Royal return: Teens vie for revived Water Pageant’s crowns

Ten teen-agers who just might restore a cynic’s faith in the “species” have been chosen to represent Deschutes County’s five high schools and vie for the queen’s and king’s crowns in a new feature of the revived, second annual Bend Water Pageant.

Nine of the 10 students, all from the Class of 2002, met with reporters and each other for the first time Wednesday morning at Pioneer Park (Justin Little of Sisters High was at work, alas). None appeared shy or embarrassed to be wearing the kind of satin sashes long associated with beauty pageants, and instead expressed pride in a chance to represent their school and promote an event they had known little or nothing about before.

The Bend Youth Crew, which puts on the event with coordinator Ethel Stratton of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, turned to teachers and counselors in a bid to find students to nominate for the honor. Criteria included character, a grade-point average of at least 2.5, participation in sports or the arts, community service/involvement and leadership qualities.

In a year of proclaimed drought across much of the state, it’s somewhat fitting that the Water Pageant court was named in one of Bend’s rainiest weeks in months – but that the sun shone through Wednesday as the participants lined up for photos and instructions from Stratton.

“We could not have been more blessed,” she said.

Unlike most events around the region, there are no corporate sponsors for the Water Pageant. Instead, it is the signature fund-raiser for the Victims Assistance Program of Deschutes County. The state-mandated program, overseen by the district attorney’s office, is the sole recipient of all proceeds from the event.

Judges will pick pageant king and queen; but don’t call them princes or princesses

A panel of judges, including local business people, will choose a king and queen from among the 10 teens to reign over the festivities, scheduled for Aug. 13-19. Last summer, the Water Pageant was successfully revived after a 35-year absence, featuring a newly built, giant swan float on Mirror Pond and the theme, “Rediscover the Spirit.” This year’s theme: “2001: A Water Odyssey.”

The members of the court are: Erik Berglund and Kat Leatherwood of Bend High; Joe Meredith and Mari Hickman of Mountain View High; Shane Van Matre and Kara Rasmussen of Redmond High; Brian Collins and Shandi Isaccson of LaPine High; and Justin Little and Jamie Cundiff of Sisters High.

Note that, while any of them 10 may be crowned Water Festival king or queen in August, they are not referred to in the meantime as princes or princesses, only as members of the court. Stratton noted that even the Portland Rose Festival has dropped the historic moniker of princesses, in favor of “ambassadors.” The royal element isn’t what’s stressed, she said, but that the young people “are representatives of their communities and the school.”

The Water Pageant court will march in the July 4th parade in Redmond and a similar event in La Pine on July 7, and also will make civic appearances before such bodies as the county commission and city councils.

Cundiff said she’s done community service projects before, but “not on a citywide basis” like her new role. Berglund said the first word each participant got was a phone call in which Stratton identified herself as being with the sheriff’s office. “So she scared us,” he joked.

The original Bend Water Pageant, begun in the 1930s, also had its queens (no kinds), and Stratton said it was “a very political” affair. Businesses, such as the sawmills and insurance companies, would select a girl and sponsor her in the event. “Then they had to sell tickets,” she said, “and the one who sold the most tickets was named queen.”

Scholarships may be in event’s future; parade, walk/run added this year

The old saw about the Miss America contest is that it isn’t a beauty pageant, it’s a scholarship competition. And Stratton said the Water Pageant organizers are looking for assistance with the idea that perhaps the court members, or just the king and queen, also could win scholarships. (The court will grow to an even dozen next year, after Summit High School opens, she said.)

The Water Pageant again will include some popular events from last year’s revival, including a downtown barbecue and old West shootout, the Saturday morning “gravity drags” soap box races, a tea and fashion show, “queen’s ball” (family dance) and a family picnic Sunday afternoon at Drake Park.

But there are new elements this year as well, including a 5K run/walk on Sunday morning, and a Friday night twilight parade, for which the event organizers are seeking participants, from musicians to clowns or jugglers. Contact Stratton at 388-6659 or estratton@yahoo.com .

Source: The Bend Bugle ©2001

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