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WPF Pageant History


              The Pageant has been through various transitions, starting with a Queen with Ladies in Waiting, then a Queen and 2 Princesses, years later 1993 their names were changed to Ambassador and Attachés, in 1994 all three ladies were Ambassadors, 1995 saw the Pageant go back to having a Queen and 2 Princesses and has remained as that to present day. 

             Over the years, we have been very fortunate to have various Pageant Coordinators, each bringing something new and a little different to keep the Pageant a wonderful Winona Peach Festival event!   Thank you for ensuring that our Pageant has continued to offer this amazing opportunity to our contestants.

             Enjoy our Peachy Walk Down Memory Laneto see the evolution the Winona Peach Festival Pageant.

             Every year our Queen and Princesses have been ambassadors for the Peach Festival at various events; visiting Queen’s Park, riding on the float in parades, hostesses for the Ball, TV and radio interviews, just to name a few.  Each year has been a different journey for our Royalty.   The very first Pageant was held at in the Winona Secondary School gym, run by Cam Hooton and John Van Essen.  Our Royalty had a great year.   Johanna Van Essen was crowned Queen over the four Centennial events. Georgina (Smith) Beattie and Lindsay (Poole) Dobson were her Ladies in Waiting.   Johanna was invited to toss the first pitch in a Buffalo game between the Bison’s and Toronto Maple Leafs of the International Baseball League.  Johanna invited the players back to visit for Buffalo Burgers.  Johanna and her Ladies in Waiting, also travelled to Albany to invite the citizens of New York to visit the Fruit Festival.  The Queen and Ladies in Waiting also traveled to Toronto to push a wheelbarrow of peaches up the steps of Queen’s Park.  The Ladies in Waiting also gave guided tours of Bridgman, Puddicombe, Soltes and Szumilas farms as part of the Blossom Festival. 

             The Pageant was reintroduced in 1974, with Jean Swackhammer as the Pageant Chair.  Barbara (Lawrence) McMullen was the first official “Winona Peach Queen”.  The contestants were considered hostess of the Peach Festival.  At that time the Peach Festival organizations did not sponsor a girl, that tradition began in the late 70’s.  In 1977 Miriam DeWildt brought back a tradition started by Johanna, which was to push a wheelbarrow full of peaches up to Queen’s Park.

             In 1980, Marg White held the Pageant at Immaculate Heart of Mary Gymnasium.  The Queen would have the use of the Sarah Coventry “Tiara” on the evening of the Pageant.  This Tiara is the same one used in the Miss Canada Pageant.  The Queen and Princesses received a trip to the Sarah Coventry plant in Cambridge where they had lunch.  Each entrant received a jewelry gift and the Queen received a special gift.  It was suggested to the organizations that they hold “mini” pageants to choose their representative.  Also, it was suggested that the girl’s gown and banner (sash) was paid for by the organization. This year the girls did not say speeches because they were shortening the proceedings.

             In 1993 there was a lot of discussion regarding “beauty pageants” in a negative light.  While the Peach Festival Pageant has never been a beauty pageant, we do believe that all our Royalty are beautiful!   Since the main purpose for the Queen and Princesses was to be an ambassador on behalf of the Peach Festival, Susan Didtrek decided to try a different title for the ladies.  In 1993 we had one Ambassador and 2 Attaché’s.  In 1994, the title was changed again to Ambassador so that all the ladies were at the same status.  In 1995 it was moved by the General Membership to return to having Queen and Princesses as our Royalty titles.

               The Pageant provides the opportunity for our contestants to not only meet new people, experience new things and challenge themselves to grow and learn.  One of the criteria for the contestants was to take the monies given to them, purchase their outfit for the Pageant.  Bringing in their receipts to the coordinator to show that they could totally outfit themselves inside of a budget.  As time continued that criteria changed to them deciding how to spend that money making sure that they had their outfit.  We had one year when the Patti Gunell arranged to have the contestant’s dresses designed.  In 2004 Melissa and Pam Shuker became the coordinators.  They brought a new element to the Pageant, at the beginning the girls all came out and did a dance routine.  They also introduced a “business casual” section which is important since our Royalty may be called upon to represent us at different events.

             The scoring and questions asked each contestant have changed over the years.  We had the opportunity to have Eleanor Dick assisted us in the early 90’s to reformat our score categories.  Eleanor was very involved in the various Miss Canada Pageants.  Over the years, the judges that we had, include past Queens, past Princesses, Past Peach Fest Presidents, local business people, sponsors and one year we had Blair Lancaster, Miss Canada 1974.  Our judges are important because understanding the needs of the Peach Festival are paramount to ensuring that we get great representatives.  

             Norm McCabe, of McCabe Iron Works was the sponsor of the Pageant for many years.  We have been very fortunate to have generous local business’ who donate to the Pageant each year.  These are listed on the program and on our website.  Please support these area merchants, as they support not only the Winona Peach Festival but our wonderful contestants, Queen and Princesses.    

            Several past Queens and Princesses have been judges for our Pageant.   As part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations, all five judges are past Peach Festival Royalty.   Georgina (Smith) Beattie is a 1967 Lady in Waiting, Joanne (Golding) Tadeson 1982 Princess, Cheryl Skirving 1996 Princess, Saphia Khambalia 2005 Queen, and Chelsa Killey  2011 Princess.

            As you probably know, the Winona Peach Festival is totally run by volunteers.  Just as in the Wizard of Oz, behind the curtain it takes many people to make each event happen.   We are celebrating our 50th Anniversary and without these people, the Festival would not exist.  

            We congratulate all our past and present Pageant Coordinators and their committees on a job well done.  We congratulate all our Royalty, many who still support the Winona Peach Festival by volunteering on Peach Festival weekend or throughout the year.