ELDERSBURG — Nine young women, dressed in sparkling sequins and shimmering satins, clasped hands in a colorful line across the stage at Liberty High Saturday evening.
They anxiously waited to hear who would be Miss Carroll County 1992, and represent the county at the Miss Maryland competition in Hagerstown in June.
Paul Balanger, executive director of the contest, quickly ended the suspense with "The winner is Marcie Bidinger."
As Bidinger, a Frederick resident, took front stage amid congratulatory hugs from hercompetitors, Michele L. Martin, Miss Carroll County 1991, crowned her successor with a jeweled tiara. Martin, also from Frederick County,pinned a white sash across Bidinger's pale pink gown and handed her roses.
Minutes before, Brandy-Lynn Reese, 17, smiled in surprise as the announcer named her second runner-up. The Westminster High senior, whose musical portrayal of "The Little Mermaid" earned thunderingapplause from the audience of about 150 people, said she was pleasedwith her placement and would probably try for the title again.
"This was my first time in this competition," she said. "I felt I did well considering several other contestants have more experience."
Two other county residents, Denise Crigger and Donna M. Datoli, both of Westminster, also joined the competition.
Chuck Skinner, executive director of the Miss Maryland Pageant, said 19 of the local pageants are open to anyone who lives in the state. Seven local pageants limit entries to residents.
"We encourage all local directors to recruit as many talented women as possible," he said. "Many of those contestants come from area schools, where we advertise the contest."
Maura Mazzer of Washington County entered here and claimed the first runner-up spot.
No stranger to the winner's circle, Bidinger, 21, won Miss Maryland National Teen-ager in 1986 and Miss Maryland U.S. Teen the following year.
"Winning hasn't really hit me yet this time," she said from her home Monday. "The competition was really stiff and so beautiful."
A senior at Hood College in Frederick, Bidingerplans to graduate in May and enter the University of Maryland Schoolof Dentistry in September. She earned a $150 scholarship along with her new title. If she's successful in Miss Maryland, she could win more.
The dance and baton twirling instructor said she decided to enter Miss Carroll County at the urging of her many students, some of whom live in Mount Airy.
"They told me Carroll County was where I would win and they were right," she said.
Judges say talent, which accounts for 40 percent of a contestant's total score, is the key to winning Miss America, where the new Miss Maryland will compete in September.
In a post-contest conference, judges complimented the winner on her lyrical dance, choreographed to Elvis Presley's "American Trilogy."
"They basically encouraged me to do what I wanted with mydance," she said. "It's my strong point. I put a lot of emotion intoit."
Contestants also earned points in the swimsuit and evening gown competition, as well as through personal interviews.
In the final segment of the competition, entrants must spontaneously answer questions on current issues. Pat Skebeck, president of the Miss Maryland Pageant, said Saturday's event offered some of the most intelligentcomments she has heard in this year's march to Miss Maryland.
"These girls did a great job," she said. "You could tell they all have heads on their shoulders."
Balanger said he will be working with Bidinger in the coming months, helping her prepare for Miss Maryland.
"She's motivated, intelligent and determined," he said. "She has a good chance."