March 29, 2011

Help pick the next Miss NH


Union Leader Correspondent
Bill Haggerty.
DERRY -- If necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps proximity is the father of invention. Because as Bill Haggerty watched this year’s Miss America 2010 pageant live in Las Vegas a few months ago, he found himself suddenly inspired. This time around, there were “wild card” semifinalists, including one contestant who was selected by her fellow contestants.
Haggerty’s spin: Bring together technology and pageantry, and factor in our insatiable urge to be the judge of everything as a way to shake up the local pageant scene in a good way.
“I thought it made the pageant more engaging, and so when I got back to New Hampshire, I thought about how we could do something like that here,” said Haggerty, who has been with the statewide Miss New Hampshire Scholarship organization for 47 years.
Starting April 1, voting will be open at the official Miss New Hampshire site online as well as its companion Facebook page, where everyone can cast a vote for their favorite contestant. The top
 vote-getters not drafted into the semifinals by the panel of judges will make the cut based on the popular vote, resulting in a dozen semifinalists instead of 10.
“We won’t be identifying who those two contestants are to the judges, or to the audience. We think that will add intrigue and make it more objective,” said Haggerty.
No one will know who the two contestants were who made it into the semifinals by online voting until the gala event following the official crowning of Miss New Hampshire 2011 on April 30 at the Stockbridge Theatre.
“This will encourage
 friends and family to go online and vote ahead of the pageant. It also will give two contestants a chance (who) otherwise might not have caught a judge’s eye during the two days of competition,” Haggerty said.
What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas in that Haggerty recognized how taking a less formal approach to selecting semifinalists really seemed to re-energize the national event.
But he admits he was also inspired by peer pressure. In January Haggerty was recognized for his years of volunteerism with the National Academy of Honor award.
“It’s a prestigious award,
 and in honor of that I thought it was fitting to try and elevate our pageant a little by trying something new,” Haggerty said. “With the award comes a stipend of $5,000, which we will give out during this year’s Miss New Hampshire pageant, so our state has benefited as well.”
Last year, more than $84,000 in scholarship money was awarded to contestants.
Haggerty’s dedication to the annual scholarship pageant and all it stands for can be traced back to his college days at Keene State.
“I was a red-blooded American 19-year-old who was intrigued by beautiful
 women, and I developed a crush on one of the students here, who I thought should be in our statewide pageant. When I contacted them, they told me we couldn’t just send her down for the pageant — we had to hold a pageant here, so I started one,” Haggerty said. With an assist from a former Union Leader women’s section editor, the Keene State Pageant was launched, and a few years later, Haggerty was doing so well with it that he was asked to join the statewide organization.
Not only does Haggerty have a way with pageants, but his eye for the ladies paid off
 — he wound up marrying Peg Morin, first runnerup to Miss New Hampshire 1969.
“Despite our involvement in Miss New Hampshire, none of our children were interested in being in pageants,” Haggerty said. “They were avid athletes, but they left the pagentry up to us.”
Each of this year’s 27 contestants is being encouraged to seek votes from friends, neighbors and the public. Anyone can cast a vote between April 1 and April 27 by going to, or by finding the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Program on Facebook.

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