Recently, I had the opportunity to be one of the judges in two competitions and I really enjoyed doing both. The first competition was the Miss Londonderry Pageant held August 9th and 10th and the second one was the Londonderry Sings competition held Old Home Day. Last year I was a judge at the Londonderry Sings and was thrilled to be asked back this year. This was my first time doing the Miss Londonderry Pageant, though I have attended most of the eight that they have had. It is a terrific endeavor coordinated by Jamie Conley Gregoire and Catherine Dennehy who I remember seeing up on stage when she competed a few years ago.
While the first thought that goes through your head when asked to do these kind of things is, “cool, sounds like fun”, the reality that slaps you up side the head soon after is that this is a lot of pressure. And it is a huge responsibility.
In the Londonderry Sings competition, it is done like Idol where the panel of judges critiques the performance. Most of the contestants are Middle and High School students and in most situations the performance really has not been that hard to critique. There were ten performers this year and I believe ten last year, and all of them could sing and carry a tune. Most were nervous on stage, but give them credit they got up there. A few were just dynamite. When we critique the performance it is more an observation that maybe they need to do somethings a little different such as moving about the stage, connecting more with the audience, just being a bit more animated. The contestants bring in their own music and most do, but interestingly the last two winners sang without music.
There is really a great deal of talent in town and I am seriously looking into doing a CTV-20 show again (I’ve done three others over the years) that would give this talent some exposure if they wanted it.
The Miss Londonderry Pageant is really intense for the judges, of which there are five. The winner of the Pageant received $3000 in scholarship money this year and goes on to the Miss New Hampshire Pageant.
The night before the Pageant we had a chance to fire questions at the 8 contestants. For ten minutes we peppered each girl with any questions we wanted to ask, and only a few were about their platform. Each girl has to have a platform, a social issue that they are interested in. At the end of that first evening it is readily apparent that this is going to be tough on the judges. All the ladies are smart and very sharp. Great smiles, amazing composure, tremendous confidence.
The second night, in front of an audience, we judge the contestants in swimsuit, gown, talent and on stage question. Most are trim and fit and look great in a two piece bathing suit. The question gives them no problem at all. They all look good in a gown, several are stunning. But we are told at the very beginning to judge the woman, not their hair or bathing suit or choice of gown, because all that is carefully selected for the winner who goes on to Miss NH.
Now I can’t speak for the other judges, but it was the talent aspect of the competition that made me select Megan Cooley as my choice for the top spot. I had her ranked near the top of my list, but in the third spot. While all the women were excellent in their choice of talent, Megan sang a show tune and from the first note she owned the stage. She was great. Did not want to take my eyes off her. She moved with grace. She connected with everyone. And her smile was off the charts. And lord can she sing! For me that was it.
I think she will be an excellent Miss Londonderry and make us proud at the Miss NH Pageant.
I was one of the first to arrive on the Thursday interview night and as I was sitting at the table reading the contestants biographies, I was amazed to see Ms. Darcy McGrath walk into the room. She was also a judge. I had not seen Darcy in maybe 10 years, since she was a Senior at Londonderry High. Soon after graduation she left town, but she has come back. I mention this because it was Darcy who first introduced me to these Pageants. I had never been to one and knew nothing about them, but one day while I was subbing at the high school I had Darcy in class and she mentioned that she had a competition coming up for the Miss Deerfield Fair. I had no idea what she was talking about and I must have asked her a hundred questions. I ended up going to the Fair to watch her compete, and perform (her talent was dance and she ended up opening a dance studio later in life), and I just thought it was a great program for young women. I then went to the Miss NH Pageant the first year Stockbridge hosted it and was really impressed by the composure and talent of all these young people.
I gave the judging thing a lot of thought after the Pageant was over. It really isn’t all that different from try-outs in sports. You eliminate the ones you know aren’t going to make it early on, and then you just watch real close the ones who are left and invariably someone is going to do something that makes your decision real simple.
A Londonderry Resident, Bob Napolitano is extremely active in Londonderry Sports. Bob even published a sports news paper he hand delivered to homes in the 1990′s.