothing racks in our room and then prepared for the Red Carpet Welcoming event.
Las Vegas Mayor, Oscar Goodman, presented each of us with a red rose. Each contestant is amazing, poised, fit, trim, beautiful, talented, and intelligent. Each represents her state honorably.
At an orientation meeting, we meet the staff of MAO, the security team, our hostesses, and representatives from the Children's Miracle Network. The Quality of Life finalists were announced; they are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Virginia. A highlight was the preview of the CMT Pageant School that was taped this past September in Santa Monica, CA. Tune your television to CMT on Friday, January 26 for this show. Also check your TV schedule for airing of information on CMT this week.
Tomorrow is a surprise day! Through the leadership of Miss NY, we have comfy, black, hooded jackets to wear at rehearsal. Each jacket is bedazzled with our name, MAO Class of 2007, and our state's name. Collectively, we had one designed for Jennifer Berry, Miss America 2006. Competition wardrobe will be checked-in with the hostesses and rehearsals will begin.
We are looking forward to the debut at the Fashion Show Mall and autograph session.
Las Vegas has welcomed us royally!
Thank you for your support and assistance.

Have Fun & Best Wishes!

While Christie is representing Montana in Las Vegas at Miss America, she will be calling in her daily reports. We wish our Dream Girl the best of luck in this wonderful adventure!
75 Miss Montana cheering supporters will be in attendance and proudly waving with their hand-fans by Bella Graphics.