Before the South Vienna Corn Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend, Thursday, Sept. 8, will bring the final curtain on the Festival’s kickoff event.
The Corn Festival Queen Contest will have one last walk down the runway, also known as the South Vienna Elementary School stage, at 8 p.m. with nine Northeastern High School seniors vying for the title.
The event is open to the public.
The Corn Festival itself will be held from Friday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Sept. 11.
While the Corn Festival is going strong, changing times have caught up with the Queen Contest, said contest coordinator and festival co-chair Toni Keller.
She said time demands like never before, including commitments to sports and other activities, have made it harder for candidates to attend rehearsals and other contest-related events.
“It’s just gotten harder getting it all together,” Keller said.
The contestants begin their involvement when school ends, including meetings, learning a dance for the contest night and helping promote the festival including painting logos in town.
The new queen is required to participate in the Corn Festival, and represent it at South Vienna’s Christmas event, area Memorial Day parades, London’s strawberry festival and other area events and festivals if she can.
Even those who don’t win can also participate as attendents.
Keller has been the contest coordinator all but the two years, when her daughter competed. The early years saw as many as 15 candidates and accepted both juniors and seniors.
The first queen couldn’t have been a better advertisement for the Corn Festival, being named Terri Corns.
The stage had no curtains, but a backdrop was built and pictures added by an artist.
“It was a lot of work back then,” Keller said.
With so many girls, it made quite a crowded stage, so the contest was modified for only senior girls.
Keller said over the years former queens have been willing to pitch in when extra help was needed.
There are five judges involved. The contestants first have an interview at a tea event the Tuesday before the Contest. On Contest night, they participate in a choreographed opening dance, do an individual talent and answer a question before the winner is revealed.
Although the Queen Contest is ending, 2017’s Corn Festival will bring a new opportunity for Northeastern seniors. Scholarships for $1,000 for one boy and one girl will be awarded. Keller said the details are still being worked out.
Keller admits she may be emotional when this year’s contest nears the conclusion.
“The girls have to write an essay and each always talks about being a little girl and seeing all the dresses and how nice the stage looks and how they want to be up there and then they are,” she said. “It’s something our little community is proud of. It’s touched our heart.”
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