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Mary Catherine McAnnally of Decatur with her boyfriend Patrick McAnally (no relation) at her send-off party. The Alabama Junior Miss is in her second week of competition in Mobile before the finals of the 50th annual America's Junior Miss on Saturday night.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Mary Catherine McAnnally of Decatur with her boyfriend Patrick McAnally (no relation) at her send-off party. The Alabama Junior Miss is in her second week of competition in Mobile before the finals of the 50th annual America's Junior Miss on Saturday night.

Beauty, brains & Bama pride
Mary Catherine McAnnally of Decatur competing at scholarship program's national finals in Mobile

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Mary Catherine McAnnally knows Alabama has an image problem, and she plans to work on that during her two weeks of rehearsals for America's Junior Miss.

"My biggest job is to eliminate the idea that we all ride cows to school and run around barefoot," said the young woman from Decatur.

She is in her second week of events in Mobile leading up to Saturday night's finals of this national scholarship program, where representatives of the 50 states will compete for college dollars.

McAnnally was named Morgan County's Junior Miss last fall and won the state competition in Montgomery in January. She is the daughter of Sid and April McAnnally and a 2007 graduate of Decatur High School.

The national Junior Miss program, founded in 1958, is based in Mobile, so McAnnally drove south with her mother June 18. They headed to the home of her host family in Mobile, where she dropped her luggage and went to the airport with her host mom to greet the other 49 young women.

First, however, she and her mother had to say their goodbyes. No cell phones are allowed, and there can be no direct contact with family or friends during the nearly two weeks of Junior Miss activities.

"That's the hardest part for me — not knowing how she's doing," said her mom.

The busy schedule of rehearsals and events in Mobile for the 50th anniversary year of Junior Miss does not allow time for chitchat with folks back home.

McAnnally is line dancing and feasting on barbecue one day and dining formally at the Mobile Country Club the next. She and the other contestants are helping with a Habitat for Humanity house during a Day of Caring, visiting Bellingrath Gardens, making appearances at a mall, enjoying a beach party and a luau, and going to ball games and a prom at a rehabilitation center.

She will not get to rest when she arrives home from America's Junior Miss, either.

In early June, her mother said, "We cleared all Mary Catherine's graduation gifts from the dining room table and started putting out everything she needed to remember to take to Mobile."

In early July, the whole family will pack to move to Mountain Brook for new jobs and schools. Their campus-bound daughter will be living in a dorm at Birmingham-Southern College this fall, using scholarship awards won through Junior Miss.

Her family, plenty of friends, her boyfriend and many state and local Junior Miss committee members and past winners will head to Mobile later this week for the finals.

Many of them were at her send-off party June 12 at the Decatur home of Sheila and Rick Boy and signed a 6-foot-wide "good luck" card. Decatur Mayor Don Kyle was there to wish her luck, too.

Meeting the governor

McAnnally had already been to Montgomery so Gov. Bob Riley could meet his state's Junior Miss.

John Vaughan, Morgan County Junior Miss chairman, said Riley asked her to sing, and she replied, "I will if you will."

The governor gave a mournful rendition of the country song "She Stopped Loving Me Today." McAnnally followed with the song she performed at local and state programs and will sing on stage in Mobile: "For Good" from the Broadway musical "Wicked." She sang it at her farewell party, too.

Impressed

Alabama Junior Miss Chairman Bruce Triftshauser was just as impressed when he heard her in Decatur as he was in Montgomery last winter.

McAnnally could join a line of other national winners and runners-up from Alabama: Stephanie Ashmore from the Shoals, Tyrenda Williams and Carrie Colvin from Jefferson County, and Katie Boyd from Enterprise.

No pressure

There's no pressure, though.

"We just encourage them to go down to Mobile, have a good time, make a lot of friends and, if something comes of it, that's great," said Triftshauser, who has worked with Junior Miss for about 30 years.

McAnnally said before she left that she had been preparing for the national competition, which includes talent, fitness, interview, self-expression and scholastic components.

"The fitness routine at nationals is hard, so I've been working on pushups and high kicks and cardio to get ready for that," she said.

"The interview has always been my favorite part, just because I'm talkative anyway and feel very comfortable with it. And I've had a couple of practice interview sessions."

She could be asked random questions on stage if she makes the top eight.

The best part of Junior Miss?

McAnnally found out at state that "it's like becoming best friends with 52 different people at the same time."

Send your support

Your support is more important than you realize.

“The more support I get through notes and letters and packages from back home, the better I feel,” said Alabama Junior Miss Mary Catherine McAnnally.

She remembers how important those communications were to her during the state competition. Cell phones or other phone calls were not allowed there or at nationals, so get those cards, notes and flowers headed toward Mobile now.

A visit to Alaska could be in the future for McAnnally, because her roommate for these two weeks is Alaska’s Junior Miss, Aimee McClory.

Morgan County Junior Miss chairman John Vaughan said she is an at-large representative, because Alaska does not have a state program, so McAnnally’s knowledge and experience will be helpful to her. He asks that supporters of McAnnally also send notes of encouragement to McClory in care of their host family.

Address cards and letters to “Alabama Junior Miss Mary Catherine McAnnally” or “Alaska Junior Miss Aimee McClory,” in care of Jack and Kim Summersell, 611 E. Cumberland Road, Mobile, AL 36608.

On the Net

While the finals will not be broadcast on television, you can watch live video streaming online through the NBC affiliate in Mobile. Go to www.nbc15online.com to check out the preview interviews and finals Saturday night.

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