The Twirling American Beauties have become a tradition at Seaside's annual 4th of July parade.
As the first group to beat a Seaside store for top recognition in front of the judges, TAB's founding beauty Linda Miller is proudly leading her group of twirlers to the street again.
This year will mark the 13th year for the TABS to march in the parade, which begins at 8 a.m. in Seagrove Plaza and heads west on 30A to Seaside. TABS started as a fun idea and way for Miller to celebrate her 50th birthday, which occurs on July 5.
As she approached the milestone, Miller decided to do something she loved doing when she was young — twirling.
“I grew up in the small Mayberry-like town of Butler, Ala.," she said. "There were only 82 in my graduating class. And in those days, if you wanted to do something in high school, you had to either be a cheerleader or a majorette. I wanted to be a majorette because they had better costumes and you got to perform at half time.”
Miller was one of eight majorettes her senior year, but she never let go of the beat and baton.
“There aren’t that many majorettes anymore, and I thought it would be fun to get together and twirl our batons in the parade,” she said.
Joining her that first year to relive the past and help her celebrate her birthday were four former majorettes from Choctaw High School, plus two friends. The women practiced long and hard to take on the associates of Seaside Associated Stores, a feat not done before. But when judges announced the parade winners, a tie for first had to be declared — and the friendly rivalry was born.
The Beauties wanted first place and next year, they brought out the big guns in the form of their "secret weapon” Benny Campbell, Alabama State Twirling Champion in 1969, who possesses the admirable talent of being able to twirl two batons at once.
The twirling champ, in his drum major hat, was enough to put them over the top. The Beauties took home the first-place prize in year two.
Following that win, the Beauties had to return to defend their title. Since then, Campbell has returned every year to help — and to join in the fun, as he will again this year.
With a little help from Miller’s friends, The Twirling American Beauties have placed first every year but one.
The faces of the Beauties have changed over the years as have the routines and costumes. Since that first year, two of the Beauties have died. The only constants have been Miller, Campbell, and Miller’s best friend of 30 years, Dixie Minatra.
Miller's fun tradition has also become a family affair as her daughter-in-law, Michele Ezell, and Michelle's three daughters have attended the parade every year to show their love and support. One year, Ezell and her daughters even joined the fun and danced with Miller.
Although her family won't be dancing with her this year, a young friend will.
Miller invited Piper Norris, daughter of Realtor friend Nancy Norris to join and she accepted. Piper is a high school junior and a good twirler, said Miller.
Music has become a challenge for the Beauties through the years. One year, their CD skipped because of the humidity. It would not play, so Campbell led the crowd in clapping in time so the Beauties could do their dance.
After that, Dixie called a friend in Gadsden, Ala., who became their sound production manager. Robert Smith grew up doing the music for his mother at Kay Smith’s Dance Studio in Gadsden. Kay has become the choreographer for the Beauties and this will be Kay's fourth year to choreograph for Miller.
The music for this year's performance will be MC Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit" and Taio Cruz's "Dynamite!"
Miller and friends will perform their twirling and dance routine combo in front of the judges' stand in their new silver dance outfits specially ordered from Hong Kong. Judges will judge entries in a variety of categories, and an awards ceremony will follow the parade in the Seaside Amphitheater.
Another constant Miller has relied on through the years has been the expertise of Libby Fillingim, who has decorated the Beauties’ float every year. From the float, Miller and friends throw beads and Moon Pies to the crowds.
"Doing this is a way to honor my friends and thank them for doing this with me and helping me celebrate my birthday,” said Miller. “I want my children and grandchildren to say I taught them to have fun. It's all about family, friends and fun.”
When she is not twirling, Miller is the broker at Rosemary Beach Realty and is known as “The Smile of 30A.”