Whether the title is Fairest of the Fair, Dairy Princess or anything in between, a certain level of responsibility comes with a crown and sash. When I was little, I remember sitting on the sidewalk during parades in my county, mesmerized by a variety of flashy floats, pretty dresses and sparkly crowns. I wanted to be just like them.
Years later, a group of friends and I all decided we wanted to enter the Miss Jackson County pageant together. I filled out the paper work, got a sponsorship from the town ice cream stand and submitted my application. A few weeks went by filled with memorizing speeches, interviews, a banquet and dress shopping. Somehow at the end of all this chaos, I was honored with the title and, more importantly, a year-long experience I had grown up dreaming about.
Being a county princess is an exciting opportunity. I learned so much about the county that I still call home today, meeting a wide variety of people and making memories with the three beautiful women I was lucky enough to be on court with.
Last spring, I returned to my hometown area with a college diploma and nothing but possibilities ahead of me. My former pageant coordinator asked if I would be interested in filling her position. Having enjoyed my experience so much, the decision was easy.
In this first year as a coordinator, I've experienced the same joy as wearing the crown, but in a different light. Rather than living the experience and growing on my own, I've had the pleasure of seeing four outstanding young women from my community do the same.
I recall these same girls showing up for their interviews last summer and, while I wouldn't say they were even remotely shy, there were obvious nerves amongst the group. As the judges awarded titles and the court was named, the nerves began to fly away. By the end of the county fair that week, the group of four acquaintances had already molded into friendships, and that was only the beginning.
As the court wraps up the final weeks of their year of service, I can't help but reflect on the year, as well. Coordinating a court is no easy task - particularly when it involves balancing the schedules of four high school seniors - but it certainly has been rewarding. Seeing these girls grow in their friendships and appreciation for their community brings me great joy, and I couldn't be more excited to see them do even greater things as they head off to college this fall.
Young women like these are more than princesses: they are volunteers, leaders and, most importantly, examples of influence for the youth in our community. While this isn't something I fully realized when I was in their shoes, the four retiring Miss Jackson County court members put this idea in perspective for me this last weekend.
It was this court's final parade. Donning their crowns and sashes, the girls decked out the parade float for one final time before going through the lineup. As I watched the parade from the street, I couldn't help but smile.
Sitting down the street from me were two little girls in matching outfits. Amongst the sea of candy pouring in from various floats, the girls looked up from their candy bags, stopped what they were doing and grinned. As the float of princesses passed by, they excitedly waved to the float.
No matter if it is a girl on the street, a community member at an event, or even their own coordinator, one thing is certain: area royalty can have quite the impact on those around them. For the four girls on the float, their time may be coming to a close. For the two girls on the side of the street, a dream has only just begun.