"And your new Miss Whatcom County 2012 is ... contestant number six, Kimball Gainor."
Just like that, it took the master of ceremonies less than 20 words to completely change my life.
In a blur of roses, plaques, hugs and a crowd of people chanting my name, I somehow made it to the front of the stage and distinctly remember three things about my crowning moment. 1. Don't lock your knees and pass out in front of 400 people. 2. Find my mom in the audience. 3. Wonder what have I gotten myself into this time?
No, I didn't cry; and I never said anything about world peace during my onstage interview as many people have asked throughout my year as a "queen." In fact, this journey began in an unordinary way and held fast to an unordinary theme for 12 months.
I had discovered the program only several months prior to the pageant. Fate brought to me a tiny little clip in this very newspaper titled, "Scholarship opportunity: Now accepting applications for the Miss Whatcom County Scholarship Organization."
"We actually have one of those?" was my first thought. The next was that I am putting myself through school and have managed to do so thus far on a full ride. As a college student, your eyes begin to magnetize toward that "S" word, and I began to think that this might be an entertaining way to allow me continue paying my tuition.
A crazy idea, I know. But who are we if we never take risks and challenge ourselves? Well, this was certainly both of those things.
You see, for a while now, I have been named the "non-pageant pageant girl." They would laugh when I waddled around on my first day of rehearsal in way-too-high high heels. They sighed during our first interview practice when asked who my favorite Miss America was and I answered Sandra Bullock from "Miss Congeniality."
I guess I didn't quite have my pageant facts straight, and it seems my "pageant talent" was a little crooked as well. The Miss Whatcom County board just about passed out when I announced that my talent with which I would compete on stage would be ... a rap.
It turns out the board and I weren't so clear when we had agreed that my talent was allowed to be old school. Old school to the Miss America Organization means Beethoven's first symphony. Old school to the Gainor family means "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang.
Well, I became the first Miss Whatcom County contestant to rap on stage. As well as the first to throw my hair up in pigtails, slip into some overalls and boys pajamas and roll around on stage as Bellingham's very own Edith Ann.
Then I became blessed with the opportunity to take both of those things off of a stage and into my community, performing for children, veterans, the fantastic ICU community food drive team, the Kiwanis and pretty much anyone who would listen. I did this in order to have my message heard, in order to show them what we are all capable of. I did this simply in order to make the world a better place.
My greatest joy this year? Breaking down the stereotype of what it means to be a titleholder. I am not, never have been, and never will be, a beauty queen. I am a scholar, a double major in communications and Spanish, filled with ambitions for a bright future. I am a public servant and have been lucky to serve my community in ways I will never forget.
I learned quickly how to use the crown not as an accessory but as a tool. Sure, the top of my head has been shimmering for the past year, and at first it freaked me out. But it was easy to get used to if it meant wearing the crown was like holding a key; one that could open almost any door in my community. A key that allowed me to give back to the county I grew up in and the community that has given me so much.
What does the year of Miss Whatcom County look like? For me it meant more than 150 appearances in 365 days. From the Bellingham Food Bank to Whatcom County public libraries, from the Humane Society to Big Brothers Big Sisters, I offered my hand to every child, every senior and every animal in between.
I kept wondering why people actually wanted my autograph, especially because I felt like I should have been asking for theirs. It truly became my hope that I helped those whom I was able to work with half as much as they helped me.
I have witnessed and worked for the need in our community. I have also experienced the joy we give to one another daily. To the people I met this year, I haven't forgotten you, and have thanked God for you every day.
To the people who have helped me get to this point and have supported me throughout this entire journey, you know who you are and I will never be able to thank you enough.
MISS WHATCOM 2013
The Miss Whatcom County 2013 pageant will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Whatcom Community College, 237 W Kellogg Road, Bellingham. Tickets are available at the door.
Kimball lives in Bellingham and is a junior at Western Washington University. As a communication and Spanish double major she also works on campus in the admissions office as a tour guide, as well as at he WWU Karen Morse Institute for Leadership as a student ambassador. Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, or an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to firstname.lastname@example.org.