Monday, June 22, 2009

Pageant Press: Miss Ohio '09 makes her debut

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MANSFIELD -- After just one hour of sleep, Erica Gelhaus still looked radiant Sunday afternoon at the Richland Mall.

Wearing a simple navy dress, a glowing smile and a sparkling crown, the new Miss Ohio signed autographs and greeted eager guests warmly.

Gelhaus earned her title Saturday night at the Renaissance Theatre.

"I'm so excited," the 21-year-old squealed. "I had no indication at all this week that I was going to win."

Perhaps her parents knew better.

"Erica has always given everything she does 110 percent," mom Judy Gelhaus said. "She's very organized, and I know she's gonna do really well at Miss America. She's just a beautiful person inside and out, and I think people recognize that."

Erica will compete at the national pageant Jan. 30 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

"She has just really grown as an individual since she started competing," dad Ron Gelhaus said. "Her speaking skills are terrific. Erica's won the academic award all three years she's been at Miss Ohio. She volunteers a lot. I don't know how she does it all."

Judy said Erica began competing in pageants her senior year of high school.

"Her guidance counselor actually recommended she try it to try to earn scholarship money," Judy said.

In three years, Erica has won more than $37,000.

That year, 2007, Erica became first runner-up to Miss Ohio Roberta Camp.

In 2008, Erica was second runner-up to Miss Ohio Karissa Martin.

When she finally captured the title Saturday, Erica said "a million thoughts" raced through her head.

"I was just so excited and thankful," she said. "I couldn't believe it."

Erica said she spent the rest of her evening at the coronation ball and in her hotel room with her family.

"We had so much to talk about because we really weren't allowed to talk much during the week," she said. "Being on our cell phones was discouraged because they wanted us to concentrate."

Erica said her favorite portion of competition is talent.

Wednesday night, she captured the talent preliminary, singing "So anchio la virtue magical."

"I sing something different every year," she said.

After her two-hour appearance in the center of the Ontario mall, Erica said she would be making the 2 1/2-hour trip back to her hometown. A large welcome ceremony, including a fire truck escort, was expected to greet her.

"Our town is known for its athletes -- not queens," Judy said. "So this will be really special."

Erica said she hopes to be a positive inspiration for others.

"I'm hoping other young women will see how pageants can open doors to achieve their goals," she said.

Erica's next appearance will be this weekend at the Special Olympics in Columbus.

"She'll be a great Miss Ohio," Ron said proudly. "And we'll follow her wherever and whenever we can."

Judy's quotation about the athletes made me chuckle because southern Mercer county is seriously all about the football! St. Henry lays claim to pro footballer players Bobby Hoying, Jeff Hartings, Jim Lachey, Todd Boeckman and Steve Sutter. Athletes, catholic churches, corn fields and now a Miss Ohio...!

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