Miss Montana is Home Grown



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MICHELLE MCCONNAHA michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com Jul 22, 2017

Madison Murray was born and raised in the Bitterroot Valley. She was crowned Miss Montana on June 17 and competes for the title of Miss America on Sept. 10.

Doug McConnaha for the Ravalli Republic
Being named Miss Montana on July 17 was an amazing experience for 2016 Corvallis graduate Maddie Murray, and she expects the frenetic pace of her new role to become even more exciting right up to the Miss America competition on Sept. 10.

“I am honored, humbled, shocked and excited,” she said. “Since then it has been quite a whirlwind. I was crowned in late June and have been constantly on the road ever since.”

The day after the Miss Montana pageant, she went through a flurry of paper work and picked out her talent song for the Miss America pageant.

“I didn’t even have time to call my grandparents in California,” Murray said.

Since donning her crown, Murray has traveled to North Dakota to make an appearance at the Medora Musical; thrown the first pitch at a Missoula Osprey game; helped Miss Teen Montana, Alexa Baisch, prepare for Miss America's Outstanding Teen competition; and traveled to South Carolina to get official photographs and meet with sponsors.

Next up is a trip to Orlando to watch the Miss America's Outstanding Teen competition.

Murray expects to log 30,000 miles across Montana this year. Mildenberger Motors has provided her a “Miss Montana Mobile” to make the travel possible.

“I am busy, but I love every second of it and am so honored to have been entrusted with this remarkable job,” she said.

Murray credits her accomplishment to the Bitterroot Valley.

“I think a lot of my success came from growing up here,” Murray said. “The biggest thing that I shared when I went to South Carolina was the work ethic of Montanans - how we drop everything to just go help others.”

Murray’s platform is volunteerism, and she has traveled to Nicaragua three times to help people in poverty. Murray said Corvallis always has volunteers in the school reading, helping with track meets and other programs. She was influenced by one particular reading volunteer when she was in first grade.

“We had an elderly gentleman named Papa John come read to us every week,” Murray said. “I’ll remember it forever and I was excited for him to read. But at that time I didn’t realize he was giving up a time of his day to read to us.”

Since Miss Montana pageants began in 1939, Murray is Corvallis’s third Miss Montana with Carol Chaffen in 1947, and Taryn Chuter in 2011, who resigned before the end of her term. Hamilton’s Cathy Brewer was Miss Montana in 1989.

At 18, Murray is tied for the youngest Miss Montana and will be the youngest contestant at the Miss America pageant.

“In Glendive, I was the youngest contestant competing and I was surrounded by some of the most goal driven girls I had ever met,” Murray said.

At the Montana pageant, she was awarded the Preliminary Evening Gown Award on Thursday night, Preliminary Swimsuit on Friday night and was crowned and awarded the Outstanding Interview Award on Saturday night.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and it hasn't truly sunk in that my entire life just changed,” Murray said.

If Murray wins the national crown in September in Atlantic City, it will be Montana’s first Miss America. In 2012 Alexis Wineman won America’s Choice, and in 1994 Yvonne Dehner (aka Dr. Yvonne Courchesne) won the preliminary talent award for vocals and placed in the top 10.

Murray is preparing for the Miss America pageant and will be establishing a presence on social media sites.

“I am working diligently every day on practicing interview skills, rehearsing my talent, going to the gym and eating healthy,” she said. “In between all of that, a lot of time is spent researching the news and ensuring that I am keeping up to date with everything that is going on in the world.”

Murray will sing a theatrical vocal rendition of a Disney song that is “very near and dear to my heart,” she said.

She has an image and sketch of her dream gown and a generous sponsor out of South Carolina is custom designing and making her evening and talent gowns. At the end of July, she'll visit with fashion designer Gregory Ellenburg to have her gowns made.

The Miss Montana pageant awarded Murray a $5,000 scholarship, and for her Outstanding Interview she received a $500 award.

But what she cherishes more are the friends and memories she made at the contest.

“There were 12 Miss and six Teens competing, but we were one big family,” Murray said. “Each and every time a girl would come off that stage, there were hugs and words of encouragement exchanged.”

Murray has given up her job at The Stock Farm and taken a leave from her educational studies at Gonzaga. She has not even been able to connect with most of her friends.

Yet she would't do anything different.

“It is just one year of my life," she said. "There is no other time I’ll be able to compete with the Miss America organization; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve got to take it and run with it and do the best that I can.”


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