The Emo Fair Queen contest is taking a break this year to revamp the event.
The long-running competition has seen a decline in participants over the years. From 2014-16, for instance, only four young women signed up to run—and then just three last year.
As such, co-organizer Laura McCormick said those on the Fair Queen committee decided to put the competition on hold while they brainstorm ways to give it a new look.
“We are going to take a good, hard look at how we can change it so that it can be a very positive experience for young women,” she remarked.
“To be out in the community, embracing that community-minded feeling and that volunteerism.”
McCormick noted there are no concrete ideas at this time but the committee will accept any input from the public.
“We're just going to pull other things in and at this point, I have no idea what that will look like,” she admitted.
“But we will start meeting immediately after the fair and we have some good changes, hopefully, in store for us.”
In the past, contestants would participate in various community and volunteer events, such as children's activities and parades, as well as judged events including a fashion show and interview, prior to the final decision and crowning of the new Fair Queen.
The young woman chosen as the next year's queen then continues with the community engagements, visiting senior residences, taking part in parades, and facilitating the Mini-King and Mini-Queen contest the following year.
McCormick said the event has been untouched in terms of change since it was created.
She added while it is important to hold onto the original core values, such as helping young women build confidence, break out of their shell, connect with their community, and meet new people, the committee wants to modernize the event in an effort to appeal to today's young women.
“We're looking at making changes to better suit young teens in our community now,” McCormick said.
Star Martin, the reigning Emo Fair Queen, said she decided to participate in the competition last year because, as a child, she looked up to the young women who were running and was excited when she was old enough to do it herself.
“My parents would take me to the different events that were held and they were just really big role models in my life,” Martin noted.
“I always knew that was something I wanted to do and just a goal that I had set for myself, so I was excited to finally be the eligible age to compete for Fair Queen.”
Since being crowned last August, Martin has helped out at various community events, as well as participated in a number of parades, including during the Emo Walleye Classic and “Holly Daze.”
Martin added she was fairly shy and introverted when she began high school but that becoming the Emo Fair Queen helped her break out of her shell.
“It definitely helped me branch out," she stressed. ”I had to talk to people and sell buttons and communicate with different people and volunteer in the community. . . .
“I also made a lot of new friends.”
Martin said she was disappointed to hear this year's Fair Queen competition was being cancelled but is enthusiastic about the committee taking a look at revamping the event.
She also noted many of the participants in recent years have been from Emo and is hoping to see more young women from outside the township participate.
“I feel like if we were to advertise it more to Fort Frances or the high school, and got more girls involved in it, it would be wicked awesome,” Martin said.
“What the purpose of Fair Queen is is to help with self-confidence and all the other responsibilities and leadership,” she noted.
“If more girls participate in it, it'll affect more girls around the community.”
The Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society's website states “the committee has decided to host a celebration of the queen competition on the Thursday night of the fair.”
McCormick said that planning is still in progress but, given the Mini-King and Mini-Queen contests are facilitated by the Fair Queen, they're looking at co-ordinating a joint celebration.
“We'll still be gathering on Thursday at the arena,” she vowed.
McCormick also thanked Mary Croswell, Deb Carlson, and Robin McCormick, as well as all community sponsors, for their continued support of the Emo Fair Queen competition over the years.
Those who would like to submit ideas about the event can contact McCormick at 276-2483 or Croswell at 487-1105.