Friday, September 2, 2011

Queen for a Year

This Sept marks the 10 year anniversary of my time as Miss Markham Fair, 2001. TEN YEARS. Oh my lands. I recently was sent a private message on facebook from a young lady who noticed on the Fair's site that I was a former winner, and she was asking me for some tips! I posted this as my facebook status, and it sparked a bit of interest, so I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the details of my "reign". Before I forget. Because I've already forgotten a ton:-/ Sorry, this post will be a little lengthy, but with lots of pics!

It all started mom had been pestering me for a few years to compete for the Fair Queen (now the politically correct Fair Ambassador). My Aunt Caralyn had done this in 1991 (ten years before me), and got runner up, and had a great time. And my mom always thought I should do it. 'Cause I had such a winning personality, I guess:-D

The Markham Fair is kind of a big deal. It is the largest fall fair in all of Canada! It was only about 3 km from my house, so we grew up devoted Fair participants and attendees.

They misquoted my age in the article as being 17. Lol.
Anyway. In 2001, she was on my case again. So was my Aunt. There was added pressure this year. After a year of health issues, we just found out the cause - that my mom had a brain aneurysm, and was getting surgery to clip the aneurysm in 2 weeks. It was a very risky problem and procedure, and there was a pretty decent chance that she might not live. I told her if she got the information, I would do it. (I thought I would be too old). Handily, she had the newspaper clipping application readily available for me to fill out. Sure enough, I was barely eligible, but could still do it. I was as old as you are allowed to be. So I kinda had a little complex that it was for younger people. I was 22, had a full time job downtown Toronto as a bookkeeper.
The night I won
I needed a corporate sponsor. GREAT. I was kind of willing to bail out at any chance since it "just couldn't work out". My mom thought I should ask my boss (Mazda Dealership). But I would have died of embarrassment. I didn't tell them I was doing it. But my sister Lauryn worked for a dentists office, and they sponsored me (Arsen Keleshian Dentistry - shout out to the sponsors!). Well. No excuses then! I was committed!
All the swag I won. It was awesome. I didn't realize I would actually win anything if I won, so I was surprised. Money, gift certificates, gifts, etc etc etc. It was so amazing!!
So I won. I hindsight, I guess it wasn't really a fair fight. I was about 6 years older than some of the other 17 year old competitors. I think it just gave me the edge of maturity, confidence, etc. Plus I wrote a good speech:-) They asked me all kinds of questions, and I wasn't entirely prepared. I mean, I am from a farming community, and family of farmers...but *I* don't know any of that stuff. I had to identify grains. Which I made up off the top of my head. Flax. Soy. Wheat. I honestly had no idea. I had to name breeds of cattle and pigs and stuff. I didn't study enough, that is for sure. So, I gave a decent speech, and answered an impromptu question well. Then they announced the winners.

Now, I wasn't wanting to win, or thinking I would. But there is a pang of human nature that comes out when you least expect it. They announced the 3rd and 2nd runners up. It wasn't my name. I was indignant, thinking, HEY, I wasn't that bad! I should've got runner up!! Then they announced the winner, and I was so mentally caught up over the fact that I wasn't good enough to place 2nd or 3rd that I heard it a few seconds late.

And I was standing on a ramp up to the stage. And I was wearing high heels. And I've always been known for being oh-so-graceful. I literally fell off my shoes. Which was awkward as they were also strapped to my ankle. Quick recovery and on to centre stage to be crowned.

Then I had to go into work and embarrassingly tell them that I would need 3 days off of work because I entered this thing...and I now I need to be there. Of course they were ok with it!

What a blast. All my initial fears - unfounded. What a phenomenal experience!
My sister Lauryn and I singing Oh Canada accapella to open the Fair. Not every Queen has to do this, just me, since I could. We did a GREAT job too!

The Fair and personnel there are SO nice! This was a bouquet for my mom. She was in the hospital still recovering from her aneurysm surgery
So I was privileged to be involved in each and every aspect of the Fair. It was educational and fun. A great life experience.
Greeting people and handing out info at the entry gates
I got to be on TV a few times over the course of the year! That coat I'm wearing was huge on me, but we had to wear them all the time, since they were given by a sponsor, GM. You'll notice that blue jacket throughout the pics!
TV interview. Come see us at the Fair!
These paratroopers were part of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. The air show was amazing. They all flew in and landed right in front of me! I got to stand on the place right where they all landed.
Here they all are!

