From left to right: Third runner-up, Phyllis Chickett from MN. First runner-up, Ruth Gibson from ME. 2009 Queen - Toya Andrew from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Second runner-up, Connie Gabriel from MN. 4th runner-up and winner of the Flaming Glow award, Lynnette Schlager from Pahrump, Nevada.
The winners' court at this year's Senior Sweethearts pageant is shown above. From left to right are first runner-up Frances Christian, second runner-up Lynette Schlager, Marty Tuohy and his wife, Miss Senior Sweetheart winner Carol Tuohy, fourth runner-up Divina Alora-Jacome, and third runner-up Sharon Maloney.
Steve Aguiar, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ms Senior Sweetheart Pageants of American Inc, with 2005-2006 queen Virginia Freeman and Anita Raposa, 1st Queen of the Ms Senior Sweetheart Pageants in 1978
Joan Hampton of Fall River does a tap dance routine in the Ms. Senior Sweetheart Pageant talent segment at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford Thursday.
NEW BEDFORD -- Although just one lucky lady will be crowned queen on Sunday, all 22 senior sweethearts glowed on Thursday afternoon at the talent portion of the annual Ms. Senior Sweetheart Pageant.
Held at the historic downtown Zeiterion Theatre, the audience hushed when the curtain was raised and the show began. Hosted by New Bedford Mayor Frederick M. Kalicz Jr. and Lenny Kaplan, president of Ms. Senior Sweetheart Pageant Inc., this year marks the 24th annual pageant, and the eighth national pageant.
Without further ado, each lady had her shot in the spotlight. Some sang, others danced and a few even told stories before the delighted audience.
Doris Ulrich, 65, of Jonestown, Pa., performed a Marilyn Monroe type of rendition. Ulrich sang "I'm in the Mood for Love," wearing a long white gown and gloves and a shining bouffant of blond curls. Swinging a fur coat over her shoulders and strutting across the stage, the audience loved it. At the end of her song, she said, "Happy Birthday Mr. President -- I love you," and blew a kiss at the audience.
The costumes worn by the contestants, many in sequins, satin and pearls, and most all in heels, are part of the fun of the show, and certainly elicit a few "oohs" and "aahs" from the expectant audience.
Rita Ann Battram, 75, of Arizona, a great-grandmother of 12, performed the "Java Jive." To the jazzy sounds and warm lighting, Battram, with ease, made her way across the stage in a short, black, sequined number.
Even though she is deaf in one ear and legally blind in one eye, she captured the audience's attention. At the end of the tune, audience members were amazed to see Battram go into a full split on stage.
Fall River's own Joan P. Hampton, 70, a knitting granny for school children, did a tap number to "New York, New York," complete with leg kicking and quick movements. She wore a black and red sequined outfit.
Another local, Barbara Parente, 65, of Swansea, did a swing routine to "Nowadays," a song about how quickly life changes. She pranced about with a top hat and cane and sang along with the song.
All the way from Las Vegas, 67-year-old Isabella Mahong, sang "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Give My Regards to Broadway," and danced, and then went into other patriotic songs.
Ida White, 67, from the Virgin Islands, dressed in tropical pink and green and wore a flower in her hair as she performed a song about a lei. Her motto on life is: "Love like you've never been hurt, and dance like nobody's watching."
While there were so many sweethearts performing from all over the country Thursday afternoon, just 12 will perform their talent portions on Sunday.
The talent portion counted for 25 percent of the total score, while interviews, to be held Saturday, count for 35 percent. Another 20 percent of the score is allocated to the gown walk and the last 20 percent to patriotic and other routines to be performed Sunday.
Sunday's show will be held at the Robert Nagle Auditorium at B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River. Tickets are $10. Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. will greet the ladies and audience and sing a song on stage.
FALL RIVER -- Technically, they may all be grandmas, but these ladies are not your typical rocking chair gals -- they're senior sweethearts and capable of stealing your heart.
Three local ladies will compete in this year's Ms. Senior Sweetheart pageant, which originated here 24 years ago and is on the verge of going national next year.
Barbara Parente, 65, of Swansea, and Joan Hampton, 70, of Fall River, will compete with repeat contestant Marion Gagnon, 67, of Fall River, and more than 20 other women from around the country at the Nov. 3 pageant.
Parente, who has contemplated becoming a senior sweetheart in the past, sealed the deal after meeting the many women at last year's show. Her volunteer work at Clifton Rehabilitation in Somerset required her to escort a resident and contestant to the show, and she was hooked.
"I've never been on stage," she said nervously.
The part-time real estate saleswoman, mom of three sons and grandmother of eight grandsons, and former beauty salon owner, plans to perform a song and dance routine to "Nowadays," a tune about life and changing times.
An expert sewer, Parente will wear a black shimmering dress and coat she made herself for her debut performance.
"I thought my husband would say 'no, no, no,'" she admitted.
Instead, the many men in her family are offering all of their support.
"None of them said, 'Mom you're crazy,'" Parente laughed.
Gagnon, who began her pageant circuit two years ago, is back for more.
"Well, I had so much fun the last two years," Gagnon said. "How could I not (come back)? I love the rehearsing and being with the girls."
The mother of four and grandmother of five has been dancing for 11 years and still takes dance lessons once a week.
Gagnon will tap dance to "Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy," which her 13-year-old granddaughter, Amanda Gagnon, has choreographed for her. Amanda will also appear on stage dressed in suspenders and a top hat to match her grandmother.
Gagnon said her family thought she was crazy when she first started at the pageant.
"Now, they're all for it," she said. "They all enjoy it. It's going to be fun."
Gagnon, a per diem patient access representative at Charlton Memorial Hospital, is an avid sewer and also makes computer greeting cards. She was the previous owner of D.I.D. Fabrics on Stewart Street.
Hampton has been thinking about becoming a pageant contestant for three years.
"I've got to do it now," she said.
Hampton learned of the pageant from her friend Delores Sassman, 75, of Tiverton, who was a contestant 15 years ago.
"I took her advice and here I am," Hampton said.
The two volunteer for Delores and the Sweethearts, a band of locals who sing and dance at area nursing homes.
Hampton will perform a tap dance to "New York, New York" wearing, among things, black fishnet stockings and a top hat, but "no cane," she said.
"I haven't tapped since I was 15," she said, but admits that she has been practicing lately.
"Anybody can learn how to dance," Hampton said. "You've just got to like it."
The retired licensed practical nurse and member of the Allegro Glee Club got back into dancing after she lost her husband.
For 16 years, she cared for her husband after he suffered a brain stem aneurysm at the age of 45. After his death, she said, her life was empty despite her daughter and two grandchildren, so she went back to a prior love -- dancing.
"I started going dancing at the Bluffs (in Swansea) and Rhodes on the Pawtuxet (in Cranston, R.I.)," she said. "My life is so full now."
The women, ages 59 and up, will perform the talent portion of their routine at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford. Twelve finalists will perform their routines again at the pageant at 1 p.m. Nov. 3 at B.M.C. Durfee High School.
Besides talent routines, the women take part in gown walks, interviews, a patriotic number and a flapper routine.
For tickets, which cost $10, call 508-675-0249 or purchase them at Fall River Five Cents Savings Bank or Gob Shops.