High school graduates and young college co-eds who are looking for a way to build their resume, develop leadership skills and improve their poise may want to consider entering the 2012 Washington Town and Country Fair queen contest this summer.
The annual event, which has long been a scholarship program to help young ladies pay for higher education, is placing more emphasis on resume building, community service and volunteerism than ever before.
It’s a response to what past candidates have been asking for, but also a great way to help the community, said Queen Committee Chairperson Becky Cox.
“We want our summer activities to educate and celebrate the value of service, volunteerism and philanthropy,” she remarked. “We want to encourage a greater participation in the community from these girls, not only this year, but in years to come.”
The 2012 queen contest gets under way next week when the candidates meet Tuesday, June 5, for orientation at St. Francis Borgia Parish’s Jesuit Hall in Downtown Washington.
There are still a few spots remaining for girls to enter the contest, said Cox, noting the age range is high school graduate to not older than 22 by Sept. 1.
Candidates will participate in a variety of activities throughout June and July leading up to the on-stage queen contest Wednesday night, Aug. 1, at the fairgrounds.
Activities will include the traditional Day of Beauty, Day in Washington and singing at area nursing homes.
New this year the candidates will be working on the America in Bloom project by helping with needed planting and mulching at the Washington Welcome sign.
Also, local community leaders will talk with the candidates during various events throughout the summer.
“We plan to ask recent Washingtonian Award winner Vince Borgerding to talk with the girls about the importance of volunteerism and community involvement,” said Cox. “Mayor Sandy Lucy and Mark Wessels also will be asked to talk on these topics.
“Finally, Amy Eagan from the Quality Coach will spend time with the girls to help them with networking skills and resume building.”
Learned Valuable Life Lessons
This time last year, 2011 Fair Queen Stephanie Sullentrup had no idea that she would end the summer with a crown on her head and $2,500 in her pocket to help pay for nursing school.
When she entered the 2011 Washington Town and Country Fair queen contest she was only looking for something fun to do over the summer and be part of the Fair tradition.
“You never know what can come out of it,” Sullentrup remarked.
First and second runners-up in the contest, Katelyn Riegel and Bailey Kitchell, said they went into the contest thinking the same things.
But the contest ended up giving them more than just a fun couple of months of memories. It provided valuable experience and knowledge.
From the various activities they did leading up to the Fair, to the interview with the judges, to the on-stage performances, the investment they made in the two-month contest continues to pay dividends.
“I was a confident person going in, but I gained so much more self-awareness,” said Sullentrup.
“(The experience) teaches you so many things that you can use in your everyday life.”
Riegel agrees, noting the interview segment was particularly helpful.
“I’ve taken a lot of things from that interview experience into job interviews I’ve had this year,” she said, adding that her sponsor, St. John’s Mercy Hospital, Washington, had provided her with some interview coaching.
Other sponsors did the same for their queen candidate.
Kitchell said she feels one of the most valuable lesson she learned from being in the Fair Queen contest was “stage presence” and how to present herself well.
“Everywhere we went the committee was always reminding us that people were watching us, that we should be careful about what we did and said and always to set a good example,” said Kitchell.
That’s been useful advice for her everyday life, especially in the age of Facebook, she noted.
Don’t Let Expenses, Nerves Hold You Back
While some girls may shy away from the queen contest thinking it will take up too much of their time over the summer or cost too much money to purchase a dress and pay other expenses, the 2011 court says that’s far from the truth.
“I bought a dress from a friend for like $30 and I have several dresses that I’d be willing to let others wear,” said Riegel.
“Don’t let the expenses hold you back,” added Sullentrup. “Use your resources. You can borrow a dress or use a prom dress with some simple alterations . . . you don’t have to buy something brand new.”
From the outside looking in the queen contest might look materialistic, admits Sullentrup, but it’s not.
“It’s about growing and having fun,” she said.
“A lot of people only see what is on stage that night, but for us it’s about being with all of the other girls all summer, learning about your roots . . . it’s awesome.”
Likewise, the queen contest isn’t just for girls who are into beauty and fashion or girls who are into agriculture, the 2011 court stressed.
“The events apply to all types of personalities,” said Riegel. “I don’t think there was one girl who didn’t have fun.”
Kitchell said the one concern she often hears from girls who are considering the queen contest is that they are nervous about being on stage and in the spotlight. She reminds them that the main stage show comes after two months of bonding with the other girls in the contest, so you don’t feel like you’re going through that alone.
“There’s a building up to it,” she said. “By that night, not many of us were nervous. We were just all excited for each other to see who won.”
Sullentrup’s advice to any girls thinking of entering the Fair Queen contest is to do it.
“It will be a summer you’ll never forget,” she remarked.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — When else will you get to go up on stage like that and feel like a princess?”
The queen and her court receive college scholarships, among other prizes. The queen receives a $2,500; first runner-up, $1,000; second runner-up $750; and Miss Congeniality, $500.
Prizes also are handed out for candidates with the top ticket sales.
For more information or to sign up for one of the last remaining spots in the Fair Queen contest, girls should call the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce office at 636-239-2715 and speak with Tammy.