My youngest daughter's 16th birthday happened to fall on the same weekend as the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas, and several weeks ago I had the wacky notion that it would be fun to go to Vegas to see the pageant and celebrate her big day.
I must have said it out loud, because the next thing I knew, she was holding me to it and there was no turning back. Sure enough, two weeks ago we landed on a Thursday in Smoky...I mean Sunny...Las Vegas.
Anyone interested in pageants knows that Oklahoma is BIG on pageants, especially Miss America. Oklahoma is tied with Ohio and California for yielding the most Miss Americas (6), and, win or not, our girl always does well at Miss A.
Miss Oklahoma, Alicia Clifton, was no exception this year. Alicia is a lovely, talented young woman who probably had the very best talent overall, and won best talent in her group on the second prelim night. She is a tap dancer, and currently holds two Guiness World Records for dance.
Saturday night Alicia got second runner up, winning over $20,000. I was thrilled, but it soon became clear that our fellow Okies felt she deserved to win the crown. Like I said, in Oklahoma the bar is set pretty high.
The final show Saturday night was very exciting, and also interesting, because ABC was filming live. One second the girls would all be in formation, then they'd cut to a commercial and everyone would run around in 100 different directions.
Seeing Vegas through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl was an experience. Nobody asked me, but it seems a little odd that Miss America, with the wholesome reputation that she and the organization strive to uphold, is held in Sin City.
The Vegas strip is a smoky, freaky melting pot of partiers, gamblers and spectators. A walk through the casino is an electric buzz of activity, loud from the music, slot machines and crazy people. Some of the gambling tables had dancers on them, wearing little but a smile and tattoos in places I never would have thought of tattoo-ing.
Outside on the Strip were street people with signs asking for cash, bundled up workers soliciting customers for their "businesses" which clearly involved women, guys dressed as cartoon characters who will take their picture with you for a donation, and even the occasional guy with a sign that said "kick me in the nuts for $20."
I am not making that up. I never saw any takers, but I'm sure as the night went on there probably were.
I've never been a gambler, preferring a sure thing, like shopping, to spend my money on. So we did. The shopping in Vegas is fabulous, and there are hundreds of really nice restaurants to choose from, all within walking distance from and inside the hotel. We did not see a show but our friends saw The Jersey Boys and said it was wonderful.
So, all in all, it was a great weekend. We got Miss America and the milestone birthday behind us. Everyone had a good time.
And now that we're back from vacation, maybe we can get some rest.