I can close my eyes and still hear the trumpets sound. The pause, and then my name being called out into the crowd, announcing me for the first time, "This year's Old Settler's Queen is...Shawnna Irvin." To understand what this particular moment means to me, we will have to take a step back in time.
When I was a little girl, my family would attend the queen parade at the Hillsboro Old Settlers festivities. I remember waving with a huge smile on my face to a long procession of beautiful girls with glittery, shiny dresses, riding on the back of these gorgeous, shiny convertibles. Their makeup and hair done meticulously.
As the emcee of the coronation introduced the girls one by one, he put each one in the spotlight. They walked the stage, paused at certain points to wave and pose for pictures from adoring fans in the crowd. This took my breath away.
"Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality, third runner-up, second-runner up, first-runner up..." through all of the trumpet sounds, the pressure and excitement was rising. My heart was pounding in my ears. Finally, they announced the Old Settlers Queen. I can't describe the feeling I had when they announced her to the world.
It wasn't until many years later that I realized just how much these girls mean to, not only Old Settlers Days, but to the community of Hillsboro as well. Without their hard work and dedication to selling tickets, there would be no Old Settlers Days.
I will be honest, that is not what drove me to sell $4,549.50 worth of tickets. What enticed me was the beautiful dresses, gorgeous convertibles, little girls waving at me in admiration, the feeling of hearing my name announced as queen, the feeling of the crown being placed on my head, and the satin robe draped upon my shoulders.
So, it was settled. I was determined to win Old Settlers Queen. My family and I worked very hard that summer. We stamped my name on the back of thousands of tickets. We mapped out Hillsboro and the surrounding towns, street by street. We contacted the paper and found out every date for fairs that summer.
The Hillsboro Moose Club was my sponsor, and they took me to every pancake and sausage breakfast, fish fry, meetings and various Moose events held all over the state.
My mom and grandma took me door to door every day. I would set a goal for myself that I would not take a break until I had sold $100 worth of tickets. My dad took me to every fair that summer.
I am in no way shy, but it was difficult at first to approach a perfect stranger and say, "Hi, my name is Shawnna, and I'm running for Old Settlers Queen. Would you like to buy some tickets?"
By the end of the summer, I was quite the little salesperson. I could walk up to anyone, anywhere and with much confidence say, "Hi, my name is Shawnna, and I'm running for Old Settlers Queen. How many tickets can I put your name on?"
I had 22 sisters that summer who I came to know and love very much. We all had a lot of fun and made lasting memories. Sure, it was a competition, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wanted to be queen. We knew that when it was all said and done, no matter who had won, we would always be a part of the 1990 Old Settlers Days.
I was 15 years old and had just finished my sophomore year in high school. I knew that if I had my license to drive and a job, I would not have been able to give the dedication towards running for queen. I don't for one moment regret my decision to run that summer. It was undoubtedly the best summer of my life.
I know that I touched on all the glamorous aspects of running for queen, however, it is also hard work. It takes dedication, drive, loyalty and respect for your community, organization and yourself to make it happen.
I realize that I was crowned queen, but for those who are not crowned queen, past and present, they should still walk away with their head held high, knowing that they played the biggest part of making Old Settlers a success.
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For more information about signing up to participate in this year's Old Settlers Queen contest, contact Lori Stewart at 217-532-5253 or Tina Jansen at 217-827-0498 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.