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Past Miss Citrus winners find further success

One owns a dancewear store. Another is a Bucs cheerleader and substitute teacher. Both say they learned a lot in the pageant they won at the county fair.

Striding across the runway, nervousness hidden behind smiles as wide as billboards, they dance, sing, do dramatic monologues and put their all into becoming Miss Citrus County. One is crowned. They gather for photos. Then the lights dim, the queen packs up her crown, and the pageant is over.

But what happens in the years that follow? Where do these talented young women go and what does life offer them?

We catch up with Miss Citrus County 1985 Rosemary Silvestro DeMott and Miss Citrus County 1996 Kim Kolinski.

Rosemary Silvestro DeMott

For Rosemary Silvestro DeMott, Miss Citrus of 1985, the years have been kind and life has been good.

At the time DeMott wore the crown, the Miss Citrus Pageant was still affiliated with the Miss Florida pageant, and she went on to dance across that stage.

"I learned a lot," DeMott said. "The Miss Florida pageant was an entirely different world.

"I also met a lot of cool people and it opened a lot of doors for me. I still meet people I knew from 15 years ago."

DeMott entered the local pageant "for the scholarship money. I knew I liked to dance and that I was good, so I entered."

With the money she received and her 3.8 GPA, she went on to Jacksonville University where she majored in dance and minored in marketing.

"In college, I knew I was never going to be just a dancer," DeMott said. "So I learned to act and sing. The first time my mother heard me sing, she said, "I never knew you could sing.' "

Later, DeMott worked in musical theater at a repertory company in Daytona Beach.

"We performed seven shows, rotating them over six months," she said.

Then she met a Marine, married and took up the life of a military wife. They have two sons, ages 9 and 6.

DeMott said moving from place to place is tough for a dancer. "You're never in one place long enough (to make an impression)," she said.

When the couple moved to Norfolk, Va., for two years, she entertained on cruise ships. "That was a lot of fun," she said.

Now DeMott is on the other side of the lights. She owns The Dancewear Corner in Kissimmee and has her own Web site, www.dancewearcorner.com. Through the site, she communicates with dance students nationwide.

"I was good before," DeMott said. "But going to college made me a smart dancer. It's neat being on the other side now. Having the knowledge I have has really helped.

"I understand the body more," she explained.

But DeMott hasn't lost her connection to Citrus County. For five years, she has choreographed the opening number for the Miss Citrus Pageant. And she has observed the young women closely and seen many take to heart the judges' opinions _ sometimes to their detriment.

"I think it's important for the girls to know that this is just five judges writing down their opinions. It's not the end of the world. You have to learn to take from it what you need," she said. DeMott believes young women who are interested should try for themselves. "(The pageants) aren't about being beautiful. It's about how you present yourself," she said.

Kim Kolinski

When Kim Kolinski sang her way to the Miss Citrus crown at the county fair in 1996, she had no idea that one day she would sing the national anthemon two occasions in front of 60,000 cheering Buccaneer fans.

At any home game during the football season, you can find the 23-year-old dressed in the scarlet and white of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, dancing, singing and cheering her heart out as a Bucs cheerleader.

Kolinski is also a substitute teacher in Pinellas County while she works on her degree in public relations. She plans to start at the University of South Florida in the fall. Through her involvement with the Miss America Pageant, where she competed in the Miss Florida pageant the past three years, she has been elected to the board of the National Organization for Transplant Enlightenment.

Her participation in the Citrus County pageant helped prepare her for moving into other areas.

"I think when you're 16, 17 or 18 and enter the Miss Citrus pageant, and you've never done it before, you're nervous," Kolinski said. "But the willingness to try is important. You learn in the pageant that if you don't try, you don't know what will happen."

Kolinski, who has been with the Buccaneers for two years, must audition each year, but is happy to do so.

"I had no idea what an impact on my life it would have," she said. "It's so exciting to be on the field, but the community service is probably my favorite part. . . . Going to hospitals and signing an autograph and seeing their face light up is so great. My coordinator, Carole Wood, is an amazing person who has definitely had an effect on me. She has taught us (the cheerleaders) a level of discipline and professionalism that we will carry on in our life."

When asked where she sees herself in five years, Kolinski paused, then laughed and revealed her secret: "My dream job would be to be a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football."

She also has some goals for her involvement with the Miss America organization. "I'd like to reach those and somehow still be involved in the pageants _ even as a volunteer," she said.

"I definitely want a family, but I'm going to do everything I can right now so I can have no regrets. So that when the time comes, I can say, "Okay, I'm ready to move on.' Then I can be successful at parenting and as a wife, because I'll be ready for that time in my life."

Some words of wisdom for this year's county fair pageant contestants, and all young people: "Be prepared so when an opportunity becomes available, you can take advantage of it. For instance, my singing the National Anthem . . . if I had't studied singing for two years, I wouldn't have been prepared to do it."

Speaking of the Miss Citrus pageant, Kolinski said, "The board of the Citrus County pageant is really wonderful. Their support didn't stop, even when I gave up my crown. They've followed me through the years and are always there. They're the kind of friends you never forget. I can never give them enough thanks."

Kolinski's philosophy is best summed up by a sign hanging on her door which was given to her by her grandfather: You might not win, but you can't lose.

"You can't lose if you try," she said. "Don't be afraid to try."

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