Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2018

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After Miss Nevada judging process, it’s time to toast


L.E. Baskow

Newly crowned Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen Lauren Watson and Miss Nevada Katherine Kelley wave to the crowd together on the stage, ending the pageant at the Smith Center on Saturday, June 27, 2015.

2015 Miss Nevada at Smith Center

Newly crowned Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen Lauren Watson and Miss Nevada Katherine Kelley together on the stage following the pageant at the Smith Center on Saturday, June 27, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Something I learned over the weekend: When having a bottle of wine delivered to a small reception, that vino will arrive much faster if you drop the name of Susan Anton than if you don’t.

It was late Friday night at the Flamingo, after the judging panel for the Miss Nevada America and Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen competition had returned to the hotel from the Smith Center. The two pageants were held Friday and Saturday in Reynolds Hall, with Katherine Kelley (Miss Summerlin) winning Miss Nevada on Saturday afternoon and Lauren Watson (Miss Lake Mead) also announced Saturday after voting had concluded Friday night.

That day was long, as it should have been, jammed with several hours of private interviews of all contestants at the Flamingo and the later completion at Reynolds Hall for the Miss Outstanding Teen contest.

Afterward, the judges ambled into a post-event party (“decompression experience" would be a more accurate term), and an order of wine was made.

It took a while, but when the staff arrived and saw Anton in the room, it was, “Wow! You headlined here! Commercials! Merv Griffin! You were in the Miss America Pageant!"

Anton laughed … and poured a glass, well deserved (though I raised my customary glass of iced tea). The panel was wide-ranging, with 1995 Miss Nevada Jennifer Lier, a great singer in Las Vegas, serving as lead judge. Also serving were Vegas Magazine Editor-in-Chief Andrea Bennett, “Jersey Boys” Music Director and Composers Showcase of Las Vegas founder Keith Thompson, Washington state Miss America official Mike Miller and UNLV Athletics Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy.

This process of judging the Miss Nevada pageants requires a great deal of preparation, hard work and genuine care. Having covered the national pageant at Planet Hollywood during its run in Las Vegas from 2006-2013, I was well aware of the organizational challenges and work put into staging the event. The preparation of the contestants always has been evident. But where I was most impressed was during those private interviews, which are akin to 8- and 10-minute press conferences.

These young women handled themselves ably as questions were volleyed from everywhere on the panel. “How do you feel about the latest Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriages legal across the country?” “How is the development of the Tesla plant in Reno going to change the economy of that region?” "It says here you can recite the alphabet, backward, in five seconds. Can you do that now?”

The Miss Nevada organization faced searing, and deserved, criticism after last year’s contest showed a scoring irregularity that led to two contestants it the Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen competition being sent to the national pageant in Orlando, Fla., as “co-winners.” Jodi Fonfa was brought in to reset the organization in Las Vegas, and Dana Martin (wife of Smith Center President Myron Martin and a former Miss Texas) headed up this year’s pageant production team and assembled the judging panel. Brought in as co-emcees were Clint Holmes and Kelly Clinton-Holmes, who were, predictably, outstanding as they alternately entertained, introduced and navigated the production.

The importance of this show was further reinforced by the presence of Sam Haskell, the national Miss America CEO. With thousands of dollars in scholarship money being delivered to some truly impressive young women, this year’s competition awarded a pair of winners who will represent our state admirably. I was honored not only to serve, but also to spend quality time working with a group of judges who were hard-focused on doing this right. And we did.

As they say in such instances, “Cheers.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at

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