LINCOLN – Teresa Scanlan made history as the first Nebraskan named Miss America in 2011. Now through Sept. 3, her dresses, shoes and jewelry will be displayed at the Nebraska History Museum.
“When people think of Nebraska history, they think of things that are old and dusty,” said Tina Koeppe, exhibition services coordinator at the Nebraska History Museum. “This is definitely not the case.”
About 150 people packed the Nebraska History Museum lobby for an exhibit of Nebraska’s Miss America, Friday, March 1, in Lincoln.. Koeppe pulled the color scheme from Scanlan’s dresses, worn during Miss America events, with a patriotic theme and some sparkle, she said. The exhibit also features a piano and vocal track and display of a Miss America sash and other objects Scanlan made out of duct tape. The dresses also will be displayed at a museum at Scottsbluff, adjacent to Scanlan’s hometown of Gering, Koeppe said.
"We just wanted it to look like a big, bright, flamboyant affair,” she said.
Special guests led the opening reception, including Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, along with Nebraska Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln and Adrian Smith of Gering. Smith remembered when Scanlan was crowned, making Gering, the state of Nebraska and America proud as an ambassador on many issues, he said.
“It’s great to be here to celebrate, really, history that has been made for Nebraska,” Smith said.
“She has been mentioned representing farm life, explaining agriculture for people around the country, supporting our troops,” Fortenberry said. “These I think are the important parts of her legacy.”
Scanlon said the dresses aren’t just materials, they represent people who touched her life.
“This is not about me,” she said. “It’s about all of those I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and that I hope to continue to serve this year and from here on out.”
Scanlan is a 20-year-old freshman at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., and the exhibit came together when she dropped off boxes on her way to college, Koeppe said. The museum made mannequins from scratch to fit Scanlan’s dress. The mannequins maker, Curt Peacock, retired the day before the event, so this was his last show, Koeppe said.
Scanlan was crowned Miss Nebraska in June 2010, when she was 17 because she had the “whole package,” said Amy Engel, co-executive director of Miss Nebraska with her husband, Jay. Scanlon did well in interviews with a panel of judges, questions on current events, a talent portion and swimsuit and evening gown competitions. But she nearly missed the deadline to apply for Miss Nebraska.
“She just turned 17 when she won her local pageant,” Jay Engel said.
Eleanor Aufdenkamp, 15, of North Platte was a “little sister” for another Miss Nebraska candidate, Harmony Ray. She followed Ray for the week-long pageant.
“I watched Teresa get crowned Miss Nebraska and watched her become Miss America and realized that really anything is possible,” Aufdenkamp said.
Harms said Scanlan is a good role model.
“You can be beautiful on the outside,” Harms said. "But what really counts is the beauty inside of you as a person and as an individual, because that beauty will carry you for the rest of your life, and Teresa has that beauty.”