|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM Earlier this year, there was a lot of concern over whether or not Wilbraham would host its annual Peach Festival. Patti Diotalevi was especially concerned about the loss of the Peach Queen competition.
"This is something most of Wilbraham enjoys," Diotalevi said, "and the pageant leads off the festival."
Diotalevi has been chair of the Peach Queen pageant for the past 21 years and she said she has always had the best volunteering job of the whole Peach Festival crew. "I totally enjoy it," she told Reminder Publications. "The girls and I become like a mother/daughter team [and] it gives me the opportunity to stay in touch with the high school, now that my children are grown."
Any girl from Wilbraham can apply to be in the pageant, as can girls from Hampden who attend Minnechaug Regional High School. Diotalevi said every girl who applies is accepted into the competition and that she works with them for a full week before they compete for the crown.
Last year, 15 girls participated in the pageant. Nine competed this year.
The girls opened the pageant with a dance number, and this year danced to "Baby Love" by the Supremes. After that, they stated their name, their occupation and why those chose that occupation (and were rated on the delivery of their answers); then they were rated on their walk and pageantry; and then they participated in the most important part of the competition, according to Diotalevi each girl had to write and then memorize a speech anywhere from three to 20 minutes in length, and they were rated on the speech's content and their poise.
In the event of a tie at the end of the main competition, the girls with the highest scores will select a question from a bowl and have to "think on their feet," Diotalevi said.
Winning the title of Peach Queen means several things: that that girl will be an ambassador to the Peach Festival, she and her court will have to ride in the parade, participate in other town activities and earn money for college.
The Peach Queen receives a scholarship from the Wilbraham Community Association, sponsors of the pageant, for $1,000. The runner-up will receives a scholarship for $500 and all other contestants will earn $300 each.
"It takes a certain girl to enter the contest," Diotalevi said. "She's got to have a certain amount of confidence in her to even apply. If she thinks she can do it, then she really can do it. The contest helps bring the inner part out. It helps them shine."
This year's Peach Queen pageant took place on Saturday at the St. Cecilia Parish Center. Look for an article on the winner and her court in an upcoming edition of The Reminder.