‘It was a very busy summer’Published 9:10am Monday, August 10, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Elizabeth Kolden arrived home a week ago today from three weeks in Europe.
Miss Dowagiac’s first runner-up also began a new reign as National American Miss Michigan Teen 2009 even before her title as Miss Michigan Teen 2008 expired.
“I’m giving up my crown Aug. 23. I love this pageant. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am. I could not have predicted winning the crown” in Troy.
That will mean meeting Gov. Jennifer Granholm again and spending Thanksgiving at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., competing for the national crown and her share of more than $500,000 in cash and prizes.
Each girl who qualifies for the national pageant has a chance to win a new 2009 Ford Mustang convertible.
She won her new title from 68 contestants.
Playing her trumpet as a musical ambassador went 15 days, but she signed on for an optional Greece extension, making it 19 days, which got her back to Dowagiac just in time for her University of Michigan orientation in Ann Arbor, where Elizabeth, No. 5 in the DUHS Class of 2009, will be rooming with Co-Salutatorian Ami Sarao.
Elizabeth will be attending U of M through the Air Force ROTC program to become a military intelligence officer.
“It was a very busy summer,” which also included watching a Detroit Tigers game from Dave Dombrowski’s box, visiting the dugout and pitcher’s mound at Comerica Park and a radio interview with Jim Price, Bill Freehan’s backup catcher on the 1968 World Series champion team.
For her tour as a musical ambassador, “We started in London, then went to Paris,” where the group was photographed with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, Elizabeth said in an interview at the Daily News Thursday evening.
“Switzerland was next. We went to a big tourist area. From there, I believe we went to Austria, Venice for a couple of hours – we didn’t actually stay in Italy – Liechtenstein and Germany.”
Elizabeth started her life well-traveled, born in Korea while her mother, Patti, was in the Army.
“I went to first and second grade in Korea,” she said. “My mom grew up here. I’ve lived here since third grade.”
Her father, Roy, lives in Arizona. She will be getting together with him before leaving for college.
The band “played once in every country except Italy because we were there for a short while,” she said. “We played in London, Paris, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
“In Switzerland, which was rainy, there were posters advertising us in every shop we passed by. Other than that, I think there’s a big group setting up with instruments everywhere, so you go listen. We felt like celebrities except in London. They speak English, too, so they didn’t seem to care too much for us. We weren’t anything special there. We had tour guides in all of our countries who spoke that language. Most of them were from America, but they live there and were familiar with the cities. It was a pretty good experience. I liked it a lot.”
Elizabeth continued, “There were a lot of learning experiences because we took a city bus tour everywhere we went. Then we had free time to experience the places by going shopping or seeing museums. We learned history and saw everything that’s happening now. We traveled by bus except when we flew to London and took the ferry to France.”
Aggressive street vendors have taken it to the next level to get pedestrians to buy things, she said.
“String makers, when you walk by, pull you aside, put a ring around your finger and start braiding a bracelet,” Elizabeth said. “Our tour guides warned us about that. Not to make eye contact and to walk away,” she said. “Everyone has changed for tourism. It didn’t seem like the economy was struggling, but we were in tourist areas. There were a few homeless people.”
Four days in hot Greece followed Germany, the last official stop of their concert tour.
“Greece had the worst food for me,” Elizabeth said. “I didn’t care too much for it. We were in Athens,” where the Olympics Summer Games took place in 2004. ” I didn’t have enough time to appreciate everything we saw. I think that’s the main downfall, and it’s also the best thing. It’s too much to take in. You can’t really appreciate the beauty of all the different countries because you’re still stuck in the last one. I wish I had more time for each country.”
The 220 musicians included a choir.
They traveled on four buses.
As a trumpet player at U of M, “I’m taking the first year off because of the workload,” Elizabeth said. “I’d like to do marching band next year once I get the hang of campus. I met a lot of people at orientation, but nobody had heard of Dowagiac.”
She attended the last session of orientation, which began in mid-June. Welcome Week starts Sept. 3. Classes start Sept. 8.
“I really don’t have much going on anymore except some Miss Dowagiac events,” said Elizabeth, who is first runner-up to Shelby Willis.