The Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant provides more than $2.5 million in cash and in-kind scholarships to women from all over the state, but in order to continue, it needs money to help produce this year’s pageant.
The finals of the pageant will be televised live from Will Rogers Memorial Center on Saturday, July 8, and local organizers (for the first time) are selling commercial time for the broadcast. The cost of producing the pageant, which includes three nights of preliminary competition (July 4 – 6), is over $150,000.
To help defray that cost, pageant officials have set out to sell 30-second advertising spots – 12 of them – at a rate of $4,000 each.
This has been a particularly difficult year for the pageant, according to Jean Magness, chairman of the board, CEO and executive director of the Miss Texas Organization. Sponsorships for a variety of programs nationwide are feeling an economic pinch as corporations test alternative marketing efforts, and the Miss Texas Pageant has not been immune to the pressure.
“Certainly, we want to continue the high caliber of this telecast, but we will need financial support to accomplish that,” said Magness, 55, who began her 33-year association with the Miss Texas Organization as a volunteer with the Miss Greenville Pageant. The Miss Texas program, she said, is a 100-percent volunteer enterprise with more than 1,000 individuals donating time and services across the state.
The Miss Texas Pageant has been held in Fort Worth since 1962 and has been televised statewide since 1963. This year’s telecast will be carried on 17 stations throughout Texas, including KDAF, Channel 33 in Dallas–Fort Worth. Some of the stations televising the pageant reach viewers as far away as Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
The pageant is one of a handful of live television events originating in Fort Worth, along with the Colonial Invitational Golf Tournament and auto races at Texas Motor Speedway.
Miss Texas will go on to compete for the title of Miss America.
Magness said that the need to sell TV ads arose when the longtime producer of the telecast decided not to return this year.
“In past years, our executive television producer [Peter Lombardo of Peter Lombardo & Associates in San Francisco] has always paid us a rights fee to produce the pageant,” she said. “In turn, he sold the advertising himself.”
The deadline for advertising commitments is June 15, although officials say they could probably accommodate a straggler or two if any time slots remain unsold after the cutoff date.
Any would-be advertiser can buy time on the telecast, Magness said – with one exception. The pageant has granted exclusive rights for automobile advertising to Fort Worth car dealer Bruce Lowrie Chevrolet, which will provide Miss Texas 2006 with the use of a Chevrolet Trailblazer during her year of service. Lowrie also will provide transportation for the pageant judges.
“We’re doing this to help Tarrant County and to be involved in the pageant, and we get statewide advertising out of it,” said dealership representative Randy Shapiro, who is also a member of the Miss Texas board. “The Miss Texas Organization needs the help of other local businesses in order to keep this program going.”
Added Magness: “Any individual or business contribution, even $5, would help at this point.”
One contributor that was especially needed as of press-time June 8, Magness said, was a restaurant willing to provide meals for pageant judges and their guests during pageant week. The restaurant sponsor would be asked to serve a casual lunch on July 4 and a dinner on July 8.
If the pageant’s TV sales fail to generate sufficient revenue, the highly regarded scholarship program might be forced to re-evaluate its relationship with Fort Worth, Magness said.
“With what little bit we have in reserve, this would take us down to the bare bones,” she said. “After this year, if we do not receive the necessary support, we will take a long and deep look and, possibly, after more than 40 years, have to move to another city.”
“The pageant is a long-standing tradition and we would regret seeing it go elsewhere,” said Doug Harman, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau and a Miss Texas board member. “The community and bureau have been supportive of the pageant for quite a long time. We have the facilities to accommodate their needs, and we also are in a major media market. We want the pageant to survive. They obviously are facing some tough economic issues.”
Fort Worth attorney Marvin Blum has volunteered time to the Miss Texas program since his high school years. Blum said that keeping the pageant in Fort Worth is important to the city.
“Over the years, the Miss Texas Pageant has introduced thousands of people to the many treasures that Fort Worth offers,” he said. “The pageant not only attracts a statewide audience of fans and supporters who attend in person, but it also reaches across the state with a telecast that highlights Fort Worth as a cultural center and tourist destination. Telecasting the pageant ‘live from Fort Worth’ brings a real economic benefit to our city.”
And the telecast offers a real economic benefit to advertisers, Magness noted.
