Don’t you owe it to yourself to at least once in your lifetime attend a beauty pageant in person? After all, beauty pageants are as American as baseball, apple pie and Chrysler.

Okay, so Fiat bought Chrysler, but last time I checked, the Italians couldn’t hit a slider and their apple pie stinks.

I attended my first (and only) beauty pageant when I was in college. My roommate had a friend who was competing to become Miss Maryland, so we drove to Hagerstown for the pageant. I’d like to say that we partied with Miss Cecil County, but that would be a lie.

I was struck not only by the, well, pageantry, but also by the determination of the contestants, their beauty, yes, but also their accomplishments. There, in the drafty confines of Hagerstown’s historic Maryland Theatre, I vowed to someday become a beauty pageant judge.

But how? The usual avenues to the beauty pageant judiciary — philanthropy, entertainment, hairdressing — did not interest me. Perhaps if I pursued a career in journalism, eschewing the high-flying worlds of political reporting and war correspondence to try to focus instead on becoming a local columnist, my dream might come true.


And so it has finally come to pass. The Miss District of Columbia Pageant is this weekend, and I will be among the six judges.

As a judge I must attend certain preliminary events, but the big show is open to the public. It’s at 7 p.m. Sunday at Arena Stage. Tickets are $40. Why don’t you come?

Fifteen young women will be competing for the crown (plus five in the Miss D.C.’s Outstanding Teen category). There will be evening gown and swimsuit competitions, an onstage question and, my favorite, a talent contest. The emcee is local TV personality (and former Miss D.C.) Sonya Gavankar.

Pageant buffs know that the very first Miss America, Margaret Gorman, represented the District. That was in 1921. In 1944, Miss D.C. Venus Ramey won the big prize (the first redhead to do so, by the way). In the past five years, the District has had one Top 5 finalist and two Top 10 semifinalists at Miss America.

The end of the world as we know it?

As baseball promotions go, “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” Night probably doesn’t rank up there with Free Bobblehead Night or Dollar Beer Night. But then, you couldn’t have “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” Night anywhere else but . . . Silver Spring?

Here’s the deal: On Friday, the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, a team in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, a summer wooden bat league, welcome the Rockville Express to its home park: Blair High School’s stadium.

With the Rockville team traveling to Silver Spring, the Thunderbolts’ manager, my pal David Stinson, decided to urge fans not to go back. He managed to get an REM poster signed by members Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills. It was Mills who wrote the song “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” after learning that his girlfriend was leaving Athens, Ga., to return to the Land of the Pike.

The Thunderbolts will raffle the poster, play REM songs and give away REM stuff. They will also encourage one Rockville Express fan to move from the visitor stands to the home stands, “where he or she will receive a Thunderbolts hat, T-shirt, souvenir ball, and free food and beverages, in an attempt to encourage that fan to not go back to Rockville,” David said.

The game starts at 7 p.m. Silver Spring is last in the league standings, 13 games behind the top-ranked Bethesda Big Train. Rockville is 11 games out. Don’t lose your religion, guys.

Cleaning up for camp

Get your car cleaned for a good cause from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the 7-Eleven at 15821 Frederick Rd. in Derwood. Members of the Magruder High and Shady Grove Middle schools’ LEO Clubs, the youth adjunct to the Lions Club, are holding their fourth annual charity car wash for Send a Kid to Camp. “No set price,” writes organizer Karen Buscemi, “just donations to help your cause.”

If your ride is already shiny, give the old-fashioned way: Go to Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

Your tax-deductible gift benefits Moss Hollow, a summer camp for at-risk kids.