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?