Pleasant Valley folks knew Elizabeth Hamilton was going to make it far in life.
By 1988, she had taken several college classes, appeared in Teen Magazine’s Great Model Search, graduated cum laude from PV, and been crowned Miss Teen Iowa.
There wasn’t much the Quad-City native hadn’t accomplished.
And now, almost 20 years and thousands of miles later, 36-year-old Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino still is adding accomplishments.
She can tell you the secret recipe to making the softest chocolate chip cookies on earth and how to juggle work, four boys and a husband, and find time to volunteer at her children’s school on the Parent-Teacher Organization, or PTO.
And she can also tell you what it’s like to be crowned Mrs. Maine 2006.
Hamilton-Guarino, who currently lives in Falmouth, Me., will compete in the 2006 Mrs. United States Pageant in July. The pageant has assembled in Las Vegas since 1986 to celebrate the achievements of married women throughout the nation.
According to Hamilton-Guarino, winning the Mrs. Maine 2006 contest was a continuation of another pageant she had entered in 2004 when her family lived in California.
“Somebody called me up out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to run for Mrs. North Lake Tahoe,” she said. “I had just had my fourth baby and I was like ‘Ha, I don’t know about this.’ ”
Hamilton-Guarino and her husband Peter, who is an attorney, moved from one extreme of the country to the other before she was able to compete in the Mrs. California pageant.
“When we got to Maine I thought I would try it here,” she said. “It’s just a continuation of where I had left off in California.”
Hamilton-Guarino got her start in beauty pageants with inspiration from her mother, Carolyn Hamilton. Hamilton was named Miss Bloomington Minnesota in 1965 before her daughter was born.
But according to Carolyn Hamilton, the evolution of pageantry over the past 40 years is amazing.
“I believe beauty pageants have much more of an agenda of helping the public and to show what you are doing for society,” Hamilton said. “It’s about what kind of person you are and how you are living your life.”
Although Hamilton-Guarino was named Miss Teen Iowa in 1988, her main objective wasn’t about beauty. It was about the academic scholarship tied to winning the competition.
“There was a heck of a scholarship tied to winning the competition back then,” she said. “I was worried about the scholarship money to go to college.”
And after serving as Miss Teen Iowa, appearing in several commercials, print ads and billboards for Iowa’s “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign in the late 1980s with then-Gov. Terry Branstad, Hamilton-Guarino attended St. Ambrose University for mass communications.
Don “Duke” Schneider, TV operation manager at St. Ambrose said he’ll always remember unofficially meeting his student.
“I was watching the noon news show and Miss Teen Iowa was on. She said, ‘I’m going to go to St. Ambrose,’ ” said Schneider, who has been at SAU for 26 years. “She was a great reporter and anchor for our newscasts and very nice to everyone.”
To this day, Hamilton-Guarino still keeps in contact with her former professor.
“I’m always grateful when alums keep in contact,” Schneider said. “She’s going to be a very poised, articulate person for something like the Mrs. United States Pageant.”
Hamilton-Guarino’s platform for the pageant is one she holds close to her heart. She will be working on children’s literacy.
“I have dedicated my life to kids. I have four children and I do everything I can for them,” she said. “I’m going to dedicate my reign to children’s literacy, because I spend a lot of my time reading to kids and teaching kids how to read.”
In fact, when she lived in California, she donated thousands of her homemade chocolate cookies for literacy through her cookie company, Tahoe Cookie Co. The cookies went to school groups to encourage children to read. And in Maine, she is still busy baking cookies, helping local high school children raise money to go on a trip to Europe.
“When I die, if I’m remembered as the one who made those great cookies and who was a great mom, I’ll be happy,” she laughed.
According to her own mother, she will be.
“Whether my daughter is wearing her crown or not, she is helping children to read,” said Hamilton, who said an adopted brother of Hamilton-Guarino’s who had trouble reading sparked her to help others to read. “She is a great mother, taking her children on little adventures for the weekend to whale watch or making crafts with them. I’m just so proud of her.”
And Hamilton-Guarino said when she competes in Las Vegas in July, she will take a big piece of the Quad-Cities with her.
“I’ve been to the middle of the country, the West, the East Coast, and you can tell when people are from the Midwest. There is a certain set of morals, certain niceness about you, and it’s not as fast paced. It’s a great foundation for your children” she said.
But when asked whether her future held more beauty pageants, she just laughed.
“Nope, no beauty pageants where I get to be the mom in the audience. I have four left-handed baseball players.”
The Mrs. United States Pageant will be held on July 26-27 at the Orleans Hotel Theatre in Las Vegas, NV.
The city desk can be contacted at (563) 383-2245 or email@example.com.
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