The town of Mexico and the Miss Missouri pageant may be featured in the ABC 20/20 news magazine airing at 7 p.m. Sunday. However, there's a certainty Miss Missouri Shelby Ringdahl will appear in the Miss America Pageant which follows at 8 p.m.
The 20/20 program, titled "Pageant Confidential: The Road to Miss America," features six state pageants, including Missouri's. Producer Keturah Gray was in Mexico for three days during the pageant in June.
Gray attended practices, visited with contestants and attended the Miss Missouri parade. While downtown, she visited with residents.
While in Mexico, Gray was shown around town by Miss Missouri board member Alice Leonatti. "I took her on a drive through town, and she filmed some of the places," she said. "Keturah ate lunch downtown and talked to community members."
The 20/20 program also will take a look at the history of the Miss America pageant.
Shelby left for the national pageant Sept. 3 for rehearsals and appearances. All 53 contestants traveled to Philadelphia to sightsee. At the baseball game between the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park, Shelby was one of six contestants chosen to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch.
At this week's preliminary competitions, Shelby has been the 18th and final contestant in the Alpha group. She presented her talent, "Defying Gravity," on Tuesday. She was one of 10 vocalists in the Alpha group. The preliminary winner in Alpha talent was Miss New Hampshire. Shelby answered her on-stage question on Wednesday, and competed in lifestyle and fitness and evening wear on Thursday.
On Saturday, the contestants participate in the "Show Us Your Shoes Parade" on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Shelby's shoes were created by hand in Texas, and feature the St. Louis Cardinals on one shoe and the Arch on the other.
In past pageants, Missouri has had one Miss America and six other contestants who placed in the top five. In 1989, Debbye Turner became the state's only Miss America. Now Dr. Debbye Turner Bell of New York, she is a regular contributor for CBS's The Morning Show.
In 1935, the second year of the pageant, Miss Missouri was first runner up. After the pageant moved to Mexico in 1970, Soncee Brown was second runner up in 1991, Susan Wilson was third runner up in 1979 and Deborah McDonald was third runner up in 1998. Tamara Tungate in 1986 and Kimberly Massaro in 1996 were fourth runners up.
The current Miss Missouri has lots of support at the pageant. Along with Leonatti, other board members attending are Linda Huffman, Sheryl Miller and Anne Williams. Along with Shelby's family, several Columbia friends are attending, as are her local pageant directors from the Springfield area.
The Miss America Pageant is only Shelby's fifth pageant. She competed and won a local title in 2012, placing first runner up in the state pageant. Then this year she won Miss Springfield, then Miss Missouri. This limited experience, however, hasn't been a detriment for Shelby.
Page 2 of 2 - "Shelby is a strong contestant because she is well-prepared in all areas of competition," Linda Huffman, chair of the Miss Missouri Board, said. "Prior to winning the Miss Missouri title, she studied musical theater at Texas Christian University. She aspires to perform on Broadway one day. She has an amazing voice that is well-trained."
Shelby also is strong in the other areas of competition, Huffman said. "She is a a beautiful young woman with a strong sense of personal style. All of these factors combined will make her a strong contender. Whatever the outcome may be, I feel she will walk away from the experience knowing she did all she possibly could do."
With the change of Miss America pageant date, Shelby only had three months to prepare. For the previous eight years, the pageant was in Las Vegas in January. The return of the pageant to its long-time home in Atlantic City also meant a switch back to a fall pageant.
"Shelby had to be focused and dedicated to her Miss America preparation," Huffman said. "She has worked very hard in all areas of competition, which mentally and physically prepared her to compete at the national level."
The Miss America Organization is the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women and one of the nation's leading achievement programs. Last year the Miss America Organization made available more than 45 million in scholarship assistance.