WINDHAM — A 70-year-old Windham woman is bound for Atlantic City after being crowned Ms. New Hampshire Senior America last week.
Barbara Danais, a professional music therapist and avid community volunteer, will represent the Granite State during the national Ms. Senior America Pageant, which celebrates the lives and accomplishments over women aged 60 and older, this October.
A firm believer in the power of positive thinking, Danais said she didn't really find her passion until about 10 years ago, when she began designing and producing music programs for adults with memory impairments.
"I say attitude is everything," she said. "And if you combine that attitude with a bit of thinking outside the box, you can really do anything."Dressed in a flowing tie-dyed skirt and blouse, Danais showed off that attitude Thursday afternoon at the Windham Community Television studio, when she strummed and sang John Denver's "Berkeley Woman" before a small audience.
Growing older doesn't faze Danais a bit. She said she prefers to focus on the positive aspects.
"When you reach a point where you absolutely can't do something anymore, all you need to do is find new interests that fall within the scope of your current ability," she said.
A regular fixture at the Windham Senior Center and Women's Club, Danais also volunteers with Home Health and Hospice Care and sings in several area choruses. When she's not volunteering or making music, she likes to kayak, bike, ski and sew quilts.
As the new Ms. NH Senior America, Danais will certainly have plenty more ways to stay busy in the coming year.
Outgoing titleholder Marie Klinedinst said the past year has been a hectic one, though she won't ever regret the experience.
"I've traveled all over this lovely state of ours and appeared at dozens of fairs, old home days, parades and senior centers," the Warner resident said. "I even met a couple mayors and governors."
Other Ms. Senior America contenders past and present offered Danais further words of encouragement.
State Rep. Mary Griffin of Windham, who held the title in 1993, said it's not always easy being a woman "of a certain age," and it's certainly not for the faint of heart.
"You must have an attitude," Griffin told Danais. "And believe me, I have a big one. You have to come out of your shell."Hope Heath, the 1994 titleholder, said she was initially hesitant to enter the pageant.
"I loved to perform in shows, but beauty? I didn't have it," she said with a laugh. "But you don't have to have beauty, you only have to be yourself."
Kathy Salanitrow, who won the title in 2011, said she's neither a singer nor a dancer — her talent is a unique one.
The Gilford resident brings her trained oxen to youth facilities where the animals sooth troubled souls.
She encouraged other women her age to give the pageant a try.
"If you want to show off your inner beauty, your talent and your passion ... we'd welcome it," Salanitrow said.
Taking the crown off her head and placing it atop Danais' blond coif, the outgoing Ms. NH Senior America's eyes sparkled under the studio lights.
"Barbara, you will have the time of your life," Klinedinst told her.
The Ms. Senior America national finals will be held at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on Oct. firstname.lastname@example.org