Being Miss Maumee Valley

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Great American Dream Queen

Sunday afternoon Loren and I ventured southerly to my hometown area; I had to attend a rehearsal for a pageantesq television show I’m participating in.

Let me explain… comedian/business woman Leslie Norris Townsend and her sound engineer/producer husband Tim both have notable showbiz experience, but have settled back in Tim’s home area of St. Marys to raise their boys. Of course their entertainment love remains and they’re attempting to restore St. Marys to its Branson Missouri-like glory days through their ownership of the Grand Opera House and Theatre. I’ve participated in a few seasons of their vocal competition, Dream Big, which is televised across a third of the state. Given Leslie’s experience in Southern pageantry, it’s no surprise the Theatre also became the site of the resurrected Miss West Central Ohio pageant. Leslie even held a Mrs. West Central Ohio, the winner of which competed at
Mrs. Ohio International.

Their latest idea is to combine pageantry, talent competition and reality television series; the result is The Great American Dream Queen. It will be an eight episode series, aired in the Lima area, searching for “America’s Dream Queen” out of eighteen contestants ranging in age from twenty-four to fifty-some. Only three contestants will compete during each of the first six episodes. Of those three, a winner will be selected to advance, and then six women will compete again during the two episode finale.

One of the best parts are the hostesses! Somehow Leslie has managed to get former Miss Americas! Kaye Lani Rae Rafko will be definitely be hosting the first few episodes, Heather Renee French will be hosting a few as well and Kellye Cash has signed on to host the two episode finale. Kim Akin has also been contacted, in case Heather has to drop a show to help with her husband’s campaign for Kentucky’s governor. I’m scheduled to film on September 13; the first six episodes will air throughout October and November with the finale being taped November 14.

The phases of competition are Aerobics Wear, Talent, Evening Gown and a dreaded Quiz Show. Each judge will rank each contestant from 1 – 10 for Aerobics Wear, Talent and Evening Gown then at the end of the competition they must announce their winner in each phase, possibly having to break their own tie, by giving out a theoretical crown. This idea was inspired by the giving of stars on Star Search. The first six shows will have three judges giving crowns for three phases; thus, the first woman to receive five crowns will obviously be the winner. However, ties will potentially be created or broken based on which contestant does the best in the objectively scored Quiz Show.

Much like Miss America pageants, the Dream Big show never revealed scores. Contestants will agree, that’s very frustrating because you never know where you stand. Given the amount of Dream Big contestant who have complained about this, and the fact that it makes for excellent television, Leslie has decided on this participatory judging format. However, during our rehearsal one of the contestants voiced concern over the realization that a contestant may embarrassingly receive zero crowns. “I’m three months pregnant,” she said, “I’ll cry!” While receiving zero crowns will be as humiliating as criticism from Simon Cowell, or that other British knock-off on America’s Got Talent, most of the contestants, myself included, realize that the viewing audience is more important than we are and they’ll absolutely love it.

Well, maybe they’ll love it… Loren thinks it sounds corny, but I think the prizes and the hostesses make up for it. The winner from each of the first six shows gets a mini DVD player, a silver tray from a local jeweler, a crown and of course, advancement to the finals. The Grand Prize “Dream Queen” will receive a thousand dollar cash and some gigantic crown. Leslie dotes on the size of the crown as a major selling point, but when it comes to crowns and tiaras, I don’t necessarily agree that bigger is better! I think it sounds frightening to balance so much atop your head; although, I hope that challenge is mine at the conclusion of this competition.

This may sound conceited, but I think just getting to the finals will be more difficult for me than winning the whole thing once I get there! One of the women I’ll be competing against in the “preliminary” competition is an amazing vocalist and grand prize winners of one of the Dream Big seasons. The other is Mrs. West Central Ohio. However, the Dream Big winner didn’t make it to the rehearsal. She is one of a few women that Leslie fears may drop out… so if this sounds like something you may want to compete in, leave a comment and I’ll share some contact info with you.

(The contestants are comprised of all sorts of women! I’m the youngest and one of only two singles without children. The others are homemakers, educators and businesswomen; some love singing in their churches and local nursing homes while others are mortified that they’ve agreed to be on stage and on TV! Several participated in Mrs. West Central Ohio and/or Dream Big. Many said they have like four or five children and I think this competition is serving as some much needed “me-time for mommy!”)

Regardless of the outcome of this competition, I always enjoy the thrill of competing and getting even more use out of my competition wardrobe. While I’ve already met Kay Lani, Heather and Kellye, I am definitely looking forward to working with one, or hopefully two of them!

Most of all, this is a great opportunity to show several members of my family what I’ve been doing all these years at Miss Ohio. My Grandma and Grandpa G. have seen me in ONE pageant- Miss Lake Festival, six years ago! They’ll get to watch this competition on one of their local television channels from the comfort of their living room, along with several other family members and family friends that could never make it to Mansfield.


  • Good luck Abby, is there any place we can watch this show or is it just in your area?? Would love to watch you and support you!!
    Good Luck!!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:15 PM  

  • Hi Debi,

    I believe it's only airing on WLIO NBC Lima, although past seasons of Dream Big have been on channels in Mansfield, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Fort Wayne... so you can never tell what strings Leslie is trying to pull!

    Also, sometimes they have clips of various winners on their website,

    I'll keep you posted!


    By Blogger Abby Bollenbacher, at 1:09 PM  

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