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Vermont Women Are Foregoing Their Chance to Be Mrs. Vermont

February 24, 1994

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ The next woman to enter the Mrs. Vermont beauty pageant has a great chance of winning. By default.

No one has signed up yet to compete in the pageant, which is slated for April 17. Not even prizes of a full-length fur coat and an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas have proved an adequate lure.

″If no one shows up, I’m going to be very, very heartbroken,″ said Barbara Lavallee, who runs the contest.

You can find a lot of things in Vermont: ski resorts, maple syrup, Cherry Garcia ice cream. But apparently not many women who want to parade around in evening gowns and swimsuits.

There was no contestant in last year’s pageant, either. Organizers recruited a ringer - a nurse from Tyngsboro, Mass. - to represent Vermont in the national Mrs. United States contest.

And the problem is not limited to one pageant. Jacqueline Quirk, last year’s Miss Vermont, created a stir at the Miss America pageant when organizers discovered she didn’t meet residency requirements. Quirk, who is from the New York City borough of Staten Island, was allowed to compete anyway.

″Women in Vermont are just not interested in pageants,″ said Tony Neri, who has run the Miss Vermont competition for 15 years. ″They train them to become skiers.″

Dr. Esther Rothblum, a psychology professor at the University of Vermont, said Vermonters tend to eschew the traditional gender stereotypes.

″Looking particularly feminine is not necessarily a big goal here,″ she said.

The Mrs. Vermont pageant is open to any woman who is 21 or older, married and living with her husband, ″of good moral character,″ and able to pay the entry fee.

That fee used to be $400, but Lavallee - who won the Mrs. Massachusetts title two years ago - cut it to $250 three weeks ago to attract contestants. It hasn’t worked.

Neither has a newspaper ad campaign.

Why are Vermont women so reluctant to enter a beauty pageant? Lavallee isn’t sure.

″I’m asking that question myself,″ she said.

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