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Miss America’s Low-Key Arlington Homecoming

It could have been the lack of advance notice. Or the low foot traffic around the somewhat unusual choice of venue. Or could it be that in the reality show age of the shrill and the controversy-addicted, where the racier Miss USA pageant seems to get all the headlines, that the wholesome Miss America institution is losing a bit of cultural relevance?

Either way, there were remarkably few people queuing up to see the woman who represented their hometown and their home state while capturing what is still one of the most prestigious and recognizable titles in American life.

Caressa Cameron, the reigning Miss America and the former Miss Arlington and Miss Virginia, signed autographs and took photos with fans at the DSW Shoe Warehouse In Pentagon City for three hours Tuesday night. The stream of fans was slow but steady. Only occasionally did a line form.

One could argue that the Miss Arlington title itself isn’t really the draw one might think it would be, since the contest actually draws young women from around the state, not just from within the county. And it could also be said that with everything else that goes on in Arlington, beauty pageants may not be high on most people’s priority list.

Nonetheless, Cameron’s “homecoming” (she’s actually from Fredericksburg, Va.) was a decidedly low-key affair. But that didn’t seem to faze someone who has made a career out of poise and grace.

“This is the first time I’ve been back in Arlington since winning,” she noted enthusiastically, saying it was exciting to see members of the local pageant board again. Familiar faces seems to be in short supply in the life of Miss America.

“I travel every 36 hours, about 20,000 miles a month,” Cameron gushed. “I’m up, most of the time, before 4:30. I have interviews in the morning, I go to children’s hospitals during the day, I do fundraising events at night. I do sponsored events like this with DSW to meet the American public and to get the Miss America brand out there. So it’s a busy life. I just got back from Germany where I was able to visit the troops there — some of our wounded warriors at Landstuhl.  I have a wonderful, wonderful job and I enjoy it.”

After her reign is completed, Cameron hopes to move back to Virginia and become a news anchor in the D.C. area.

“I don’t want to leave Virginia, I’m such a Virginia girl. Working in the Arlington-D.C. market would be absolutely perfect. So hopefully there’s a home for me when I’m done,” she said.

One person who came out to see Cameron was Lindsay Morris, who in December succeeded Cameron as Miss Arlington. The James Madison University student said one of her reasons for making the drive up with her parents was to seek inspiration.

“Caressa speaks often about how she was a young girl kind of on the wrong track… and now she’s Miss America,” Morris said, holding her Miss Arlington sash. “It shows all young women that no matter what level you start at, who you are or where you’re from, you can achieve those dreams.”

In June Morris will try to keep the Miss Virginia crown in Arlington for a second year in a row. And if she can win in the statewide competition, then the next step is the Miss America pageant in 2011.  Trying to match Cameron’s achievements is a daunting task, Morris admits.

“They are very big shoes to fill,” she said while staring longingly at the sparkling crown atop Cameron’s head. “Hopefully I will do all of the people in Arlington very proud.”

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