Brandy-Lynn Reese changed her tune from fantasy to country and won a spot in the Miss Maryland contest.
The week-long pageant opens Monday in Hagerstown and culminates in the selection of a winner to represent the state in the Miss America contest.
In March, the 17-year-old Westminster High graduate entered the Miss Carroll County contest and was chosen second runner-up. Although judges gave her high marks for her musical portrayal of "The Little Mermaid," they suggested she try a more mature theme.
"The song was young and made me seem even younger," she said.
She decided to try again and entered another contest. Most local pageants are open to any state resident.
For the Miss Dundalk contest, she donned a jumpsuit and belted out, "Break It to Me Gently." That country tune landed her in first place in the talent segment of the Baltimore contest.
One more time and it all came together. The third quest for a local crown proved to be the charm for the Westminster resident. When the Miss Maryland hopefuls march on stage in Hagerstown, Reese will be Miss Federal City, representing Washington.
"I am not nervous, just excited," she said. "At 17, I am the youngest contestant and the competition is stiff. I am going to try my best and shoot for the top 10."
Among that competition is Marcie A. Bidinger, Miss Carroll County. The Frederick resident, who teaches dance in Mount Airy, will repeat her lyrical dance choreographed to Elvis Presley's "American Trilogy" next week.
"The judges told me, when I won the county contest, that dance is my strong point," said the 21-year-old recent graduate of Hood College in Frederick.
Both contestants said they are keeping current on news events and topical issues and exercising to stay in shape.
"Chasing little ones around a dance studio helps me stay fit," said Bidinger. "Keeping up with current events is a little harder."
Judges interview the contestants and grill them on several "hot" issues, she said. Bidinger submitted a paper on the greenhouse effect and expects to answer questions on the environment.
Reese chose auto safety as her issue and can speak from personal experience.
"I have been in two accidents this year," she said. "If I hadn't been wearing a seat belt, I would have been badly injured."
Both contestants said they have selected sequined gowns for their final appearance Saturday. Reese will wear a coral gown accented with silver.
"Mine is electric blue and all beaded," said Bidinger. "It's conservative but gorgeous. Even the seamstress said it was me."
While all the contestants have their sights set on winning Miss Maryland, the competition spawns many friendships.
Both women called the preparation, rehearsals and competitions positive experience, which they would repeat next year.
"Any entrant has worked hard to win, but we are supportive of each other," said Bidinger.
"Whoever wins Miss Maryland, we all want her to go on and become Miss America," said Reese. "I hope that's me someday."