Miss Fluvanna waves goodbye

By Page H. Gifford

Beauty pageants have been around since 1921 and started in Atlantic City. The reason behind the idea was to lure and keep summer tourists in town past Labor Day, hence the Miss America pageant. All of them centered around one theme, highlighting a young woman’s physical attributes. Nowadays, most are calling for a ban on what seems to some to be an archaic contest. Some cite the only reason for participation is scholarship money, if available.

Local festivals often featured a young woman wearing a crown and smiling at crowds reminiscent of ancient pagan rituals and this was a part of American life in rural small towns and counties. It was in 1950 when the Apple Harvest Festival was held in the fall to draw attention to Charlottesville and Albemarle’s vibrant culture and booming trade, especially in apples. In 1958 the name was changed to the Dogwood Festival in honor of the Virginia state tree and flower and is still held every spring.

It was the Lions Club that started the first Miss Fluvanna pageant back in the 1960s. In 1976 Three Chopt Ruritan Club took over the pageant from the Lions Club. Its first coordinator was Frances Tucker “Tee” White who made the first pageant a success. No one recalls much of the early history behind what transpired between the groups or how long the Lions Club had been sponsoring the pageant.

“I do not know why Miss Fluvanna was started but I think that with the surrounding counties entering young ladies into The Dogwood Festival that Fluvanna also wanted to be represented,” said Emily Payne, a member of the Three Chopt Ruritan Club. “The club members were excited to put on the pageant and see which young lady would win the title to represent Fluvanna County at the Dogwood Festival.  We were excited when Miss Fluvanna became the Dogwood Queen.”  

She adds that during the time the club was sponsoring the pageant they were fortunate to have so many people and businesses in our community to step in and help support it.  

Payne adds that when Three Chopt took over the pageant approximately 25 young women were vying for the title but as the years passed and other activities in the county were offered for the young women to participate in, she says they were lucky to get as many as five.  In 2020,  the last year they had the pageant, there were only three participants.

“There have been many young ladies who won and participated in the Dogwood Festival tell us how much they enjoyed being a part of the Dogwood Festival.”

With the decrease in club members and the lack of interest from the young ladies in the county, the Ruritans decided that they would no longer be able to put on the pageant. Any competition has to be one where women are vying for scholarship money using skills and talents rather than just looks. Young women today are focused more inward and cultivating their unique abilities rather than focusing only on outward appearance.

“I would love to see some other organizations in Fluvanna County take over the Miss Fluvanna Pageant so our county would be represented at the Dogwood Festival,” said Payne.

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