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Md. farm queen, tiara restored

April 16, 2004|by DAVID DISHNEAU

The farm queen is back.

One year after the Maryland Farm Bureau dropped the sparkling tiara in favor of a businesslike black blazer for its teenage "agricultural ambassador," directors have restored the royal trappings to the young woman who will reign over this year's state fair.

"There were a lot of members that felt that they stood out a lot better when they wore the crowns, and so they made the decision to go back to that," Earl Hance, president of the state organization, said Thursday.

Farm queen proponents say a tiara commands more attention than a blazer, and that creates more awareness of agriculture.

But others consider farm queens an anachronism, including F. Grove Miller Jr., chairman of the Maryland State Fair Board of Directors. He said that after Tuesday's Farm Bureau vote, some fair board members favor ending their association with the contest after this year.

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"A lot of us feel that it's a step backward as far as the contest goes. We made some changes last year that we felt were a step in the right direction. I guess they didn't turn out that way," Miller said.

Those who prefer an ag ambassador had hoped the contest eventually would be opened to boys, offsetting a decline in farm queen entries in recent years. The return to the old format limits participation to girls ages 16 to 19.

The Farm Bureau compromised on the attire, though. Jeffrey Griffith, a director from Anne Arundel County, said the queen and her court will wear "appropriate dress" during the fair, but not necessarily the gowns they don for the competition.

The blazer is out, though.

"It's a special event and it's a long tradition. And, like a bunch of farmers, we don't like to break tradition a whole lot," Griffith said.

The title comes with a $6,500 scholarship and a responsibility to represent Maryland's agricultural community during official appearances all year.

Griffith said he believes the Maryland Farm Bureau eventually will have an ag ambassador program, separate from the queen contest, with young men and women helping educate people about farming.

Evelyn Wilcom, vice chairwoman of the Maryland Farm Bureau's Women's Committee, said that's exactly what the board eliminated.

"We were very happy with the image of the ambassador," she said. "These young women, these very intelligent women, are competing in a men's world.

Let's give them credit for what they do and what they know, and not what they wear."

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