Clarke Fair queens are advancing at state level
Berryville — The Clarke County Fair Scholarship Pageant isn’t at the top of its game yet, but it is getting closer, according to organizers.
For the past two years, the winner of the local pageant who has gone on to compete in the Miss Virginia Association of Fairs Pageant has made it into to the top five, director Doris Brennen said. Before 2011, that feat hadn’t been accomplished since the 1990s, she said.
Miss Clarke County Fair 2012 Natalie Flagg, 17, of Millwood, was third runner-up at the Miss Virginia Association of Fairs pageant, which took place in January in Hot Springs with 32 girls competing.
Miss Clarke County Fair 2011 LeslieRae Conner of Boyce placed fourth at the state competition in 2012.
In her five years as director, when Doris has taken girls to the state competition, she said Clarke County has done progressively better.
Although a girl from Clarke County has never won the statewide competition, Doris hopes to change that in the future.
“That is my goal. Before I am finished being director of Miss Clarke County Fair, I will have a winner at state,” said Doris, of Boyce.
The goal is even more important now since, starting next year, the state competition will be reinstated as a preliminary event for the Miss Virginia Pageant, she said.
Every year is a learning experience as Doris prepares for the pageants, which always open the Clarke County Fair in August. This year’s 59th annual event will run Aug. 11 to 17.
Doris started in 2008 as the director of the Junior Miss Clarke County Fair Pageant and then took over the Miss CCF Pageant in 2009 and the Little Miss CCF Pageant in 2012.
“The paperwork involved in all three pageants is a lot of work,” she said. “My summer is pretty much dedicated to the pageants and getting ready for them.”
She has been steadily trying to build up the Miss CCF pageant, which is for girls ages 16 to 22, and that starts from the outside in, said Katie Brennen, who is Doris’ daughter, one of her assistant directors and was Miss CCF in 2006. More focus is being put on the interview and what the girls want to give back to the community instead of just how they look onstage.
“That is a portion, but the brains have to be there,” said Katie, of Boyce.
Part of the reason Doris thinks the Clarke County girls have been doing better at state is that the local fair is holding them to a higher standard. She has been recruiting from programs like FFA and DECA, an association of marketing students, because the programs teach students how to talk to people and have good interviews.
“I have had girls who haven’t done anything like that and have done well, but not quite as well,” she said.
Since the interview counts for 50 percent in the judging, having experience in it often helps give the girls the confidence to sign up for the pageant, Katie said. The casual and evening wear categories count for 25 percent each.
Natalie, the daughter of Mike and Mary Flagg, is the state historian for Virginia DECA and will represent Clarke County High School as a princess during the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival this spring.
For the interview, which is held the Wednesday before the pageant, contestants talk about their platform. Natalie’s platform was grief support for military children.
The motivation behind it was personal. Her grandparents, Rear Admiral Wilson F. “Bud” Flagg and Darlene “Dee” Embree Flagg, died during the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., aboard American Airlines Flight 77.
Afterward, her family joined Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and attended a camp over the following Memorial Day for grieving families. her platform is aimed at any military children.
“I am basically taking what I learned from TAPS and sharing that,” she said.
During the pageant, the top five contestants answer a question of Doris’ choosing. The 2012 question asked what two places the girl would take a first-time visitor to Clarke County.
Natalie first chose her family farm, Daybreak Farm, where the Flaggs raise black angus beef cattle. Her dad works on the farm, and her mother is employed by Mattel Inc.
She also picked the new high school, because it is something “Clarke County became proud of this year, and my class is the first graduating class.”
At school, Natalie is involved in track and is a cheerleader. She is thinking about going to a college where she can continue in track and pursue a degree in business, but she hasn’t decided where.
As part of the competition, she also had evening and casual wear competitions. For the casual category, she wore a coral sundress, jewelry and heels. For the evening wear, she had a yellow gown with one shoulder strap, encrusted with jewels on parts of the bodice.
At the end of the night, she was accessorizing with the Miss Clarke County Fair crown and sash.
The following week was a mad dash of handing out ribbons and making appearances. In the months that followed, she also made appearances at Ruritan Club dinners, the school’s homecoming, and the Berryville Christmas Parade. She also will be appearing at the Easter event at Long Branch.
Natalie was also Junior Miss CCF 2008. “When I did Junior Miss, it was for something new,” she said. “It was a really good experience.”
Starting the junior miss competition for 13- to 15-year-olds is one way Doris hopes to encourage girls to become excited about staying with the pageant and trying for the Miss CCF crown.
She invites former winners to come back and give the participants pointers. Last year, former winners walked through the stands selling 50-50 raffle tickets to benefit the pageant.
In addition, she is trying to increase the amount of scholarship money the winner receives, which this year was $500. She wants to build that up to at least $1,000.
“I didn’t start putting Katie in pageants until I realized there was money in it for scholarships,” she said.
Although Doris knows television shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras” have put a “bad taste in people’s mouth” about pageants, for many directors, the main point is that their events are scholarship competitions and great community events.
The night of the pageant during the fair, the stands are always packed with members of the community who love watching the pageant, she said. “This is the event to kick off the week.”
For more information on the Clarke County Fair Scholarship Pageant, go to clarkecountyfair.org.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org