Miss America Pageant Results 1956

1956 Miss America Pageant - Sharon Kay Ritchie Miss Colorado wins



Sharon Kay Ritchie, Miss America 1956, was crowned in Atlantic City's Convention Hall by outgoing queen Miss America 1955 Lee Meriwether, of California.

Miss America 1956 Sharon Kay Ritchie
Miss America 1956 Sharon Kay Ritchie Miss Colorado.
That year, a charming young television personality named Burt Parks put in his first appearance as the pageant's master of ceremonies. He would quickly become symbolic with the pageant's public persona.

In the talent competition Ritchie performed a dramatic monologue of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "The Murder of Lidice." Although she did not win either the preliminary swimsuit or talent competitions earlier that week, but she had a serenity throughout. "I had a lot of faith in God and was doing the best I could.  I knew that if it was meant to be it would happen," Sharon later explained.

Although representing Colorado, Sharon Kay was actually from Grand Island, Nebraska.  She won the Miss Colorado title while attending Colorado Women's College. According to the Miss America pageant, a few months earlier, Sharon's older sister, Donna, had won the Miss Nebraska title and went on to become the second runner-up to Miss Universe.*

At the conclusion of the pageant, as the shocked Ritchie stepped forward to accept her tiara, scepter and robe, she became the first Miss America to walk down the famous runway while being serenaded with the song "There She Is, Miss America."

Songwriter Bernie Wayne of "Blue Velvet" fame, had almost offhandedly written the song the previous year when he read a newspaper write-up about the pageant...despite having never actually seen the contest. As Ritchie tearfully glided down the runway Americans heard the soon to be famous lyrics for the first time:

There She Is, Miss America
There she is our ideal.
The dreams of a million girls
Who are more than pretty
May come true in Atlantic City...

Sharon met her future husband during an appearance at the Miss Wichita Kansas pageant which was sponsored by the Wichita Jaycees. The men begged singing star Don Cherry, a native of the community, to appear at the pageant to serenade Miss America. Cherry obliged and showed up to serenade the queen on-stage.  Since he was not familiar with the words to the then-new tune "There She Is, Miss America", the Jaycees jotted down the lyrics on cue cards.  Unfortunately, as Miss America stepped on-stage, the stage hand shifted the spotlight off of the singer and onto the queen, leaving the star unable to read the lyrics. Amused by the incident, the titleholder later teased Cherry and the two quickly became romantically involved. Their romance made headlines as the star courted the teenage queen with phone calls and roses throughout her reign. 

During another appearance, the people of Wyoming gifted her with a horse they had purchased for her. Sharon's father had to drive to Wyoming to pick up the gift and transport it back home.

At the conclusion of her reign, Sharon returned to Convention Hall to crown her successor, Marian McKnight, Miss South Carolina as Miss America 1957. Ironically, Ritchie had served on the judges panel that selected Marian as Miss South Carolina months earlier, and was thrilled to see her choice become her successor.

Two weeks after crowning McKnight, Sharon and Don Cherry married. The couple traveled together performing for a number of years and raised two sons, Shawn and Stephen. Additionally, Sharon worked as an actress and corporate spokesperson.

After their divorce, she married football player/sportscaster Kyle Rote, E. F. Hutton & Co. chairman Robert M. Fomon, and Terry Mullin.

Tragically, her younger son, Stephen, was killed in the 911 terrorist attack on New York's Twin Towers.

all Miss Americas

  • Miss America 1956: Sharon Kay Ritchie, Miss Colorado
  • 1st runner-up: Dorothy Mae Johnson, Miss Oregon
  • 2nd runner-up: Florence Gallagher, Miss Chicago, Illinois
  • 3rd runner-up: Clara Faye Arnold, Miss North Carolina
  • 4th runner-up: An Campbell, Miss Oklahoma

Sources: *Miss America Organization

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