Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Parades, Pageants and Pies

My mom, sister and I at the Ethel Harvest Jubilee in tiny Ethel, Missouri.

Choosing the cutest, most vibrant baby during a beauty pageant is a nearly impossible task. I should know. Not only have I been sucked in to watching multiple episodes of Toddlers & Tiaras, my mom, sister and I judged the Parade Floats, the Ethel Harvest Jubilee Queen Contest, and the beautiful babies during the 52nd annual Ethel Harvest Jubilee this past weekend.

Ethel is charming, and you should see the surrounding countryside!

 Ethel is a picturesque Missouri town of 62 residents (according to the last census). The place is gorgeous, and the townsfolk are friendly and welcoming. Because Ethel is too small to have a football team, the Jubilee is kind of like a fair and Homecoming combined. The townsfolk were kind to us even after we judged three of their finest young women during the Jubilee Queen contest on Friday night. The town may not have been so forgiving if we had judged their babies first. 

Brandi kicks off the 52nd annual Ethel Harvest Jubilee.

Some of our favorite entries in the Parade.

 Accessible only by back roads and winding state highways, Ethel is not the kind of place most people visit. We ended up there only because the Jubilee’s emcee was my sister’s good friend and co-worker Brandi. Brandi hails from Ethel, and she wanted to get some unbiased minds involved in the Queen contest. We decided judging a beauty pageant was just one more unique and unexpected bonding experience for the three of us. It turns out, we were slated to judge the Jubilee Parade floats and the baby pageant, as well.

Going over the judging guidelines with Brandi and Bill.

Where the interviews took place. I'm glad I wasn't in the hot seat!
Never in my life did I imagine I would judge a beauty contest. Yes, I watched my share of Miss America pageants as a kid, hoping I would someday grow up to be as well-spoken, talented and beautiful as the contestants were. However, pageants have never been part of my life, and judging one has never been on my bucket list. I found the experience to be surprisingly rewarding. It was wonderful to spend a little time getting to know the girls. We put each on the hot seat and asked them as many questions as they could answer in four minutes. Believe me, four minutes can be a VERY LONG TIME. I found that when spending time with the three highly talented Queen candidates, I (obviously) focused more on their words and goals than I did on their looks or dresses. I was influenced by how poised and confident they seemed in front of the crowd and before us, their judges, though. Basically, the girls were all bright, talented and lovely, so the smallest details made a difference in how we appraised the overall character of each. 

The band played oldies, and inflatables were provided for the kids.
We visited the Food Tent for homemade frito and fruit pies and biscuits and gravy.
The Jubilee Queen coronation occurred Friday night. My mom, sister and I held places of honor during the parade, were introduced before a live audience, interviewed the contestants, devoured frito and fruit pies, and met a lot of good people. After our duties were finished, we stayed in a 4-star hotel run by the nicest hosts you could imagine. When I say 4-star, I mean the well-decorated and thick-toweled home of Kim and Kevin, longtime friends of Brandi’s family. We were supposed to stay at a well-known local hunting lodge, but, apparently, the whole place had been rented out by a film crew. I guess outsiders do know about Ethel. We were really grateful to Kim and Kevin, as they opened up their home without having had much time to prepare for visitors. 
When we got to the Jubilee grounds in the morning, we were treated to biscuits and gravy and Cokes. After taking in some sustenance, we were ready to judge the babies. The babies were divided into several age categories, and each was more difficult to judge than the last. Babies are adorable and just shouldn’t be pitted against each other. Everyone placed from 1st to 3rd, which you would think would make everyone feel good. It was horrible to see the faces of the mothers whose children received 3rd place, though. They would look morosely at their children as if wondering why we judges didn’t see their babies as the most special and darling in the world. And they all were. That was what made our positions as judges so incredibly difficult!

All in all, I had fun, but I don’t think I’ll quit my day job to become a full-time pageant judge. It’s just too much pressure!

With good ol' Missouri soil beneath my feet.
Also, while I hardly ever leave Missouri and haven’t ever left the continent, I find myself having the most interesting experiences despite these geographical limitations. I hope to be a world traveler someday (sooner rather than later), but I think, in many ways, you really can experience the riches of the world in your own backyard.


  1. What a unique experience! Gosh I can't imagine doing something like this myself...just thinking about it is bringing up thoughts and ideas that I'm not sure I've ever expressly considered (in this very specific regard). What it means to 'judge' and how we do it, what factors come into play, the difference between doing that privately and doing it 'publicly,' the subtle cues that build toward that decision and conclusion; how, ultimately, we always bring some measure of bias to the table. Also, being the 'interviewer'--I've never officially done something like that, I don't think. I HATE THE HOT SEAT!!! haha. I'm also trying to imagine being in your spot, and doing the same thing with MY mom and sister. Did you guys agree right away? Anyway, sounds like a definite memory-making weekend!

    ANYWAY, right this minute, I'm missing Missouri soil (and I have a hankering for biscuits & gravy). Look forward to being back there sometime soon!

  2. I don't like being in the hot seat, but, as a judge, you are endowed with power, simply due to the title. It was an unusual experience to be the interviewer. I felt like Simon Cowell, even though I am much nicer. I'm not nearly as judgmental, either, although my "duty" that evening was to judge.

    My mom, sister and I did not completely agree. I was smitten with one girl, but I was outvoted. I understood their argument, so I gave in.

    And it was definitely a memorable weekend that earned me a lot of ridicule at work (all in good fun, though).

    I hope you make it back this way soon!!