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The Million-Dollar Crown: Miss Camp America Crown Donated To Gay Museum

Miss Camp America founder Pat Petty presents the MCA crown to GCAM chair Craig Farrell and GCAM curator Judy Reeves

On Monday evening, April 6, Miss Camp America (MCA) founder Pat Petty presented the organization’s crown to the Gulf Coast Archive & Museum (GCAM). The museum is now the official custodian of this iconic piece of Houston’s GLBT history.

Miss Camp America began in 1969 as a party for Petty, whose birthday is August 27. The group spoofed the real Miss America pageant, which was simultaneously occurring in Atlantic City.

Over its 36-year history MCA has had more than 250 different members and performed approximately 1,500 musical production numbers. The pageant started in an apartment, and then began a path of increasingly larger venues moving from bars to hotels to the Tower Theater to the Wortham Brown Auditorium.

In 1988, the organization became a foundation and donated all profits to AIDS-related charities. The Assistance Fund was their most frequently selected beneficiary. The foundation distributed more than $1million earned from the pageants.

The crown presented to GCAM was designed in the 1990s, replacing more fragile crowns used in the years before. The annual pageant was retired in 2006, when the Miss America pageant moved to Las Vegas and changed the televised date to January. Petty says that the three-month rehearsal period that was needed to produce the show could not be scheduled during the holidays.

GCAM now has the crown on display at the first floor Cultural Center in the Montrose Counseling Center building at 401 Branard. The crown joins a much larger public historical exhibition which GCAM has mounted on the walls of the Cultural Center. Brandon Wolf

Pat Petty (c), Miss Camp America founder, presents the Miss Camp America crown to Craig Farrell (r), chair of the Gulf Coast Archive & Museum (GCAM). Looking on is Judy Reeves, GCAM curator. In the background is a small section of a larger GCAM historical exhibition at the Cultural Center in the Montrose Counseling Center building.

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