Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Lovely Girls Contest

The Rose of Tralee contest started last night and was all the talk on the radio and around the kettle at work today. I'm not sure I understand how it manages to draw in a million viewers when no one will ever admit to watching it. But, being as this is the silly season, the talk radio especially gets a lot of mileage out of it. Is the Rose of Tralee outdated? Does anyone care? Is it really just a Lovely Girls contest?

The Rose of Tralee is sort of like the weather - it's subject matter for idle chit-chat with people you don't know very well. While I was waiting for the kettle to boil this morning, one of the students who is working over the summer asked me if I was watching the Rose of Tralee. I shook my head and then she asked me a question I've never been asked before. "Did you ever have any ambition to be a Rose?" (There are, after all, International Roses, including a Chicago Rose.)

I decided it was time to come clean about my past beauty pagent involvement. No, I'd never had any ambition to be a Rose, but I was once Little Miss South Park and I competed for the title of Little Miss Parma. The suburb I grew up in, Parma, had an extensive park district and they would have summer activities at all the parks. It was a great way to pass the summer afternoons - by going to your local park and participating in arts and crafts or organized games or whatever was on the schedule for that day.

The suburb also had two "beauty" pagents each year - Miss Parma and Little Miss Parma. Miss Parma was your standard Miss America type pagent, minus the talent portion. Little Miss Parma was the junior contest and it was for girls between the ages of 5 and 10 or 12 (I can't remember now which). To compete, you had to be registered for activities with your local park and had to win at the local park level. Then, on a Friday night in June, the contest was held near the big fountains in Parmatown mall.

This wasn't any scary little-girls-parading-around-like-miniature-women-creepy contest, like the ones you were subjected to endlessly during the whole Jon-Benet Ramsey thing. No, this was a wholesome sort of popularity contest. Girls weren't allowed to wear make-up or nylons for the contest. The big prize for the winner was getting to ride alone in the back of a convertible in the Fourth of July parade. Any girl who won at the park level also got to ride in a convertible in the parade, but the losers had to ride three to a convertible.

I was never the girliest of girls, but I really wanted to ride in a convertible in the parade. I don't know why - I just liked the idea of waving regally while perched on the back seat of baby blue '57 Cadillac convertible.

I can't remember how old I was, but it was the last year I was eligible to compete, so I was something like 9 or 10. I'd been going to South Park for activities for weeks, so I knew the counselors very well - three college kids - two boys and a girl and they seemed impossibly mature and grown-up to me. The day of the competition, Suzanne, our babysitter, curled my hair and encouraged me to practise answers by talking into the curling iron, while she held it like a microphone. I was a little nervous so she tried to loosen me up by encouraging me to swear, which just caused me to collapse into a fit of giggles because I never had the nerve to utter a single swear word until I was 13.

The competition at the South Park contest was not very tough. I think three other girls showed up and I won fairly easily. I was confident and smiled and answered in complete sentences such tough questions as "What is your favourite television show and why?" (The Dukes of Hazzard because Bo and Luke are cute.) and "What do you want to be when you grow up?" (A doctor, probably a pathologist.)

I won the title of Little Miss South Park because I knew the judges and was comfortable with them. At the big night in Parmatown Mall, I was a disaster. I didn't know anyone. The crowd seemed impossibly large. I forgot to smile. I don't even remember much of the contest at all. I do remember seeing a picture in the local newspaper the next week - the subject of the picture was the little cutie who was sitting in front of me. Cutie is grinning up a storm and in the background, you can see a scared little girl with long hair who looks like she might burst into tears at any minute.

I don't remember if I was disappointed about not winning, since I was going to get to ride in a convertible in the parade anyway. The girl who won bore more than a passing resemblence to Miss Piggy and she smiled maniacally throughout the whole competition. I don't even think she showed up for the parade. She missed out. Riding in a convertible during a parade was everything I'd hoped it would be.

