Miss Georgia Andrea Bailey came home to Evans for the first time since finishing in the top 15 of the Miss America pageant last month.
Bailey was a featured attraction Saturday at the Fire Fest America 2003, where she sang and signed autographs.
"I've been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for most of my life, and that was the platform I ran under for Miss Georgia and Miss America," Bailey said between signing autographs. "The Red Cross has a presence here today, and I wanted to be here as well."
Although she enjoyed the experience of being in Atlantic City, N.J., and competing for Miss America, Bailey said she most enjoyed the friendships she made with fellow contestants.
"I came away with six friends that I know I'll be friends with for the rest of my life," she said. "Of course, I would have liked to have done better in Miss America, but I wouldn't trade those friendships I've made for anything in the world."
On Sept. 20, Bailey competed against 50 other women in the nationally televised pageant. Bailey, a 1997 graduate of Evans High School, had got some air time during the pageant's first-ever casualwear competition, during which the semifinalists strutted down a runway in everyday clothes.
Bailey, 24, walked away with $5,000 in scholarship money for being a contestant in the pageant, and got $7,000 for making it to the top 15.
Before coming to the Fire Fest, Bailey visited her high-school alma mater on Friday.
"That was the first time I had been back to (Evans High) since I graduated," she said. "I was there to talk to the students about the life lessons I learned competing in pageants. I didn't expect to have a flood of memories come rushing over me."
There were three points Bailey said she tried to stress to Evans students: set goals for yourself and see them through, persevere and put others before yourself.
"The only moment that matters in life is the one you are in," Bailey told the students. "What you do in life, what you become, whether you get married or have a family, is not nearly as important as the impact you can have on the life of someone else. After you have gone, the only thing you leave behind are the lives you have touched."
Bailey said she will continue her duties as Miss Georgia until next June, when a new Miss Georgia is crowned. When her tenure is complete, she plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design next fall to earn a master's degree in sound engineering.
Staff Writer Valerie Rowell contributed to this article.
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