An event fit for a queen

County fair royalty candidates present auction

Each Thursday, four girls trek from all over the peninsula to the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles working toward the same goal: to be able to win the title and wear the crown, as young women have been doing here since 1953.

The girls, Sequim’s Ruminta Carpenter, Lauretta Walker from Joyce, Port Angeles’ Suzy Hamilton and Kendra Zellar, who travels each week from Forks, are asked to sell as many tickets as they can to the annual auction the royalty committee holds, and to bring in items to be put up for bidding.

The candidates receive points for each of these, along with their attitude and ability to work as a team, and those points are added to those they earn at the actual competition, held in March.

“It’s all based on points,” said Laurie Davis, royalty committee member. “These girls work really hard.”

The annual auction, to be held Jan. 26, is the contestants’ first chance to show off their poise and attitude.

“We tease them, saying they’re like Vanna White during the auction,” Davies said, referring to herself, Karan Edington and Bridget Stumbaugh, her fellow committee members. Davies added that the contestants also help decorate for the auction based on the year’s theme; for the 2008 fair, the theme is “Encore PerFARMance.”

“I think it’s really neat what they’ve done,” Davies said, referring to the scarecrows and hay the contestants have used along with farm-themed decorations.

So far, according to Davies, the bidding items the contestants have brought in have been varied.

“It’s been interesting to see,” she said of the items, which range from bark and sand to gift certificates for pedicures. “We have a nice bunch of items.”

The auction, now in its 12th year, raises money for the scholarships that the queen and princesses receive. According to Davies, the queen receives $500, each princess receives $400 and a Ms. Congeniality receives $100.

Although a male has only made it to the competition once — a Sequim boy entered this year but dropped out recently — Davies said the contest is open to anyone in the county who is registered in an educational program, not necessarily in the public school system. Carpenter, for example, is home-schooled in Sequim.

Once the royalty court has been determined, the queen and princesses travel to nine parades throughout the season, beginning with Sequim’s Irrigation Festival. The group, which includes the royalty committee members, travels to Port Townsend, Silverdale, and as far as Port Orchard, and also participate in community service activities such as Relay for Life. All that time together, Davies explained, creates quite a bonding experience for both the girls and the royalty committee members.

“We eat together, we ride together, we get up early together,” Davies said. “Everyone becomes close.”

On one particular Thursday in late December, the contestants are joined by three members from the 2007 court, some of who are home for the holiday break. As they walk in, the queen and princesses refer to Davies, Edington and Stumbaugh as “Mom,” a testament to how close they become.

“We didn’t ask for (them to call us Mom), they do it on their own,” Davies said, delighted. “They just do it.”

Although the 2008 Clallam County Fair isn’t until August, Davies said the contestants and committee have been hard at work since the late fall, and says “the process really is a 12-month thing.”

When the logistics are over and it’s time to shine, however, Davies said the work is well worth it.

“It’s really cool when we go to the Sequim Irrigation Festival and it all just comes together,” she said. “It makes it all worthwhile.”

Dining and bidding

What: The Clallam County Fair royalty committee annual dinner and auction

When: Jan 26, chicken dinner at 6 p.m., auction begins at 7 p.m.

Where: Clallam County Fairgrounds Expo Building, 1608 W. 16th St., Port Angeles

Tickets: $6 for adults, $3 for seniors and youth under 10, $25 for a family of five

Contact: Laurie Davies, 681-2024