Another day in the way back machine.
Today’s oldie is from Miss National Sweetheart Pageant week in Hoopeston, Illinois in August 2003.
Earlier that year, I was sent to Hoopeston to photograph a corn farmer. As I chatted him up, he told me about his town. How Hoopeston used to be the Sweet Corn Capital of the World but now it was only known for the Sweetheart Pageant which was part of their Sweet Corn Festival.
He said that the pageant was for the first runners up from Miss America state competitions and that the ladies paid their own way to come to central Illinois to hone their pageant skills.
I was sold.
A month later, I joined the young women from as far away as Hawaii and spent the week with them as they visited nursing homes, attended BBQs and toured local businesses.
One of the businesses that they toured was the Hoopeston Canning Company. Due to secret canning technology, I wasn’t allowed to photograph the actual tour so I had to wait in the quality control room.
After 40 minutes, a little old lady arrived and started opening huge cans of the seven types of beans that they canned at the factory.
When the contestants returned, modeling the latest hair net and blue safety helmet fashions, they were proudly invited to sample the beans.
The prevailing sentiment was, “Ummm…you first.”
©2003 Scott Strazzante/ Chicago Tribune