Crown­ing a queen

Maryland Independent - - Community - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­

The glitz and glam­our of one of the county’s hon­ored and es­tab­lished tra­di­tions, the Charles County Fair, lies with the an­tic­i­pa­tion and crown­ing of the fair queen ever y year.

The first county fair was held in 1924 at Chapel Point in Port To­bacco as a way for farm­ers to cel­e­brate their crop har­vest. To­bacco reigned supreme in South­ern Mary­land at the time, and had for hun­dreds of years.

In an at­tempt to add en­ter­tain­ment to the fair and rec­og­nize the back­bone of the county’s econ­omy, the Queen Ni­cotina pageant was launched in 1933 and has been held all but three years since.

In 1936 there was no fes­ti­val due to the de­creased to­bacco price and a poor har­vest. In 1943, there was no queen due to World War II. In 1958, a Ter­cente­nary Queen was crowned in place of Queen Ni­cotina in honor of the county’s 300th an­niver­sary.

The pageant queens have been re­ferred to as sev­eral ti­tles through­out the years, in­clud­ing To­bacco Queen, Queen of the Fair, the most pop­u­lar lady in Charles County, and Queen and the Court of the Magic Weed. The name has been ques­tioned in re­cent years with con­cerns that it pro­motes un­healthy to­bacco use, but more have since de­clared the name to be a tra­di­tion and con­nec­tion to the past.

“It’s his­tory, that’s all it is, it’s our his­tory and her­itage,” Louise Stine, a mem­ber on the board of di­rec­tors, said of the name. “It has been dis­cussed many times. It came up again this year and so we dis­cussed it and the gen­eral con­sen­sus is that when you talk to other peo­ple, it’s our her­itage and our his­tory and you can’t change his­tor y.”

Stine said a poll was con­ducted in re­cent years to get feed­back from the com­mu­nity about whether the name should change from its ref­er­ence to the to­bacco plant or not.

“There was a gen­eral con­sen­sus of the pub­lic that year that it was part of our his­tory and her­itage. We’re not en­cour­ag­ing smok­ing at all, that’s not what we’re pro­mot­ing,” Stine said.

Over the years, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­test has changed. The year 1981 saw the largest num­ber of queen hope­fuls with 28 ap­pli­cants that year. This year and over the past few re­cent years, Stine said the num­ber has re­mained around 10 ap­pli­cants mean­ing ev­ery­one makes it onto the court, which used to con­sist of 13 young ladies.

Stine said she wor­ries that, be­cause the ap­pli­ca­tion is due the week af­ter most stu­dents go back to school, the tim­ing is too hec­tic and not as many of the county’s young girls know about the pageant from be­ing in­volved in var­i­ous county or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Girl Scouts, 4-H and church youth groups.

Stine her­self was crowned queen in 1961 when she was 17 years old. At that time, the queen was de­ter­mined by an ap­plause me­ter driven from the au­di­ence. Which­ever con­tes­tant re­ceived the loud­est ap­plause won.

“Oh, ev­ery­one wanted to be queen,” Stine said. “And we didn’t event have a schol­ar­ship but it was such an honor.”

The first queen was Ethel Martin Bowl­ing, for­merly of La Plata, who was crowned the first year of the con­test in 1933. Fifty years later, her grand­daugh­ter, Sharon El­iz­a­beth Wood, then 17, was crowned the 50th Queen Ni­cotina un­be­knownst to the im­par­tial judges.

“She was happy to have car­ried on that tra­di­tion from my mother and that meant a lot to her,” Pat Wood, Ethel’s daugh­ter and Sharon’s mother, said of her daugh­ter’s crown­ing.

Trag­i­cally, Sharon died of colon cancer two years ago. Ethel died in 1993 at the age of 79.

“Mom said she never dreamed she would have a grand­child that would share that ex­cite­ment with her,” Wood said, re­call­ing her mother’s glee when Sharon won the ti­tle. “I still have [my mother’s] dress and crown. She wore a red vel­vet gown. Ev­ery­body said she

looked so pretty be­cause she had black hair and with the red vel­vet they said she looked very re­gal.”

Wood said she re­mem­bered her daugh­ter’s ex­cite­ment, and dis­be­lief, when she was named the 50th Queen Ni­cotina.

“She was be­side her­self she was so ex­cited,” Wood said of Sharon. “She said, ‘Mom, I can’t believe I won.’”

When Bowl­ing was crowned queen, nom­i­na­tion bal­lots were sent through­out the county and she was cho­sen by pop­u­lar vote. By the time her grand­daugh­ter was up for the ti­tle, the process be­came what it is to­day: con­sist­ing of a panel of im­par­tial judges from another county who se­lect the queen based on her scholas­tic achieve­ments, poise, ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, ap­pear­ance, pre­sen­ta­tion and a per­sonal in­ter­view.

Wood also had her time to shine in the con­test. She said she also re­ceived the pop­u­lar vote dur­ing a Chapel Point dance that, for years, was tra­di­tion­ally held in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the fair. How­ever, at 16, she was one year too young to have been nom­i­nated. When she came of age the fol­low­ing year, she had grad­u­ated high school and be­gan work­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Look­ing back on the ex­pe­ri­ence, she says the cur­rent process of choos­ing


Ten young women will vie for the 81st Queen Ni­cotina crown, and $1,000 schol­ar­ship, to­mor­row evening. The con­tes­tants are Madi­son Stan­ley, back left, Maria Miller, Amanda Cle­ments, Tina Robert­son, Tay­lor Cov­ing­ton, front left, Rachel Nueslein, Cal­lie Magin­nis, Jensen Con­klin, Abi­gail Tar­bur­ton, and Re­becca Gian­nini.

Pat Wood holds a photo of her daugh­ter, Sharon Wood, when she was crowned Queen Ni­cotina in 1985, 50 years af­ter her grand­mother, Ethel Bowl­ing, was crowned the first queen in 1933. Sharon died two years ago from colon cancer and Bowl­ing died in 1993 at the age of 79.

Louise Stine pre­pares the 81st Queen Ni­cotina con­tes­tants be­fore their per­sonal in­ter­views Fri­day be­fore the open­ing of the Charles County Fair. This year’s queen will be crowned to­mor­row evening dur­ing the corona­tion cer­e­mony at the fair­grounds.


Ethel Martin Bowl­ing, crowned the first Queen Ni­cotina in 1933, stands with her grand­daugh­ter, then 17-year-old Sharon El­iz­a­beth Wood, who was crowned the 50th Queen Ni­cotina in 1985.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.