Meet Mrs. Blaine County: 29-year-old Suzanne Buchanan, mother of two and former kindergarten teacher, will represent our little corner of Idaho at the Mrs. Idaho America beauty pageant in Boise on Saturday, April 21.
Along with her counterpart Mrs. Sun Valley (Amber Wilson), Buchanan will compete with 21 other hopefuls from across the state for the chance to be crowned Mrs. Idaho America. The winner, who takes home over $10,000 worth of prizes (including free house cleaning for a year), will go on to represent Idaho in the Mrs. America pageant in September.
Celebrating its 30th year, the Mrs. America pageant honors America's 65 million married women. The Mrs. Idaho America pageant attracts married woman from ages 18 to 62, ranging from stay-at-home moms and teachers to real estate professionals and doctors.
Buchanan entered the contest to fulfill a lifelong dream.
"I got a flyer in the mail back in September, and I said to myself 'I really want to do this.' Growing up I had always wanted to do a pageant. But then I went to college, then I got married—my husband was in the military, so we traveled all over—and then I had kids. Life just went too fast.
"When I saw this I thought 'Now is my time. I really, really want to do this,'" Buchanan said. "So I sent in my application and a couple of weeks later got a letter in the mail saying I'd been accepted."
Buchanan was particularly attracted by the pageant's ethos.
"Yes, it is a pageant and yes, there will be one winner," Buchanan said. "But they try to make everyone feel confident and make you feel like a queen. It's all about empowering yourself, forcing you to come out of your comfort zone and treat yourself right."
The director of Mrs. Idaho America, Amanda Feely, explained to Buchanan that they were looking for someone who was beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside, a woman with good moral standing, someone who could represent Idaho and who was active in her community.
Since arriving in the valley in March 2006, Buchanan has thrown herself into the community, despite the demands on her time from her two children, Braden, 3, and Elise, 1. She has become active with the Hailey Chamber of Commerce, helping arrange the Hailey Hometown Holiday Parade and the Community Awards Dinner, as well as assisting with ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
"I really love Hailey. I live here and I love it," Buchanan said. "I want to make Hailey the best." And, now that her children are a little older she looks forward to being able to devote more of her time to the town. "I just need to feel like I am doing something for the community—because we have a special community, we really do, and I want to see it become more special."
To qualify for the Mrs. Idaho America pageant candidates must be married for at least a year, over 18 and a resident of Idaho. They do not have to have children, and career women are encouraged to enter. Contestants participate in five elements during the show.
"There's the opening number, for which we have to wear hot pink, black, or both. Then, you have to have a costume that represents something about Idaho—I chose the Sun Valley Ski Bunny," Buchanan said.
"Then comes the swimsuit—and we wear a little wrap with it. Then we do our evening gown and then the top 10 finalists' answer a question on stage. The previous day we all have our interview, and that's 50 percent of the competition."
Buchanan's husband, Pat, a former signal officer in the Army and now the general manager of Anderson Insulation, has also joined into the spirit of the event.
"I think he enjoys it," Buchanan said. "He's been very supportive, watching the kids, critiquing me on my interview questions, taking pictures of my outfits, telling me how I should walk.
"So far, it's really been a great experience. I've had the time of my life."
The pageant takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 21, in Boise's Capital High School auditorium. Tickets for the pageant are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
For more information and to buy tickets, call (208) 250-2775 or visit mrsidahoamerica.com.