— Sweet, smiling Teresa Scanlan may be the only beauty pageant queen who doesn’t flinch when someone calls her stuck up. This weekend, she’s bound to prove it.
That’s when the youngest Miss America in 90 years hopes to be crowned the first-ever Miss Duct Tape, the flesh-and-blood representative of the ultra-sticky superstar of every home improvement project and offbeat fashion statement.
Care to take a wild guess as to the tiara’s likely construction material?
The 8th Annual Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival takes place June 17-19 in Avon, Ohio, and includes parade floats, fashion shows, sculptures and as many as 40,000 fellow duct-tape aficionados who have helped elevate this perfectly utilitarian tool from the garage to the beauty parlor of one of America's most vivacious women.
“People think I’m being facetious, but being invited to attend the Duct Tape Festival is a dream come true,” said Scanlan, 18. “I can’t wait!”
“It’s the greatest invention ever,” she said. “If I was ever on a deserted island and only allowed to take one thing, I’d take duct tape. You can hunt with it, fish with it, build with it, use it to decorate your hut and make stylish clothes. I’ve used it to make a roll-up bag for all my brushes.”
4 million fans can't be wrong
It’s been shown to remove warts, bind broken helicopter rotors and was instrumental in saving the lives of three astronauts during the 1970 Apollo 13 flight: Astronaut Ed Smylie said he felt the crew was home free when he learned duct tape was included in the tool kit.
“One thing a Southern boy will never say is, ‘I don’t think duct tape will fix it,’ ” Smylie said in 2005.
Devotees will come to Avon, where Duck Tape — not to be confused with generic "duct tape," but indistinguishable in purpose and composition — is made. ShurTech, the company that makes Duck brand tape, and its 350 employees are based in the Cleveland suburb.
Duck Tape has built its brand — and pop culture marketing phenomenon with nearly 4 million Facebook fans — and serves customers who revere the cloth-backed super adhesive for its flexibility in industrial applications and fashionable prom wear.
“It’s a great festival and the parade’s the best,” said Tim Nyberg, who with brother-in-law Jim Berg performs as the Duct Tape Guys at home improvement shows and have combined to sell more than 3 million duct tape-related books and calendars since 1994. “It’s like the Rose Parade except instead of roses the floats are all made out of duct tape.”
He says the festival is a good-natured slice of Americana celebrating a can-do attitude enlivened with self-effacing humor.
“We all know someone who thinks he or she can fix anything with duct tape and this is the weekend they all go to Avon.”
Here she comes, Miss America
And the festival has the most unlikely promoter anyone who’s ever told a plumber butt-crack joke could imagine.
Scanlan recalls as a girl seeing a news story about prom dresses made of duct tape and was instantly enchanted.
“It just seemed like so much fun,” she said.
She began designing duct-tape clothes, making duct-tape crafts and reading books about duct tape.
And like Cinderella at the ball, it was all splendid. Then the clock struck midnight. The girl who’d been home schooled until her junior year was thrust into the tumult of unfamiliar public high school in her native Gering, Neb.
“I started mingling with public school kids and told them all about how much I loved duct tape,” she said. “They thought I was insane.”
That’s when the product helped Scanlan construct something essential that goes unmentioned in all the promotional brochures: It helped her build character.
“It taught me it’s OK to be different. The cool kids were all in sports. But I did what I loved and what I was good at and that gave me the confidence to continue in the performing arts.”
Seeking an eternal crown
When asked on stage at the 2011 Miss America pageant about what made her different, she gushed about duct tape.
And the savvy marketers at Duck Tape headquarters did something uncharacteristic: they came unglued.
“We were thrilled,” said festival organizer and ShurTech Brands spokesperson Patti Sack. “We had a Duck Tape ‘Miss America’ sash made and a bouquet of red, white and blue Duck Tape roses made and sent to her.”
The warm embrace inspired Scanlan to seize an ambition perhaps unique in beauty pageant history.
“Rules stipulate I can only be Miss America for one year,” she said, “but I’m hoping maybe I can become Miss Duct Tape for eternity!”
Alas, the wish puts festival organizers in a kind of bind that has nothing to do with their product.
“Actually, we’ve never had a Miss Duct Tape,” said Sack.
But she didn't rule it out. After all, anything is possible — especially with a little duct tape.