I am the host family for Maria H Eckerberg of Sweden and I'd like to submit a story on her. I encouraged Maria to enter our High School's beauty pageant, the Batesburg-Leesvile Ms. Panther Pageant, and she agreed knowing it would be a great American experience, even though she did not expect to place.
Maria undertook this stressful endeavor, seeking guidance from peers, assistance from her host family, and researching the internet to learn the "how to's" of pageantry. After all, she had no idea what a pageant was really all about. Nonetheless, Maria set out to choose the perfect evening gown and sportswear and was fortunate enough to find the perfect gown at the first shop she visited despite her 5 ft. 11 in. frame. The sportswear seemed easy to come by also. But there was just one more item: an outfit for the opening number - one that would fit the Saturday Night Fever theme. With some creativity and a handy jumpsuit she brought with her from Sweden, Maria crafted an easy, inexpensive, but eye-catching outfit.
The day of the pageant arrives, and there is chaos as usual for some mothers and daughters. But things come together and Maria's time for her interview is at hand. I don't know exactly what was exchanged between Maria and her three judges, but based on the accounts of some of the ladies involved, I learned that Maria had the judges "cackling". Needless to say, she won them over early.
And so the pageant begins, with the Stayin' Alive song in the background of almost 20 beautiful young ladies. Maria managed the opening number with virtually no mistakes, as did the other girls. Next, the sportswear competition - her first attempt to navigate the stage arrows showing them where to step and when to turn, all the while being careful to gaze and smile at the judges when possible and maintain good composure in the process. And at last, the evening wear competition which presents additional difficulties such as her heels and evening gown's train. Flowing across the stage, Maria manages to exhibit grace and charm while beaming with beauty under the twinkling lights overhead. It seemed as if she's done this before, but perhaps she's a natural.
Finally, the time arrived for conceivably the greatest challenge of all: the on-stage question presented to seniors only. Her question? "If you could spend one day with anyone, who would it be and what would you hope to gain from it?". Does it sound hard? It did not appear that way to Maria. Without missing a beat, she chose her deceased Grandmother and explained their closeness, lessons she learned from her, and how she wished she could gain more wisdom from her, and have just one more day of her love". Goodness. Were there a few tears in the room? You bet!
After brief entertainment, the judges are ready. The beautiful, reigning Mrs. United States did the honors of announcing several deserving young women for Miss Freshman through Miss Junior and runner-ups. And now for Miss Senior, "contestant # 14, Maria Eckerberg". Oh the cheering was awesome, as Maria tries to take it all in, relishing in the sweetness of the experience! She had done it! But that's not all. There was a bonus award: Best Original Outfit for the opening number. And you might guess who won this title...yes, our Maria. What a pleasant surprise to top off the night! Could Maria have hoped for anything more? Absolutely not. Now she has four priceless pieces of memorabilia: a tiara, a sash, and two trophies declaring her coveted titles! It was perfect and an experience of a lifetime! Mission accomplished!