DAY 1: Traveling and Orientation
After leaving LAX at 6:45, landing in the beloved land of Las Vegas for a layover, and then landing in Indianapolis at 3pm, I'm exhausted. Oh but it did not end there. We had a nice 2 hour long drive from the airport to our objective city: Hoopeston, IL! After landing in Indianapolis, I met up with a lot of the contestants in the airport lobby and waited for the bus. Our drive to Hoopeston took us through many miles of road lined in miles and miles of corn fields; go figure.
corn fields as far as the eye can see!!!
I am a huge fan of ABC's sitcom, "The Middle," which takes place in Indiana. The landscape is so beautiful out here. Even though I am totally out of my element (I'm a total beach girl), I am amazed at all the greenery and yummy crops! Hoopeston is so adorable. The whole city is only 2 blocks wide in all directions. The people of Hoopeston live by the Golden Rule; that's how they live in harmony with each other. Just think what the world would be like that if we all lived by that same rule!
Tonight, we had a delicious dinner held at the American Legion, which reminded me a lot of an Elk's Lodge. We had salad (must have that when pageant girls are present), BBQ beans, and my favorite, pulled-pork sandwiches!!! And guess who was in line first for the food... "Miss California" of course! My tummy and my taste buds were very satisfied. After dinner, we had orientation. It's official! I am now "Miss California" for the week. I have my sash and everything. It's very exciting!
a well-balanced meal!!!
DAY 2: Let the festivities begin!
Today started with a 7am breakfast sponsored by the Hoopeston Rotary Club at the America Legion and then we were off to production rehearsal. First of all, the weather is PERFECT here. I can close my eyes and think that I am back home because the temperatures are perfect. One great thing about the climate here is that my curls actually stay in! :) After arriving to the Civic Center for rehearsal, we found our little stations in the dressing rooms. It's really cool to see "Miss California" as my label!
Today was the first talent rehearsal and I was eagerly waiting for the harp to arrive! Charles L. from Chicago is my saving grace. He is the one harpist out of about 30 in the area (Illinois and Indiana) who came through to help me. Shipping my own harp from home would have cost $500!!!! So, finding a harpist in the area has been a huge blessing! Chicago is about 2-3 hours away from Hoopeston, but he teaches in Champaign a lot, which is only an hour away from Hoopeston. He just happened to be teaching in Champaign this week, so he was able to drop off his harp to me in Hoopeston. He is SO sweet and I am so glad that we have become acquainted. Charles' harp is so beautiful and it has a great sound; I am SO excited to perform!
After rehearsal, it was TOUR time! First, we visited a 700 acre farm full of corn and soy bean crops! It was actually really interesting and have gained a larger appreciation for farmers like the ones I met today. It was so educational! I did not know that only ONE ear of corn grow on each stalk! I always thought there were multiple ears, but (at least in Illinois) there is only one ear of corn! The corn on this particular farm is grown for livestock feed and also corn-oil plastic! We were given a gift bag full of goodies, including a bag of Fritos since they are a supplier for Frito Lay. Yum! The highlight of this tour was that I got to drive a tractor! It was huge! Just for proof, you can view the video below. :)
Our next stop was the Hoopeston Foods, Inc. factory. Here they collect and can the harvested beans from local crops. Their beans are sold to Safeway, Target, and a few other brands. It's pretty cool to think that a lot of the beans we get at those stores are from Hoopeston! They also just finished their perfect recipe for Baked Beans. They recently matched Bush's Baked Bean recipe! I got so excited because I LOVE Baked Beans, especially Bush's homestyle beans with the bacon. I do have to admit, Hoopeston has pretty much matched the famous Bush recipe because we all taste-tested it! It's pretty right on! Congrats, Hoopeston Foods!
ready to work the factories with "Miss Florida", Kalen Dennis
After the tours, we went back to the Civic Center for more rehearsals and then DINNER!!! You won't believe the food tonight! I seriously had two plates full of food. One plate had salad and an ear of SWEETCORN! I know I'm using a lot of caps, but it's just to show a fraction of how excited I was about tonight's food. My second plate had a huge baked potato with cheese, butter, and bacon bits, and a pulled pork sandwich! I was in heaven tonight. The directors must have read my paperwork perfectly because everything on that table was a food I liked! :)
I am exhausted, but I am having fun too. I guess it's exactly how I felt at Miss CA. Everything is coming together so well. The girls here are amazing. I'm surprised they did not win their state title! I feel so honored to be amongst the "second-to-best" group of girls from across the nation. This has definitely broadened my perspective more! I look forward to some more adventures throughout the week! We have one more factory tour tomorrow, more rehearsals, and then a delicious BBQ sponsored by the Lion's Club. There is surely more fun to come!