Thomas Geyer

ELDRIDGE, Iowa — With music and dancing from the 1920s, 1950s, 1970s and 1980s, the Miss Iowa Scholarship Pageant 2005 got under way Thursday night in front of about 500 people at the North Scott High School auditorium here.

The pageant will determine which of one of the 19 contestants will represent the state in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City in September.

Half of the contestants hit the stage with their talents while the rest donned their swimsuits and casual and formal clothing for the fitness, casual wear and evening wear competition. The roles will be reversed tonight as the pageant continues. The final night of the pageant is Saturday.

The preliminary talent winner after Thursday's competition ended was Sarah Hythecker, Miss Scott County, of Grand Mound, whose talent is baton show-twirl.

But before it all began, including the first round of interviews, the women spent the past week preparing and seeing the area.

"They got here Sunday and had a reception at Miller Time Bowling in Davenport," said Bill Lee, president of the Miss Iowa Scholarship Board. "They've also been getting their wardrobes together and rehearsing."

Additionally, he said, they went to elementary schools with books they read and then left for the children. For the families, it is a week of excitement as well, but not necessarily one of anxiety.

Terri Kokemuller, the mother of Miss Clinton County Amanda Kokemuller, 19, Clinton, said it is her daughter's shoulders on which the pressure has fallen.

"I'm nervous for her," Terri Kokemuller said. "But really, I'm just Mom and her for moral support."

She said Amanda has done her job preparing.

Last year's first runner-up, Michelle Swieter, 23, Miss Johnson County, is back for her last attempt at the title. Her father, Dennis, said that after four years, he's able to deal with it all.

"It's the last year so that makes it the toughest," Dennis Swieter said. "But the growing experience for her has been incredible. A lot of doors have opened. There are a lot of opportunities for her."

Miss Iowa will receive a total $7,400 in scholarships as well as $2,600 in wardrobe awards.

Miss Iowa competitors split a total of $25,800 in scholarships, and there also is a total of $610,108 in in-kind scholarships available to Miss Iowa contestants.

"This is really a big deal," Lee said. "The opportunities for the women are tremendous."

Lee's daughter, Becky, was Miss Blackhawk Valley in 1986 in Illinois, he said. The opportunities opened to her, included singing the national anthem at a Chicago Cubs game, as well as performing at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House in 1993 and 1994.

Also on Saturday, the Li'l Miss Iowa, Junior Miss Iowa and Miss Iowa's Outstanding Teen will be announced.

Miss Iowa Outstanding Teen will compete in the first-ever Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant in Kissimmee, Fla., in August. Miss Iowa Outstanding Teen will be joined by Rock Island High School junior Kathryn Strause, 17, who recently was named Miss Illinois Outstanding Teen.

Thomas Geyer can be contacted at (563) 383-2328 or tgeyer@qctimes.com.

If You Go:

The Miss Iowa Scholarship Pagent continues at 7 p.m. today at North Scott High School, Eldridge.

Preliminary casual wear, talent, evening wear and swimsuit competitions will be completed.

Admission is $7.

Finals competition is 7 p.m. Saturday.

Admission is $7.