Friday, November 26, 2010

Southern N.J. Crowd Boosts 'Average Girl' To Miss America By Steven V. Cronin and Gail Wilson

Press Of Atlantic City
September 14, 1997

Anyone who wanted to learn about the new Miss America should have been in old convention hall Saturday - it seemed that anyone who has ever met her was there.

A Moorestown resident who is studying theater and sociology at Northwestern University in Illinois, Katherine Shindle had a boisterous crowd of about 300 supporters on hand to watch her capture the rhinestone tiara.

"She loves the theater. She loves to get on stage. She also loves Slurpees," said David Bigge of Delran, a friend of the new Miss America. "She's an average girl that went on to be Miss America. I guess it's everything Miss America stands for," said Allison Baker, who attended high school French classes with Shindle.

Shindle also must have had some supporters among veteran Miss America workers. She lived in Brigantine from ages 3 to 6, and her father Gordon Shindle volunteered to park cars at the pageant for 15 years. Shindle, however, didn't catch the Miss America bug until relatively late. In a home video shown during the pageant, her father said she never mentioned competing in pageants until her senior year in high school.

Shindle graduated from Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken, Camden County. Her friends seemed to have a little trouble coming to grips with her new, lofty status. "It's like her saddle shoes went to golden slippers and her starched shirt went to an evening gown. It's just surreal," said Derek DelRossi, who sang in the school choir with Shindle.

However, Shindle does seem to be the down-to-earth sort. During the pageant telecast, she frequently communicated with the audience through a series of raised eyebrows and other facial expressions. During her inaugural press conference, Shindle was quick to inform the media she prefers the name Kate, and she has no significant other in her life.

Shindle told the press she plans on wasting no time in beginning her year talking about AIDS prevention and education. "I've been really waiting for this all my life," said Shindle, a senior at Northwestern. "I'm excited to have this opportunity and this job. This week is ideal to present my platform," she said.

Shindle said she wants to promote a program of HIV prevention at all grade levels. She wants to talk to young children about AIDS to raise their awareness of the disease while she will discuss AIDS prevention with older students.

Responding to recent news report that AIDS is no longer the top killer of Americans aged 25-44 youth, Shindle said now is not the time to let up on the fight against the deadly disease. "You can either become proactive and take charge, or (relax and) fight your way back the hard way," she said.

Shindle was crowned in a pageant that brought many changes to the annual spectacle at the old convention hall. The biggest change was the Miss America Organization's decision to allow contestants to wear two-piece bathing suits during the swimsuit competition.

The rule change was made after most of the 51 contestants were selected, and most of the contestants elected to stick with the one-piece style that helped them win their state titles. Only 13 of the 51 contestants chose to wear two-pieces, but five of those women - Miss North Carolina Michelle Warren, Miss California Rebekah Keller, Miss Hawaii Erika Kauffman, Shindle and Miss Louisiana Mette Boving - impressed the judges enough to make it into the top 10.

Some of the two-piece suits sparked complaints the pageant wasn't sticking to its promise to allow only modest suits. Moreover, Miss Vermont Jill Cummings made headlines when she announced she not only had a pierced navel, but that she intended to wear a two-piece swimsuit and show off her navel ring during the competition.

While pageant officials have in the past downplayed the swimsuit competition, this year they unapologetically focused on swimwear, first with the rule change and then in a lengthy pageant production number that had the 41 nonfinalist contestants dress and dance in swimwear popular during the nearly eight decades of Miss America competition.

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