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Former Peach Queen vying for Miss Alabama

By Scott Mims

Susan Hamm earned the title of Junior Miss Peach in 2003, Miss Peach in 2005, and most recently 2010 Miss Samford. Now, the Thorsby native sets her sights on the Miss Alabama crown and, along with it, potentially more than $100,000 in scholarship money.

“I’m not nervous. I’m really excited,” said Hamm, 21, an upcoming senior at Samford University this fall.

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Hamm is a management and marketing double major and aspires to go into pharmaceutical sales. But her courses are not all she’s been studying for. In preparation for the Miss Alabama competition June 9-12, she has had to form opinions about everything from her favorite color to abortion to who’s at fault for the Gulf oil catastrophe.

Keeping up with current events prepares contestants for the unknown on-stage question, which they will be asked in front of an audience of thousands. Other parts of the competition include talent, interview, swimsuit and evening gown — but nothing she hasn’t done before.

“Miss Alabama is structured the same way all the preliminaries are structured. It’s just on a bigger scale,” Hamm explained. “It’s been fun, but it’s been a job to learn all those things every day.”

For her talent, she will perform MacDowell’s “Hungarian Opus 39 No. 12” on the piano. She has been playing since age 7 or 8.

When asked why she chose that particular piece, she said, “I loved it the first time I heard it. It’s really showy. It’s just a big song with a big sound, and it’s really fun.”

Hamm has participated in pageants all her life. They started out as beauty pageants, but now they are a big part of her college career. The scholarships have been among the most rewarding aspects, she said.

“A lot of people criticize pageants because they think it’s just a vanity thing,” said Susan’s mother, Beverly Hamm. “But if you do something you enjoy and it helps your education, it’s probably a plus.”

Competing in Miss Alabama also gives young women an opportunity to be a positive influence in a child’s life. Each contestant mentors a young girl between the ages of 8 and 11 through the Rising Star Program. Hamm’s is Claea Bice, the daughter of Jason and Sonja Bice of Clanton. Bice will compete alongside her mentor during one night of the program.

Miss Alabama is scheduled for June 9-12 at Samford University at 7:30 p.m. each night. Nearly 50 contestants will be competing, and the winner will advance to Miss America in Las Vegas in January 2011.

Tickets are available at the door or online at missalabama.com. Prices vary according to proximity to the stage and which night the tickets are purchased for.

Also, an autograph party will be held at Brookwood Mall this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. featuring all the contestants, as well as last year’s Miss Alabama, Liz Cochran.

Hamm is the daughter of Mark and Beverly Hamm of Thorsby and has a younger brother, Zach.