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Burch shares insights into covering many years of Miss Greer pageants

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Saturday, February 11, 2012

Leland Burch has covered more beauty pageants than most former queens would like for him to remember.

Leland was in Bullock's barbershop when we caught up with him and chatted about tonight's Miss Greater Greer pageant being held at Greer High School at 7 p.m.

 Leland had a one-word answer when I asked if he would have liked to have been a judge. "No." 

 However, Leland quickly added, "The year Miss Greer finished second in the state pageant, I wish I was a judge because I would have voted for her to win. She was the best in the pageant and one of the best we ever had." Leland was referring to Nicole Southgate, the 2006 Miss Greer.

 "Sometimes I get angry and sometimes I agree with them (judging). In my mind I might have picked who I think should have won. But the judges would spend a lot of time with the girls and interview them and we would never know how well that went."

 I asked Leland what kind of changes he's seen in the pageants through the year. "Their hair was made up for what was the latest trend. We had one period where I believe the girl with the most sequins on her dress thought she would win it. One would have a handful and others would be loaded."

 Two Miss Greer winners went on to become Miss South Carolina – Tonya Helms in 1992-93 and Jenna Raney in 2001. Danielle Davis was from Greer, attending Riverside High School, when she won the 1999 Miss South Carolina title. But she competed representing another city. "The Miss South Carolina pageant changed residency requirements for local pageants to allow the girls to compete in other contests," Leland said.

 "Mandy Ticknor (2005 Miss Greer) was another great contestant. She won a preliminary and did real well at Miss South Carolina. She should have won Miss South Carolina."

 Leland said, "I never saw any costume malfunctions and I always felt for the competitors who didn't win. That was tough. I viewed the pageants as a football game – the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."

 The crowds at Miss Greer appearances have decreased through the years, much like anything else because of the growth of more entertainment opportunities for families and social media. "We use to have a lot more parades and Miss Greer always attended them. They spoke at civic and service clubs."

 Leland worked with former director Camilla Pittman for her tenure as Miss Greer pageant director. "She was the best pageant director we ever had," Leland said. "She would prepare the girls and have an event where Miss Greer and Teen would  model their outfits shortly before they would be going to the Miss South Carolina pageant. She pushed those girls. Of course Camilla's parents ran the pageant in Lexington so they, in a way, were competing against each other.

 "Camilla helped the girls take on wonderful platforms. Everything she did was to help the girls be as good and well prepared as they could."

 Leland said he felt for the parents and girls participating in pageants. "The moms and dads put a lot of money into gowns and costumes, lessons and coaches. It must have been thousands and thousands of dollars.

 "But in a way some of the parents were probably living their dream vicariously through their daughters."

 Leland  said the Miss Greer pageant at times would be second to the Greer High School's Miss Le Flambeau pageant. Only the girls at Greer High School could compete for Miss Le Flambeau. "The contest was judged strictly on beauty," Leland said. "There was just evening gown and swimsuit.

 "It was well attended and bigger than Miss Greer. It was more coveted. Miss Le Flambeau allocated a certain number of tickets to the girls and it was always sold out. Girls would buy extra tickets from those who's parents were not attending. It was like the Super Bowl. The girls would sell their ticket and get paid double."

 Leland, as editor of the Greer Citizen, offered the newspaper's support to the Miss Greer pageant in the past. "The girls would earn scholarships by the number of points they earned with articles in the paper. I was glad to help them out.

 "After the pageants I would get handwritten notes from the girls thanking us for our support. They would present us with a plaque and a photo." Those plaques still remain in place at his former office on Victoria Street.

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