Mrs. International Part II By Charles Dunn
It is always exciting when an event comes along that captures the imagination and attention of an industry. In the Winter '00 issue of Pageantry we covered just such an event for the first time the Mrs. International Pageant, which we called "Honeymoon in the Smokies." Pageant owners Mel and Mary Richardson turned to veteran producer Matt Davenport from Nashville, Tennessee, who staged one of the most elegant and entertaining programs we had witnessed in recent memory. The professional productions included regal custom sets along with some of this country's new top singers and dancers, all serving to support the stars of the event, the contestants. They had traveled from throughout the United States as well as from other nations, giving this pageant a true international flavor.
They also ordered up a new backdrop for this year's event, the state-of-the-art Louise Mandrell Theater, that served as the home for the competition. During the week, the contestants were treated to the many tourist attractions in and around Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville, where they shared fun and camaraderie. Many of their stops included fashion shows and autograph signings, which made them the stars of this venue. These and other activities provided a "family affair." Families and contestants had ample time to share together during the week, due to the sensible schedule that the directors had so skillfully planned. Even the picturesque host hotel, The Music Road Inn, overlooking quaint mountain streams and the Great Smoky Mountains added to this "memory of a lifetime" adventure for everyone in attendance.
When the whirlwind week was coming to a close, only the presentation and the final show remained. The all-important personal interviews with the judges had been finished, leaving the fitness and evening wear competitions. This year's panel of judges obviously was chosen for their past experience and knowledge, so necessary to ensure that the best candidates would be chosen.
From the veteran emcee celebrity Bob Eubanks to the many entertainers, including Pam Tillis, the shows were like a fairy tale. The stars of the show, the contestants and their adoring husbands, became the Princes and Cinderellas of the evening's performances. It was easy to tell from the audience reactions and resounding applause how much this event was touching everyone. The only thing left was to find out who would wear the "glass slippers."
The final show's opening headline came with the announcement of the Top 10. Called in no special order were Mrs. Arkansas Buffie Mayo, Mrs. Hawaii Monique Hsia, Mrs. Utah Wendy Carter, Mrs. Iowa Dee Henderson, Mrs. District of Columbia Tonya Matney, Mrs. Pennsylvania Georgia Teppert, Mrs. Florida Marianne Oden, Mrs. Virginia Kristin Tew, Mrs. Tennessee Suzanne Jackson, and Mrs. Texas Melissa Behnke.
When the Top 10 ladies magically appeared at the top of the stage's staircase, the surprised audience gasped with delight at the theatrical illusion. The finalists competed again in fitness, on-stage interview and evening wear (and were accompanied by their proud tuxedo-clad husbands in this last segment).
When Bob Eubanks opened the envelope with the final results, everyone in the Louise Mandrell Theater moved to the edge of their seats. Fourth R/U was Mrs. TN Suzanne Jackson, third R/U was Mrs. HI Monique Hsia, second R/U was District of Columbia Tonya Matney and as Mrs. PA and Mrs. FL stood holding hands and congratulating each other on a job well done, the name of the first R/U Mrs. PA Georgia Teppert was announced. Suddenly, Marianne Oden realized that she had become the new Mrs. International 2001, and the look of surprise and gratitude covered her face. The audience and fellow contestants rose to their feet and rushed to the stage to congratulate Marianne on being selected.
You might think that this would have been the end of the story, but it wasn't. After the many photo ops with the celebrities and fellow contestants, everyone convened at the Music Road Convention Center for the Mrs. International Coronation Ball. This was the first year that Mrs. International held a formal social event after the show. It was an evening full of shared love and respect that was gained throughout the week. Contestants, their families, loved ones, fans and many returning pageant participants greeted Marianne Oden, who on this night arrived at the ball as the new Cinderella of the Mrs. International Pageant.
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