Miss Alaska, Christina Reasner, didn't trade in her crown last month in Atlantic City, N.J., for that of Miss America and that's OK with her. She's looking forward to returning to her home state and town, she said last week from Hawaii.
"I was proud of how I did and, of course, disappointed; it would have been great to be Miss America. But I'm happy to get back to Alaska," she said.
Reasner is set to arrive in Anchorage on Wednesday. She's been attending speaking engagements in the Lower 48 since the Miss America competition ended Sept. 18 and has several more engagements scheduled in Anchorage before returning home to Sterling this weekend.
Competing for the title of Miss America was exciting, Reasner said, but the process isn't as effortless as it looks on television.
"It was much more grueling than I even anticipated," she said, "Basically, we were either in rehearsals or we were doing some kind of volunteer work for three weeks."
Most of the public service work took place in Washington, D.C., where the contestants met before the pageant began. Much of the work centered on military service and kept the contestants busy from early morning to late at night.
Reasner met with hospitalized soldiers, Alaskans living in a veteran retirement home and attended the dedication ceremony for the new World War II memorial.
Although Reasner was treated like a celebrity in Washington, the fact that she was going to be competing for Miss America didn't sink in until the contestants got to Atlantic City and were met by a throng of media as the group started filing off the bus.
"That's when it became real to me, having reporters screaming questions at us as we got off the bus," Reasner said.
During the pageant, she was asked the same questions again and again by the media, officials and other contestants and spent a lot of time dispelling myths about life in Alaska.
"I kept having to tell people, 'I do not drive a dog sled. I do not live in an igloo. Yes, I do have electricity,'" she said.
The contestants were shadowed everywhere they went by security officers. Reasner said she thought security was as much concerned about keeping overeager reporters at a distance as about any terrorism, and she was surprised by the relentlessness of the officers.
"We had police escorts even to go to the mall," she said.
Reasner told of one incident to illustrate how serious security was taken. She and a couple other contests broke away from the main group and were heading to the restroom when police and security officers charged past them. Reasner thought they were responding to some life-threatening emergency. Actually, the officers were racing ahead to do a security sweep of the restroom the contestants were about to use.
Although Reasner didn't win the title, she did get to know the eventual Miss America. During the competition, the contests were usually lined up in alphabetical order. Reasner and neighbor Deidre Downs, Miss Alabama, often chatted during down time. Reasner said the judges made a good choice.
"I couldn't have picked a better person to win," she said. "I'm glad she was named Miss America, because she really is Miss America."
Only the top ten finalists are announced. The contestants who didn't make it that far, including Reasner, weren't told how they finished.
Reasner said how she placed isn't as important as the support she received, which allowed her to compete.
She had to raise the thousands of dollars needed to furnish her wardrobe and make the trip to Atlantic City. She said she was overwhelmed by the amount of support she received from friends and neighbors and wanted to thank those who helped her attend the pageant, especially those who donated what they could at a fund-raiser held in Sterling before she left to compete.
"I went home that night and cried. I'd never seen that kind of support. These people who were writing checks were not millionaires, they just believed in me and wanted me to go to the Miss America competition," she said. "'Thank you,' is what I want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you."
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