Sunday, July 29, 2007

Miss Fredericksburg Fair

The Miss Fredericksburg Fair pageant is the real reason my husband and I continue going to the fair year after year. And while this year’s exhibits may have been a letdown, we’ve decided that the pageant is better than ever. When we first started going years ago, it was to get a mocking chuckle out of the hokiness of it all, with the high school girls whose ambitions always included following two wildly divergent career paths simultaneously, one always geared toward selfless community service, and the other to insure celebrity. “I want to be a nurse and an actress” or “I want to be a special education teacher and a television spokesmodel.” It was all cheesy smiles and cliched answers to trite questions...typical pageant stuff. Don’t get me wrong—there’s still plenty of that. Just like always, the opening act and emcee is Bob Williams, a lounge singer in a loud suit and a long, gray ponytail who sings pop standards to taped music (but who seems like the sweetest of guys, really, and who I will miss if he ever retires). The girls still change clothes three times, to include at least one outfit that none of these girls would actually ever wear in public. And there is still the awkward walk up the runway in too-high heels and an overly sparkly prom dress.

But several years ago, just like in the big leagues, pageant organizers added a “personal platform” component, where the girls had to come up with issues they wanted to publicize. Most of the girls choose pretty tame stuff—advocating for research into a cure for whatever their grandmother/best friend/favorite teacher died of, saying no to drugs or drunk driving, anything involving children. But last night, one of the contestants talked about the genocide in Darfur. Yikes! And trust me, the demographic that the fair attracts is not your sensitive-to-global-atrocities type. So kudos to her. The average contestant was more likely to be in college or college-bound (or at least making a go of it at the community college), and some of the girls were fuller-figured. Well, of course we’re not ready for a fuller figured fair queen yet, and the winner was chosen more for her ability to walk well in heels and look good in photos than for a cutting edge platform, but clearly, the pageant is giving a nod to a future where contestants will be in it more for the scholarship money than the tiara, where they will be (reasonably) educated young women with interests beyond this little burg, and where not a single one will express the ambition to be a celebrity anything.

Next year, it may be time to broaden our horizons and check out the Tiny Miss, the Little Miss, the Pre-Teen Miss, and the Junior Miss Fredericksburg Fair pageants. Because you can never have too many pageants, can you?


Anonymous said...

This is very insulting. My daughter does these pageants and believe me, you don't really know "these" girls. You don't know what you are talking about. You don't even see the one-on-one interviews which have nothing to do with high heels or dual ambitions. These are intelligent, ambitious girls who are role models and happen to be attractive as well. From a loving Dad who has a daughter who has never done this one but who has done others (and won, and not won).

Anonymous said...

I won this pageant in 2007- the year you say the winner was chosen by her ability to walk in high heels and "look good in photos" but not my cutting edge platform.
How dare you insult me and every other girl who has competed in this pageant and others. I won this title due to my hard work in interview, my community service involving my platform and YES my ability to walk in "high heels."
I went to Miss Virginia Association of Fairs as Miss Fredericksburg Fair and was first runner up. Nearly EVERY Miss Fredericksburg Fair titleholder who competes at Miss VA Association of Fairs either places top 5 or wins the title as Miss Va Association of Fairs. Fredericksburg is known to bring strong, ambitious, intelligent, and fierce competitors to the state pageant.
I have not paid for a single semester of nursing school- because I have competed in pageants my whole life and earned scholarship money- much more than just a tiara.
Seems to me you need to do a little research and stop voicing an opinion on something you know nothing about.
I hope you get some satisfaction out of putting me and other pageant girls down. We usually get a chuckle out of people like you, the ones who could never get on that stage and do what we do..
In heels at that
Oh, and our current Miss America, Caressa Cameron- she was Miss Fredericksburg Fair 2005.

Merry N said...

As someone who has seen how this one pageant has progressed over the years, I clearly acknowledge in this post that the pageant has come a long way since the early years, that the young women are likely to be well-educated, that the addition of the platform is a good thing, that the scholarship money is valuable. And if the winner’s platform is more important to the judges than physical beauty or poise, I think that’s to be applauded and I’ll stand corrected. Thanks for pointing that out to me—I’m honestly pleased to hear from a former contestant that Miss Fredericksburg is more about public service and less about being beautiful or slim or photogenic. I think that's an enormous stride. And frankly, if the interview, personal platform and public service are the most important judging criteria, it's too bad that is done mostly behind the scenes, with the audience getting very little sense of that aspect.

Nonetheless, while the most successful contestants here go on to bigger and better competitions, there is still the hometown feel that makes this pageant charming. I like that it’s not the slickest production, I enjoy the sense that these are local girls, including a few now and then who may be fairly new to pageants and aren’t all perfectly practiced at this sort of thing. That’s what makes it real, and enjoyable, to me. I haven’t gotten back to Miss Fredericksburg since this post, and for all I know, the pageant now is as slick as the televised competitions, and the contestants all seasoned veterans. But I honestly hope not.