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The Miss Florida Pageant Was Weird


DOWNTOWN ST. PETE — The Miss Florida Pageant ran its course in downtown St. Petersburg last week at the Mahaffey Theater, next door to the Salvador Dali Museum on 1st St., down by the bay. The competition began Tuesday night, with 50 of the Sunshine State’s most civic bombshells—who wore bikinis and answered questions in evening gowns, and performed song & dance numbers (some twirled batons)—and by Saturday evening Ms. Elizabeth Fechtel (20), of University of Florida, was crowned Miss Florida 2014. 

Fechtel will go on to compete in the Miss America Pageant this September, in Atlantic City, and if she wins there, she’ll embark upon a yearlong countrywide promotional campaign as Miss America; if she loses, she’ll spend the year doing similar things but on a more local level, as Miss Florida.

Either way, there isn’t any doubting this contest was a hard one to win, and to judge, for that matter—because 99% of the girls looked exactly alike, and exhibited the same great ability to conspicuously dodge interview questions without drawing objection from the moderator. These efforts garnered substantial applause. Also, most of the girls were equally unimpressive during the “talent show” portion of the pageant, during which contestants offered performances comparable-at-best to drunken Broadway impressions. Of course, it is possible that some of the girls did shine through, but I didn’t see it. Perhaps Ms. Fechtel did ...

Regardless, at this point it would be unfair to not mention that I missed much of the pageant due to bad anxiety that kept catching me in the audience, gripping me hard. I repeatedly had to escape outside for cigarettes, every 45 minutes or so; I tried sitting in different places: further back, 2nd story balcony, up in the private box seats, etc.—all to no avail. The Fear proved too persistent to elude. At one point I stood up from my seat and walked outside and lit a smoke, and kept walking, on and on in some kind of trance until I finally realized I was standing still, hanging-10 on a seawall 150-yards away from the Mahaffey, wondering Why?

Why indeed? 

[ . . . ]

It was bad,

like ugly deja-vu from scorned existence, 

lived long ago 

in violent civilization— 

like waiting 

in the living room of a sorority house, 

for your sorority-girl date 

to come downstairs 

but she’s taking forever, 

and every 5-minutes

different girl sits down 

with perfect posture and KGB pleasantries 

super polite, then leaves

to check on your date,

and the house-mother stomps in, 

reminding you

that you aren’t allowed to slouch

on the couch

And finally, it should be noted that there is every reason to assume these girls are smart, and capable of doing great things, but such was not evidenced by the Miss Florida Pageant. The whole thing was weird, and we probably shouldn't do it anymore, but whatever.


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