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Miss Virginia 2009

Miss Virginia 2009

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For Miss Virginia 2009 Caressa Cameron, the fourth rather than the third time proved to be the charm.The first runner-up to Tara Wheeler last year and second runner-up twice before that, Cameron finally took home the crown at the Miss Virginia pageant Saturday night.

"This is not my life right now," Cameron said immediately after the crowning.

"This just goes to show that hard work and determination will eventually pay off."Cameron, who was Miss Arlington, won a $16,500 scholarship in addition to the title.

She also earned an additional $1,000 scholarship as Friday night's preliminary talent winner with her performance of "Listen" from the film "Dreamgirls."First runner-up was Miss Greater Richmond Shannon Beam.

Second runner-up was Miss Appleblossom Festival Caitlin Uze.

Third runner-up was Miss Roanoke Valley Lindsay Morris and fourth runner-up was Miss Commonwealth Erica Seredni.Moments before the finale aired live on Virginia television networks and the Internet, the 29 contestants took some final moments to prep backstage at the Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre."I have grown up doing pageants so it's unreal to finally be here, that this could finally be happening," said Miss Piedmont Region Veronica Rohrmoser prior to the finale."We're all really close," said Miss Smith Mountain Lake Chinah Helmandollar.

Helmandollar, who was fourth runner-up in last year's pageant, said that the week of the Miss Virginia pageant was a lot like summer camp.

"I missed the girls so much I wanted to come back," she said.Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund served as the night's mistress of ceremonies, performing several numbers with the contestants and Miss Virginia 2008 Tara Wheeler.Wheeler, who helped raise nearly $30,000 for pediatric cancer research during her reign, called handing over the crown "bittersweet.""The good thing is I haven't taken one moment of this year for granted." Two new elements made their way into this year's pageant, as the Miss Virginia organization sought to boost funds in its scholarship program while at the same time garner a larger audience.Both the Internet vote which took place June 1 through June 26 and the text message voting during the night's performance were attempts to mirror reality television shows, giving the audience greater influence in the night's proceedings, said producer Mark Schreier.Early in the night's competition, the judges narrowed down the 29 Miss Virginia contestants to 11 finalists: Miss Southeastern Virginia Elizabeth Crot, Miss Smith Mountain Lake Chinah Helmandollar, Miss Greater Richmond Shannon Beam, Miss Chesterfield Stephanie Connelly, Miss Danville Pittsylvania County Lindsay Bowman, Miss Commonwealth Erica Seredni, Miss Chesapeake Ashley Smith, Miss Appleblossom Festival Caitlin Uze, Miss Roanoke Valley Lindsay Morris, and Miss Hanover Brittany Young.Miss Danville-Pittsylvania County was also named winner of the $500 "People's Choice" scholarship andMiss Hanover Brittany Young received a nod as the top text message vote-getter during the night's competition, earning her a $500 "Viewers' Choice" scholarship.

Taylor Burrell was named Miss Virginia's Outstanding Preteen and Courtney Garrett named Miss Virginia's Outstanding Teen.

Each won a $1,000 savings bond.Seredni, Beam, Cameron, Uze and Morris advanced as semifinalists.The five were given interview questions on current events such as Sonia Sotomayor's recent nomination for the Supreme Court and the debate surrounding gay marriage.Tackling the tough question Miss California troubled over in the Miss USA pageant, Cameron said that the separation of church and state took precedence over her personal belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman."I was surprised that I got that question," Cameron said.

"But I felt like I answered it well."Overall, $50,000 in scholarships was awarded.

"This is really a great group," said Bootie Chewning, executive producer of the pageant.

"If I had it my way, they'd all be Miss Virginia."
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