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Hamilton to compete

For the Alabama Junior Miss program, this is a year of changes.

For Marengo County’s Junior Miss, Elizabeth Hamilton, the changes don’t end with the competition.

High school senior girls from almost every county in the state compete each year for the title of Alabama’s Junior Miss, and for the scholarships and other rewards that accompany the program. Until this year the program has been held in the Civic Center in Montgomery in January.

This year the 10-day event begins Friday, December 3, with headquarters at the Garret Coliseum.

The change meant the Marengo County program had to be moved as well to give the county’s representative time to prepare. The local event took place this summer instead of in November.

That gave Beth and her parents, Keith and Bambi Hamilton of Demopolis, the extra time to gather all the necessary clothes for the program, and it allowed Beth time to tweak her dance routine, line up professional photographs, and complete the many other duties needed before next week.

At the orientation for the young women held November 6, Beth met her roommate and host family, but the host family had to change, too, because of an unexpected illness in the family.

Instead of one other roommate, Beth now has three, two of whom she had already met.

They represent Jefferson, Mobile and Randolph counties.

All the preparations at the Hamilton house for Junior Miss are in addition to still more changes. In August Keith Hamilton began a new job in Bogalusa, La., and commutes home most weekends. The family will not move until after Beth graduates from Demopolis High School in May, but the change had affected the family.

Beth first became involved with the Junior Miss program her junior year when she was “Little Sister” to the last year’s winner, Kelley Keasler. “Kelley encouraged me to do it,” she said. All the previous Marengo County Junior Miss winners that she had spoken with kept telling her how much fun the program is.

The scholarship money offered was an incentive to take part, too.

Beth didn’t have any trouble deciding to dance for the talent portion of the program.

“That’s the only thing I can do is dance,” she grinned.

The routine she used for the local program was choreographed by Pat Grace in Meridian, Miss. It needed only minor changes – with the help of former Junior Miss Erin Caldwell – to be ready for the Montgomery event.

Beth is thankful she’s a quick study. She learned the original dance in two weeks. She hadn’t gone through the entire routine until this week, and then had to change a few moves and add 10 second more to the dance to be ready. Bambi Hamilton, with help from a friend, expanded the music and burned the cds needed for Beth’s performance.

It helps that Beth is head cheerleader for DHS, but she said all the working out from cheering on the Tigers wasn’t enough. “Even with cheerleading I got out of breath with the first tumbling pass,” she said.

Beth does most of her rehearsing at the her church, First Presbyterian.

An active student in other ways, Beth is president of her senior class and co-ops at Maison de Briques.

Her parents haven’t been left out of the preparations. “There was a lot of paperwork that had to be done,” explained her mother. Fortunately the pink and silver dance costume and evening gown from the local program were suitable for the Montgomery event, and Beth already had the practice clothes and suits for personal appearances.

The Marengo County Junior Miss program helps with the cost of the required costume for the ensemble routine that all the girls must perform.

Lots of other people have pitched in to help. Beth’s cousin, Emily Honey, has appointed herself as Beth’s public relations person. She had printed lots of purple t-shirts printed with “Baby, That’s Rock and Roll,” the name of Beth’s dance number.

She’s also having posters made for Beth’s fans seated in the block of seats reserved by the Hamiltons. Beth hopes her brother Ryan, a student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, will be able to break away from final exams to attend the final nights of competition.

Bambi Hamilson said cards, letters and other gifts will help sustain the girls. “Support is probably the biggest thing in this program.

She said anyone who is interested in going to one of the three public programs is invited to call her to purchase tickets. A set of tickets for all three performances – 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday – costs $45. If purchased individually, the tickets are $55. She also has a block of rooms reserved at a discount price the Baymont for people who want to stay overnight.

Event coordinators encourage family and friends to send flowers and gifts, but the competitors cannot make or receive phone calls or emails during the 10 days they are under scrutiny.

One of the unnerving parts of the competition is the personal appearances. The girls have been warned they could be photographed at any time, and Beth already got a taste of what she is in for.

“They stuck cameras in our faces during orientation.”

To help her poise, she has spoken to the Demopolis Pilot Club and will speak at Kiwanis. She will be using a line from the poet e.e. cummings as part of her 15-second self-expression statement.

She also is boning up on current events.

“Mom kind of walks around the house and says ‘Beth, what do you think of…’.” laughed Beth.

She doesn’t even get a reprieve from her father. “I thought he was on my side,” she said in jest.

Having the program in December will place a strain on Beth when it comes to schoolwork. She will miss a complete week of school and then will have only a week after the event to prepare for semester exams. All her teachers have been notified and are ready to work with her.

Keith Hamilton is thoroughly enjoying the preparations, even though he’s missing a lot of it while working in Bogalusa. “I’m loving it,” he said. “It’s fun to watch your child as she shows how special she is.”

He’ll do everything possible to make it to Montgomery for the competition.

As Beth counts down to the day she leaves for Montgomery, she thanked those who have helped her.

“I appreciate the encouragement and everything people have done for me, she said.

While she won’t be able to attend the state football playoffs – and she is firmly convinced the Tigers will make it there – she wanted the team and her fellow cheerleaders to know she would be rooting for them.