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Staff photo By JOANY NAZDINThe Queen Nicotina contestants are, in the bottom row, Andrea Duckett, left, Kayla Weimert, Lauren Dickerson, Lauren Wathen, Emily Dingus, Evelyn Brooke and Rachel Cutlip. In the top row they are Lacey White, left, Nina Garner, Brittany Hoffman, Abby Vandergrift, Meladeh Rabie and Ashley Lagana.
On Friday, 13 aspiring queens met at the Charles County Fairgrounds, to see who will be the 85th fair queen and who will be in her court.
A lot has changed in the 85 years the pageant has been held.
In 1933, Kathleen Reed Coontz, wrote a book, ‘‘The Magic Weed,” subtitled ‘‘A Pageant of the History and Romance of Tobacco.”
The title Queen Nicotina was born that year, although calling her court the court of the magic weed never caught on.
Evelyn Brooke, 16, of Bel Alton was nominated as a contestant by the North Point Honor Society.
‘‘The fairgrounds are my favorite place in Charles County,” Evelyn said. ‘‘I would have volunteered to help at the fairgrounds if I hadn’t been nominated as a contestant.”
Evelyn competes every year at the fair, and has for the past five years. Her Buff Orpington chicken was grand champion in the fair a few years ago, and she has also won best in show for a dollhouse she made out of corncobs and a sampler she cross-stitched.
‘‘I want to help people get better and also help the environment,” Evelyn said. ‘‘I plan on being a neonatologist, and I’m planning on studying pre-med at St. Mary’s College of Maryland when I graduate.”
Evelyn is one of the many contestants who plan to have futures that include helping others.
Emily Dingus, 17, of Bel Alton was nominated by Farmers Fortune 4-H Club. She attends Maurice J. McDonough High School.
‘‘I plan on being a dental hygienist,” Emily said. ‘‘I would be willing to go to Third World countries to help give them medical care.”
Emily is another contestant who has had some successful showings at the fair.
‘‘I have shown my goats and my sheep,” she said. Emily also feels that she would make a good queen.
‘‘I would like to be queen because it would be a great honor to represent Charles County in a positive way,” she said.
Lacey Katelyn White, 16, of La Plata was nominated by LifeStyles of Maryland, the social services nonprofit based in La Plata.
Lacey wants to be an obstetrician, and plans to study pre-med at West Virginia University after she graduates from La Plata High School.
One of the things that Lacey has done as a member of LifeStyles is organize a food drives at Thanksgiving.
Lacey enjoys playing volleyball for her team at the Capital Clubhouse. She also knows how important her education is.
‘‘Education is the biggest thing in life,” Lacey said. ‘‘It is how you base your future.”
Ashley Lagana, 17, attends the College of Southern Maryland and was nominated by the Indian Head Lions Club.
‘‘I am going to college to be a nurse because I like being around people and helping people,” Ashley said. ‘‘I plan to work at Civista [Medical Center] when I graduate.”
Ashley said she likes her hometown of Indian Head because there is a lot to do there.
‘‘Nobody thinks there is anything to do in Indian Head, but there is,” she said.
Rachel Cutlip, 17, is another nominee who thinks Indian Head is a great place to live.
Rachel, who was nominated by the Science National Honor Society, loves Indian Head because that is where she was born.
Her favorite subjects in school are science and chemistry. Rachel plans to continue her studies at St. Mary’s College and eventually become an obstetrician.
Rachel loves to play sports when she isn’t studying, and soccer is her favorite.
After a group photo, the girls were taken aside for an interview with the three judges. The judges came from King George, Va., and were judging the contestants on poise, personality, scholastic achievement, extracurricular activities and their personal interviews.
When Bobbie Baldus was the 17th queen of the fair, in 1952, the queen was selected by ballot.
‘‘There used to be ballots in the Times Crescent newspaper, and people would cut them out and mail them in,” Baldus said. ‘‘Whoever got the most votes would be queen.”
The queen was crowned by a politician, and many famous people would come to the coronation.
‘‘Strom Thurmond came one year,” Baldus said, ‘‘and we even had Jimmy Dean.”
‘‘It was quite an honor to be queen,” Baldus said. ‘‘It is still an honor to be queen.”
Maladeh Rabie, 17, was nominated by the 4-H Dog Club and wants to be a marine biologist. Maladeh loves all creatures, even the ones that live on land.
Maladeh has trained a German shepherd that was named novice state champion for obedience in Maryland at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium this year. She has shown her rabbits, chickens, sheep and dogs in the fair. Maladeh has only to win the title of queen to say she has done it all at the fair.
Besides showing her animals, Maladeh has worked the midway and given pony rides at previous years’ fairs.
Lauren Dickerson, 17 of La Plata was nominated by the Charles County Rotary Club of La Plata. Lauren attends La Plata, and also wants to go into marine science when she graduates.
