Parties reach accord on farm queens

State fair, farm bureau agree on contest form

May 15, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

The Maryland farm queen standoff has been peacefully resolved.

In one camp were those who thought farm queens seemed too old-fashioned in their tiaras and gowns. Their opponents thought the queens' updated successors, the agricultural ambassadors, were uninspiring in their businesslike blazers.

As a compromise, young women will compete this year at the State Fair to be Miss Maryland Agriculture.

The Maryland Farm Bureau and the Maryland State Fair reached an agreement yesterday after splitting over the best way to run the annual competition for agriculture spokeswomen ages 16 to 19.

"We had to work it out," said Andy Cashman, assistant general manager of the fair. "If we didn't have [the contest], the only people we were hurting was the girls."

After nearly six decades of choosing farm queens for their poise and agricultural knowledge, the organizations decided to update the contest last year by changing the title of farm queen to agricultural ambassador and removing the requirements for formal dress.

Many thought the changes would encourage more young women to participate -- and possibly open the door to male contestants.

But in April, after one year of the ambassador contest, the Farm Bureau's executive board voted to return to the previous way of running the contest.

The state fair, which holds the contest for women chosen by each county, was not prepared to move backward, leaders said.

The groups talked about having separate contests, with the bureau crowning farm queens, who would be excluded from their usual duties at the state fair, and a separate ambassador contest in Timonium.

Finally, representatives of both organizations decided that each county will choose a Miss Farm Bureau. (The name of the county will appear in her title, as in "Miss Howard County Farm Bureau.")

The winners will go on to a two-day Miss Maryland Agriculture contest at the fair, which is held each year in late August and early September. Dress will be decided by a committee and is likely to be business attire.

"It didn't seem reasonable for us to have two different contests," said Earl Hance, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau. And, he said, the contestants get a lot more exposure by being part of the fair.

"In the end, we're all here to promote agriculture," Hance said. "That remains the goal."

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