Thursday, 16 October 2008
My Royal Shame
Not long after we moved into Someday Farm, I was proudly showing a neighbour our newly renovated upstairs. We went from room to room, admiring the clever closet design, the new windows, the hardwood floor that D had helped refinish. We advanced to the master bedroom where I happily babbled on about how I'd convinced D to remove a wall between two smaller rooms to make one giant bedroom, how we'd chosen our bedroom set of reclaimed Russian wood, etc...when I realized my neighbour had stopped listening. She was staring, instead, at the 8x10 glossy picture of me that D had found while unpacking and saw fit to prop up at the head of our bed. It was my Fall Fair Queen photo in all its goofy-grinned, teased-hair, 1980's glory. I promptly hustled my amused guest downstairs, but I think all she remembers about my bedroom is that photo.
Yep, I was the New Hamburg Fall Fair Queen back in '88. We weren't called Ambassadors then; no men in the 1980's dreamt of entering such a competition, so the Queen title was safe to use. Seeing my photo shouldn't have been a source of embarrassment to me; after all, being Queen of the Fair is a huge honour, and affords one the chance to get involved in one's community, meet lots of people, and do fun things like ride in a convertible in the Santa Claus parade. But I'm sorry to say that I was a lousy queen.
After politely declining to enter when asked three separate times (much to my mother's chagrin), I knew I was beaten when the entire Fair committee showed up at my front door one Saturday. I was in my pajamas eating chips straight out of the bag. When they asked me to reconsider and enter as a competitor, I gave in. They'd caught me at a weak moment; my mother was delighted. Seems she'd been a Dairy Princess back in her Wellesley school days and apparently, I was going to carry on the family tradition.
At eighteen, I didn't enjoy being the centre of attention. I didn't think I was very pretty, or very smart, and I didn't want to pretend I was either in front of a bunch of judges. However, encouraged by my enthusiastic mother, I did my best. I worked hard creating a poster to represent my sponsor, the Lion's Club. I rehearsed my speech on the historical importance of country fairs dozens of times. My mother took me shopping for my very first "sophisticated" gown (which, in retrospect, was a hideous shiny leopard print thing that mean girls in school later referred to as "my tin-foil dress") and spent over an hour teasing my hair into a big blonde pouf for the big night.
To my great shock, I won the competition. I still remember my sister and friends leaping around joyfully in the front row when my name was announced, the big smile on my mother's face, and the confusion of my Russian grandmother, who didn't speak English and couldn't understand what the fuss was about. And I also remember the look of annoyance on the runner up's face, which, incidentally, was captured forever on film by our local paper.
I don’t remember much else about the Fall Fair that year, except for the fact that my royal duties included leading a cow around a giant bingo square during a round of Bovine Bingo – yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. Especially when you’re wearing a skirt and heels.
The sad part is that after the initial joy of winning, I didn't do much with my crown. It should have been an opportunity for me to get involved in the agricultural community, join a board or two, or at the very least, volunteer for Fair duties in upcoming years. Instead, I quietly shrank back into oblivion and only attended the functions I was required to.
I recently attended the Ripley Fall fair, which brought back all sorts of Queen-related memories. It was great to see the Ambassador and her fellow competitors beaming at the crowd as they sailed by on their parade float. They all seemed friendly with one another and were undoubtedly having a good time. I even had the opportunity to meet the Ambassador herself a few times as I wandered around the fairgrounds. She seemed genuinely happy to be there, whether she was selling tickets for a raffle or proudly showing me the 4-H pickled piglet. She embodied the wholesome, fun spirit of Fall Fairs, and there was no doubt in my mind that she would be an actively involved member of the community during her "reign."
I felt ashamed of my eighteen year old self, but proud of the Ripley Ambassador, and all the other Ambassadors in Tiverton, Lucknow and Kincardine. The newer generation of Fall Fair representatives gets what it’s all about to wear the crown for their community. And at least they won’t have to suffer through Bovine Bingo.