‘‘I would like to be a chemical oceanographer,” Lauren said.
Lauren thinks that she would be a good person to be queen because she is a well-rounded person.
‘‘I go swimming, running and do scrapbooking,” Lauren said. ‘‘I also like to hunt for sharks’ teeth at Golden Beach.”
Lauren plays the viola in an orchestra, but isn’t choosy about her styles of music.
‘‘I like classical, and I like rock,” she said.
Abby Vandergrift, 18, who attends North Point High School, also loves to perform musically.
Abby was nominated by the Nanjemoy Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary.
‘‘I love music, singing as well as playing my guitar,” Abby said. ‘‘I belong to a chamber choir and am also active in school plays. I was Peppermint Patty in North Point’s production of ‘Snoopy.’
‘‘I am also asked to sing the national anthem at many different ball games,” Abby said. ‘‘I would love to be an educator, with a minor in music. I wish all the children everywhere had the educational opportunities that children here do.”
Abby believes she would be a good queen because she works hard and is active in the community.
‘‘I think I could represent Charles County well,” Abby said.
Louise Stine spoke to the future queens and court members while they were waiting for their interviews with the judges.
Stine was the 26th Queen Nicotina in 1961.
‘‘Some years, when we interviewed girls, we would be here till midnight or latter, there were so many girls who wanted to be queen,” Stine said. ‘‘Some years we would turn away more girls than we could interview.”
Stine remembered her year as queen.
‘‘It was a real exciting time,” Stine said. ‘‘We would involve all the 4-H kids with the fair, and starting in elementary school, kids would show a cake they baked and animals they raised or some vegetables they grew. Plus, during fair time, you get to see everyone in the community.”
Stine was discussing the wardrobe for the queens.
‘‘No sweatshirts or high-top sneakers,” Stine said. ‘‘No halter tops, either.”
Andrea Duckett, 17, of Budds Creek and Nina Lynn Garner, 17, of Newburg have volunteered this year to patrol the fairgrounds with the Explorers Club, a club that lets young people check out different jobs in law enforcement.
Andrea and Nina were worried that it would be hard to fight crime in a gown, heels and a tiara.
‘‘It is OK for you girls to dress more comfortably while on patrol,” Stine said. ‘‘You will still be representing Charles County well.”
Andrea, who goes to school at North Point, was nominated by the Explorers with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.
Andrea wants to get more people involved in their communities.
‘‘The community where you live is the most important place of all,” Andrea said.
Andrea wants to attend High Point University when she graduates and study human relations and criminal justice. She is one of several girls who think that maybe the name Queen Nicotina should be altered to fit the times.
‘‘I think the new name should have something about serenity in it,” Andrea said. ‘‘It would showcase a positive aspect of the girls presenting the name.”
Andrea’s partner in crime fighting, Nina, is sponsored by the La Plata Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary. Nina goes to North Point and is in the criminal justice program there.
‘‘I think I would have a lot to offer as queen,” Nina said. ‘‘I want to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”
Nina wants to keep the title Queen Nicotina.
‘‘You can’t break tradition,” she said.
Brittany Hoffman, 16, who goes to McDonough, also thinks cutting down on crime is important, but she wants to have a career as a veterinarian.
‘‘I work at Kamp A-Kom-Plish in Nanjemoy, helping out at the therapeutic riding program. I also volunteer for watershed cleanups and with the local Boy Scout programs,” Brittany said.
Brittany is active with the Mounted Wanderers 4-H club and shows her horses frequently at their events.
‘‘We had a horse show this last weekend at Oak Ridge Park in Hughesville,” Brittany said. ‘‘I got a ribbon in every class.”
Lauren Wathen was nominated by the Zonta Club of Charles County.
Lauren is 17, lives in Dentsville and attends La Plata .
‘‘I believe I am very driven,” Lauren said.
‘‘I have lived here all my life, and I feel I represent Charles County.”
Lauren loves cooking, especially Italian food. She plans to major in business or maybe accounting.
‘‘I would love to see everyone have the right to a good education,” Lauren said.
Kayla Weimert also loves to cook and bake. Kayla, 17, lives in La Plata and was nominated by the La Plata High School National Honor Society.
Kayla’s fudge won first place at the fair in 2007.
Kayla has been involved in the fair in past years, but thinks it would be exciting to be the queen. Kayla wants to become an architect and will go to college in Virginia.
‘‘I think it would be cool to build a big bridge,” Kayla said.
Kayla also thinks the title Queen Nicotina should be kept.
‘‘It goes back so far,” Kayla said.
‘‘It captures history.”
Ruth Brooke, parent of contestant Evelyn, is proud of all the contestants.
‘‘I am proud that the girls are part of a hometown tradition,” Brooke said.