Mrs. South Dakota prepares for pageant: National event will take place in Las Vegas July 28 – Aug. 1

Mrs. South Dakota prepares for pageant: National event will take place in Las Vegas July 28 – Aug. 1 by David Lias Cindy A. Kates-Hammond of Vermillion was bit by the beauty pageant bug while attending college.

When she was 18, she entered a charity beauty pageant down in her home state of Texas.

"I was named Sweetheart for the University while attending Howard Payne University in Brownwood, TX," she said. "I represented a fraternity."

Today she's married and holds a doctorate in education administration.

Soon, however, her beauty pageant dreams will turn into reality once more.

Kates-Hammond was selected Mrs. South Dakota in June, and will travel to Las Vegas to participate in the Mrs. United States Pageant, to be held July 28 through Aug. 1.

"I had always wanted to enter something like that, but often I was discouraged, just because of the stereotypes that surrounded beauty pageants," she added.

A lot has changed since Kates-Hammond's first pageant. She continued her education, moving to South Dakota to work on her master's degree at The University of South Dakota.

"I liked South Dakota so much, I decided to stay," she said, "and I married a Sioux Falls guy, Eric Hammond."

Last May, she donned a mortarboard and robe to receive her Ph.D in education administration from USD. A month later, that mortarboard was replaced with a crown as she was selected Mrs. South Dakota.

Kates-Hammond has set her sights high as she prepares to join a field of 49 other women from across the country all vying for the Mrs. United States crown.

"I'm going to try to finish in the top 10, because no one from South Dakota has ever made it in the top 10 before," she said. "That's my main goal."

The experience, she noted, will be both challenging and rewarding. She knows the event requires participants to tap into a reservoir of inner courage to succeed.

Kates-Hammond is also certain she will make many new, lasting friendships at the nationally-televised pageant.

"It's something that I can enter in which women are still recognized," she said. "You have vast opportunities to represent your ideas and beliefs toward charity and other praiseworthy causes."

Kates-Hammond is grateful to the Vermillion Jaycees. The organization has decided to sponsor her, and is planning fund-raising events in the community to help her pay her pageant expenses.

Individuals or businesses interested in helping with the Jaycees' efforts may contact Jon Callahan or Elizabeth Acosta.

"The Jaycees will be out helping me; they will be having car washes, a barbecue and a raffle," Kates-Hammond said.

To show her appreciation to her business sponsors, she is including their company names and logos on her personal page in the national pageant program.

Kates-Hammond will also be available for promotions for businesses, and will express her thanks to her sponsors while attending events.

She grew up in Baytown, TX and has lived in South Dakota for nearly eight years.

Kates-Hammond said her platform at the pageant will include educational learning disabilities and the American Cancer Society.

She is busy not only preparing mentally for the pageant, but drumming up local support to help pay for hotel, plane tickets, meals, and other expenses she must pay to attend the pageant.

The Mrs. United States Pageant conducts state and national pageants, which pay tribute to the intelligence, strength, beauty and resilience of married women throughout the United States and its territories.

The national pageant has been recognized as "the premier event of its kind," and as an event that encourages women not only to expand their own horizons, but also to help others.

The Mrs. United States Pageant donates a portion of its proceeds to the Susan G. Koman Breast Foundation.

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