That's the story of my foray into the world of Lovely Girls Contests. Somewhere, in a box in my parents' attic, there's a purple ribbon sash with the words Little Miss Parma and a picture of a little crown, all made out of glitter.


At 21 August 2007 at 20:38, Blogger laurie said...

you learned at an early age the truth--that most people win stuff because they know the judges and are coached well!

i love the idea of you being Miss south park. i picture you as extremely smart, with a gigantic round yellow head.

At 21 August 2007 at 21:26, Blogger Dave P. said...

Little Miss South Park...and you think you know a gal after all these years...

At 21 August 2007 at 22:38, Blogger laurie said...

ok, there's a freudian slip. one of the zillions i've left on blogs around the world, i suspect.

i said "extremely smart," and of course that is TRUE. it goes without saying! i DO picture you as extremely smart! always!

but i meant to say "extremely small." like those tiny little south park.... oh never mind.

so does "around the kettle" conversation in irish workplaces sort of mirror "around the water cooler" conversation in american offices?

At 22 August 2007 at 00:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are probably unaware that your mother was once mistaken for THE Cabbage Queen at a local festival in a petite town on the west coast during the famous road trip to California. You've always had royalty in your blood or maybe that is gas......AL

At 22 August 2007 at 07:27, Blogger -Ann said...

Laurie - You know, I never associated my local park with the later television show of the same name. It wasn't until today when I was relating this story and my co-worker mentioned it. And as for the Freudian slip, I didn't even catch it.

Dave - Yes, I had a whole other life before the goth girl pictures you got to see.

Aunt Lois - I didn't know! That explains everything.

At 22 August 2007 at 09:59, Anonymous Conortje said...

Ahh gorgeous post (as always). I am from Tralee and when I was a little boy (very little) I used to go around getting all the roses' autographs. Ahh the innocence.

At 22 August 2007 at 19:21, Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

I always preferred the Fr. Ted version. At least it was supposed to be a cringe fest.

Oh, and laughing all day at the South Park thing. I hope you told none of the locals about it.

At 22 August 2007 at 20:34, Blogger Kaycie said...

From what I gathered about you on your blog, I would never have pegged you as a paegent kind of girl. I do think it's cool, though. I myself am a big fan of riding on the back of a convertible in a parade or around the football field. Great fun to a small town girl!

At 26 August 2007 at 15:22, Blogger laurie said...

i have bestowed an award upon thee. stop by dogblog to pick it up.

At 26 August 2007 at 18:28, Blogger -Ann said...

Conortje - That's so sweet.

PS - I did admit it to two of the student workers, but I didn't go into tons of detail. :)

Kaycie - Maybe at that age I knew that was my last chance to ride in the back of a convertible in a parade, since I knew that Homecoming Queen festivities weren't really going to be my thing.

Laurie - Thanks very much. I will have to add that to my blog soon. I have to screw up my courage whenever I muck about with the template. :)

At 28 August 2007 at 04:24, Blogger Amy said...

Hiya. I'm stopping by from Laurie's dog blog. That's a great story that makes me feel better about little girls in pageants. Have you seen Little Miss Sunshine?

BTW, Luke Duke used to live just around the cornfield from me. My friend Denise is his cousin, although a distant one. When we played Dukes of Hazzard at recess, she always wanted to be Luke, which was fine with us because we all liked Bo better.

At 28 August 2007 at 22:07, Blogger -Ann said...

Amy - Thanks for stopping by. I loved "Little Miss Sunshine" - it was a great film. I feel like I've had a brush with fame, seeing as how you were Luke Duke's neighbour and all.

At 29 August 2007 at 22:24, Blogger amy said...


At least we all know you were MUCH smarter and able to produce complete sentences...unlike Miss Teen South Carolina who recently couldn't explain why people can't find countries on maps. I am sure you did South Park and Parma proud.

At 1 September 2007 at 07:30, Blogger -Ann said...

Amy - Thanks. Funny enough, that very topic - of the rambling response to the why-can't-people-find-things-on-a-map came up at a work lunch on Thursday.


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