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Miss North Carolina Pageant Preliminaries Begin

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RALEIGH — Miss North Carolina 1999will be crowned this weekend, and pageant preliminaries are already under way.

For the next two days, 35 women from across the state will primp and prepare for Saturday night's finals. Winning means more than carrying the title; there is a busy schedule that goes with it.

No one is busier now than the crew getting ready for the big event. And they are short one key player. Long-time producer Joe Sam Routh died last year, leaving some big shoes to fill.

"I was choreographer for four years with Joe Sam and more or less his right-hand girl I suppose," says current producer Nina Wheeler. "I learned a lot in those four years."

Tickets to the pageant are still available at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Being there is the only way to see the event, because for the second time in more than 30 years, the event will not be televised due to the cost.

Organizers recognize the hardship created for friends and family members and hope next year's competition will be televised.

"Let's say that Aunt Millie lives out in the mountains somewhere and she wants to be able to see her daughter or granddaughter perform," says program emcee Mike Caplan. "If it's not on TV, she might not be able to make the three- or four-hour drive to see her in person."

The winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship and a heavy schedule. "She's an ambassador for our state," says Miss North Carolina Kelli Bradshaw.

"She takes an entire year out of her life and commits to serving the various communities throughout our state," Bradshaw says.