“Miss Texas gives advertisers a rare occasion to reach the entire state of Texas in prime time in a positive, family-friendly environment,” she said. “Advertisers who want to boost their overall media buys need look no further than Miss Texas. Miss Texas has a loyal audience: Texans.”
The Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant was first held in 1936. Long sponsored by the Texas Jaycees and held in various cities, the competition settled in Cowtown when the Fort Worth Jaycees bid for it in 1962 and received permission from the Miss America Organization to keep the pageant here. Seven Miss Fort Worth titleholders have become Miss Texas: Alice Emerick, 1937; Ysleta Leissner, 1949; Marilyn Turner, 1959; Linda Loftis, 1961; Lenda Varley, 1964; Molly Grubb, 1967; and the current Miss Texas, Morgan Matlock.
Rebecca Robinson, Miss Fort Worth 2006, hopes to make it eight. Robinson, a 22-year-old senior majoring in Spanish at Texas A&M University, grew up on a central Texas cattle ranch and says her involvement with the Miss Texas Organization has exposed her to a variety of opportunities and experiences.
“Today, I can say that I am a young woman who is politically and socially savvy, who can adjust to any environment and who is comfortable and confident in my own skin,” she said.
Robinson said the scholarship program will allow her to finish undergraduate and graduate school, and added that the life lessons she has learned are equally important.
“The volunteers in the Miss Texas Organization go to great lengths to show us that we are capable of achieving any goal set before us,” she said. “It’s a priceless feeling to know that someone believes in you wholeheartedly.”
The Miss Texas program is affiliated with the Miss America Organization, the largest single provider of scholarships for women in the world, offering more than $45 million last year in cash scholarships and tuition assistance. This year, the Miss Texas Organization will award more than $50,000 in cash scholarships and $528,000 worth of in-kind college aid. Miss Texas 2006 will win a minimum of $10,000 in cash scholarships.
“The Miss Texas and Miss America Pageants helped in paying for all three of my college degrees,” said Dr. Shirley Cothran Barret, Miss America 1975, and one of three Miss Texas winners to earn the national title (the others are Jo-Carroll Dennison, 1942, and Phyllis George, 1971).
Barret and her husband, Richard, have four children and live in Weatherford. For the past 15 years, she has worked as a professional speaker, directing audiences to Christian women’s events.
“It is always a joy to meet a young woman who has been involved in a pageant because that woman has utilized the people skills, the community involvement and the experience to benefit not only herself, but also those in her family and workplace,” Barret said.
Businesses and corporations that sponsor a local, state, or national Miss America pageant are choosing to sponsor the very best of American women, Barret added.
“Investing in a young woman’s life by sponsoring a local or state pageant will pay dividends when that young woman is asked to represent them,” she said.
Nearly all contestants have either received or are in the process of earning college or postgraduate degrees, and most utilize Miss Texas scholarship awards to further their education, Magness said.
Hundreds of young women enter Miss Texas preliminary pageants each year, vying for a local title and a chance to participate in the state pageant.
A total of 36 young women will compete for the state title this year, and 38 contestants will seek the title of Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen. The Outstanding Teen competition for girls 13-17 years of age will be held in conjunction with the Miss Texas Pageant. The teen finals will be held Friday, July 7, and the winner will be crowned during the Miss Texas telecast on July 8.
The teen program encourages scholastic achievement, creative accomplishment, healthy living and community involvement. The program gives younger girls an avenue to develop public-speaking skills and a forum to present talents and viewpoints, as well as providing preparation for the Miss Texas competition, officials say.
The teen winner will travel to Orlando, Fla., for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen National Competition, which will be held Aug. 19. Meghan Miller, winner of the Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen competition in 2005, went on to become the first-ever Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2006.
The image of Miss Texas has changed over the years, Magness said,
“It used to be that she was seen as a ribbon-cutter, almost as a politician, shaking hands and kissing babies,” said Magness. “Now she has a more professional role with a specific cause. All the young women, whether at the local or national level, must have a public-service platform. Being Miss Texas is a big job. She makes more than 400 personal appearances and talks to more than 200,000 school children across the state during her year of service. Today, she is seen as a businesswoman in the community.”
To buy telecast advertising, for ticket information, or to become a pageant sponsor, call 817-263-6546.
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