Me and President of the Fair in 2001, Ray Brown. In our blue jackets:-)
And of course, another sponsor, Molson Canadian beer
My personal paparazzi. He literally followed me around day and night and took all of the pictures you are seeing here (and literally a million more). Doug Van Wolde. Great guy. We had fun!
My entourage, and golf cart. Mary Lyn, Me, Geri & Doug. They kept me on schedule and everything. I had to hand out personally, every award that was given. Lots of shaking hands and kissing babies. A small taste of politics.
Another really cool thing I got to do was start off the Winged Wheels show. They are amazing to see. The part I played? I was warned and lectured before hand. DO NOT FLINCH. They are riding around in their formations, and then blaze toward you, at full speed. I PROMISE I WON'T HIT YOU. I was clinging to that promise. He didn't hit me. He stopped right there, on a dime, at my shoe. I didn't flinch. Very brave of me, I wanted to start running! It was a little scary, but pretty cool.
Fun times!
Me and my little brother Lehman, at the Fair!
When I won, they told me I was allowed to opt out of handing out awards in one event. The horse pulls. You are right in the ring with them. They are HUGE. They are amped up and edgy because of the work they're doing. They could kill you. They come charging past you, and you have to get up there and clip the award on their bridle/face thing. I bartered with them. I'll do the horses if I do not have to set foot in the poultry barn. A deal was struck. My princesses, Andrea and Natalie did the chickens. I am deathly afraid of chickens. The horse thing was intimidating though. Seriously. The power that they have is out of this world! And I could barely reach most of the horses since I'm so short!
We got to ride all the rides and play all the games for free. That was great.
uuuh, a little dizzy!
So after the Fair is over, there is still more work for the Queen! I had to give speeches and attend events throughout the year. Every time I had to go to a fancy event, they sent me money for a new dress. They also sent me flowers after the events to my home. YES! I wrote a letter that was published in the newspaper...
Giving a speech!

Loved my tiara. Still love it. I actually used it as the headpiece in my wedding. It was fitting as it had been a "winning gift" from Patricia's Bridal in Markham, which is where I ended up getting my wedding dress a few years later!
I had to walk miles and MILES in 2 different Santa Claus parades. Really fun actually! I'm in the middle in my blue jacket with burgundy hair. This was I think the first time my face had ever been in physical pain from smiling so much, constantly. It ain't all sunshine and roses. Ow!
As a winner of this Fair, you're put on a sort of pageant winners tour or have to compete in other pageants and if you win those, you compete elsewhere too I guess. Anyway. This was at the CNE competition. The Canadian National Exhibition (the Ex) is kind of a big deal too. I in no way desired to win this one, thankfully the "team" behind me at Fair did not put pressure on me to do well or win. I really couldn't have handled all the time off work to do the CNE circuit of things, as cool as it would have been, I suppose. I also attended a few I can't remember what they were for. I got to stay at the Royal York 2 times though! It was soooo gorgeous, it was my first recommendation for a honeymoon location. Brian listened well.
I'm kind of middle, centre, with black hair (blue sash)
In Sept 2002, my reign was over! I had to miss the wedding of a good friend, as it was out of town, and on the same weekend of the crowning event. Such is life. I had such a remarkable time, with wonderful memories. I learned more about cows udders and sheeps wool than I ever thought I would too.
Crowning Miss Markham Fair 2002
In Oct 2002, Brian and I started courting! Actually, he was there the weekend of the Markham Fair, and we even volunteered in the information booth together! It was that very weekend that we officially began our relationship, and it was the very last year I ever attended the Fair, since by the next fall I was married and moved away. I sure do miss it every year though. Brian got to benefit from my winnings...I was still using up restaurant gift certificates and such. So we had some really nice dates, compliments of the Fair:-)
There you go, some memories officially documented and on the record for my kids someday. I sure do wish there was such a thing as a blog back then!
My sash today


  1. Why don't you plan to visit here some year when the Fair is on? Surely you can get ride passes for the kids for free (Thurs night!!!) and they'll have a ball!

    I can't believe you did that while your mom was going through her brain surgeries. In hindsight do you think being at the fair helped you cope with what your mom was going through???

    I LOLed at you walking miles and miles...girl, the Stouffville parade is 2 miles and the Markhan one is 2.6!!!! BUT, I will give it to you that in the COLD it seems like WAY more!!! :)

    Kenna must love your, it was a lifetime ago, wasn't it???

  2. I really want to plan a visit there sometime during fair time (and cdn thxgiving!) would be so great!

    I think it really offered up a great distraction. In a certain sense, I was distracted from the Fair b/c of all that, but I think the Fair also gave me the distraction I needed to not be constantly thinking about it. Busy days!

    It feels like 2 life times ago, really. sheesh.

  3. You need to tell the story about the speeches. Not only did your impromptu speech win it for you, your prepared speech was leap years ahead of the others.

  4. well, perhaps. But that was because I was leap years older than they were. And had had many more public speaking ops than they had:-) The impromptu q was hilarious, as I was THE ONLY ONE to answer it differently. ALL the other contestants said "farm animals". I said "demolition derby" in my sentence about my fave part of the Fair. So funny since it was all secret, none of us knew what the other said, only the audience did.

  5. Great recap Dar! I still remember how excited we were that you won! I am excited for the fair again this year, and yes, you definitely need to come back at fair time for a visit!!! Caralyn - I'll take some of those free ride passes :D

  6. Oh wow! I totally remember seeing you at the fair that year and being in complete awe of you. We have a picture of it (and you are in the blue coat:). That's crazy that it was so long ago!
    -Rachel G.

  7. Love this!! I remember going to the fair that year with Lauren (then Gallagher!) and you gave us the royal wave from your golf cart! Haha.