Blossom Pageant coordinators and candidates gathered in the basement of the Summerland Baptist Church recently to bake apple pies

Royalty program involves long commitment

Blossom time may seem like a long way off, but the coordinators of the Blossom Pageant are already preparing for the pageant weekend.

Blossom time may seem like a long way off, but the coordinators of the Blossom Pageant are already preparing for the pageant weekend.

Karen Hooper, or “Mother Karen” as the girls call her, is serving as a volunteer coordinator for the eighth year in a row. She started out as a parent volunteer. Both of her daughters have been past pageant contestants.

Hooper is joined by two other volunteer coordinators, Leanne Sieben for the fourth year and Pat Gartrell for the third.

“As a team we work very well together. We’ve all got different strengths,” said Hooper. “It is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding. What keeps me going is seeing the confidence level the girls build in themselves and in public speaking. It’s a skill they will use for their entire lives.”

This same sentiment was echoed by Sieben.

“What I enjoy most about working with these young women is watching them grow into confident young women…to be able to speak confidently and function in situations that they would not normally put themselves into,” she said.

As a parent, Gartrell saw the value of this personal development program. Four of her five daughters took part in the pageant over the years.

“I believe the program offers so many opportunities for young women to develop their self-confidence and to experience growth when they have the courage to step outside of their comfort zone,” she explained.

The Blossom Pageant is an eight-month program for Grade 11 girls. It not only builds confidence and self-esteem but also teaches life skills.

The three candidates chosen as Summerland’s Royalty spend the following year as youth ambassadors, travelling throughout the province promoting Summerland as a great place to live, work and visit.

The pageant coordinators visit the high school in June to recruit candidates. This gives those who may be interested the summer to find a sponsor. They then submit their application at the follow up meeting which is held at the start of the next school year.

“We have nine candidates and nine sponsors this year,” said Hooper. “Five of the sponsors are new. It’s great to get different businesses and service clubs involved.”

The candidates meet weekly on Monday evenings.

“Each Monday we either go somewhere different or we have presenters come to the meeting,” Hooper said.

The program relies on volunteers from the community to teach the candidates life skills, such as car care, fitness, etiquette, deportment, speech writing, public speaking and even dance. They also learn about Summerland’s history, municipal politics and tourism.

“We could not do any of this without the huge support we get from the community year after year,” Hooper said.

“All the money we use in the pageant is fundraised money. Sponsors pay a $275.00 sponsorship fee, but that goes directly to the candidate.”

This buys the girl one outfit which consists of a skirt, blouse, nylons, shoes, banner and name tag.

In order to raise funds, the coordinators and candidates bake and sell apple pies, sell tickets to a tea and fashion show and sell tickets to the pageant itself. The coordinators put a program book together that is also sold at the pageant.

“The candidates sell the ads and we make the book and submit it to be printed,” said Hooper. “It is very time consuming.”

Money raised throughout the year goes towards the travelling costs of the crowned royalty.

These three coordinators also send out pageant invitations to royalty in every B.C. community. They write the script and decorate for pageant night, acquire judges and hold dress rehearsals. They work with parents to plan a pageant dance and with the Kiwanis for a pancake breakfast.

Most importantly they are there to provide the candidates with emotional support throughout the year.

When the blossoms bloom in 2015, the 45th annual Blossom Pageant will be held at Centre Stage Theatre on May 1 and 2.