Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 123 - Confessions of a Grape Queen Contestant


In high school I entered a pageant for the title of "Grape Queen."  The tradition of the Pennsylvania Grape Queen started in 1929. I was glad to follow in these footsteps.  To be honest I didn’t know the first thing about the difference between grapes.  I just knew if you looked out my back door, you saw nothing but miles and miles of grape vineyards. I was sixteen at the time and I remember having to show up at different events as part of the Queen's Court in the week prior to the pageant night.  One of the things they had for us was a luncheon with a guest speaker.  The guest speaker taught us the importance of taking care of our skin.  As we ate chicken salad out of carved out tomatoes, we were shown how to NEVER EVER push down on our face when washing it. As I was wondering where the bread was for the chicken salad and what do you do with the tomato after you eat the chicken salad, I learned something new. Over the years, gravity pulls on our skin and it doesn't need any help by pushing it down daily when we wash it. We were taught to always push up when we washed our face.  For over thirty years, this is how I've washed my face.  I'm not sure I'm winning the battle with the forces of gravity but I am doing my part. 

At another luncheon we were taught that keeping good records was very important.  Particularly since at that time, women didn't have much to do with the handling of money.  Men made the money and handled the money.  This was a new generation of women they were trying to raise and it was clear by the women who were running this event we were part of that new generation. The speaker gave examples of how to make this easier in the way of bill paying. She said, she knows a woman that opens every bill the day that it comes in the mail and writes the check that day.  She puts the date on the outside of the envelopes to tell herself when to mail it.  That way she only handles the bill one time.  Wow, that was impressive!  She must have had a lot of money in order for her to write checks before all the money came in or else she had to write them and wait to send them later when the money finally did arrive.

We had to compete in three areas: our knowledge of grapes, a talent competition and an evening gown competition.  The winner had to travel throughout the entire state representing the title so they had to have an extensive knowledge of grapes.  During the talent portion of the pageant, I sang Over the Rainbow.  My mother met me afterward and said with tears in her eyes, "You sang beautifully, I didn't know you could sing."  Truth was I couldn't.  She was just being a mother that loved me through those rose-colored glasses she wore.  In fact, my English teacher pulled me aside the next day after I had lost and asked why I hadn't danced? Her implication was that I should have used one of my other talents as that one wasn't so good. I explained that I had practiced with my pianist for three weeks and I had borrowed a real square dance dress with the big skirt that I couldn’t just simply return. I couldn't just "change" in midstream. The right thing for me to do was to stick to my commitment as I wasn't the only one who had parents coming to see them.  What about my faithful pianist?

Our float wasn't as nice as this one from Arkansas!
We gathered for the Grape Festival Parade and road on an old hay trailer sitting on hay through the town and waved.  That's the closest to royalty I ever got and it was fun waving like a Royal Highness. It was absolutely crazy now that I think back on it.  In my town, we had a Grape Queen, an Apple Queen and a Cherry Queen Festival which all produced the state's Queens.  The year I ran 1981, an “outsider” girl had the audacity to enter our pageant.  It was unheard of for a girl that wasn't from our town to win the title of the Queen for the entire state of Pennsylvania.  But she gave it a whirl.  She didn't win, but I have to give her credit, she came in as 2nd runner-up.  Another lesson learned if you want to win, you have to do what the winners that came before you have done to win. 

The 1981 Grape Queen, Robin Roth, that was chosen that year ended up having to relinquish her duties to the runner up due to "circumstances" that were unbecoming of a Grape Queen.  She was ripe with seed if you know what I mean.  She was able to keep her title and is still listed as the 1981 Winner but the 1st Runner Up carried out her duties for the balance of her term. There is a current list of winners at: https://sites.google.com/site/pastategrapequeen/

Last year there were only two girls that ran.  They now call all the contestants the "princesses."  See I was a princess and didn't even know it.  I knew there was a reason why I have a tiara. They also asked previous winners to come back to celebrate the event. They have even added the winner’s married names to their maiden names on the list. 

Thirty years or so ago, Robin deserved to win that night. She did a monologue about praying to God and contemplating suicide.  She was so convincing that everyone was crying. Her performance was fit for Broadway.  Robin clearly did the right thing and was a winner that night for more than the reason of gaining the title of the PA Grape Queen. The group of people who maintain the list have also done the right thing and left her name on the list.  There should never be any shame for a woman who bears fruit…Let’s all have a glass of white wine and drink to that!


Pleasure is a shadow, wealth is vanity, and power a pageant; but knowledge is ecstatic in enjoyment, perennial in frame, unlimited in space and indefinite in duration. ~ DeWitt Clinton

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