Fair royalty reunites

By Casey Peacock: Freedom Newspapers

Royalty reigned at the first Roosevelt County Fair Queen Reunion, held Friday at the Jake Lopez Community Center. Past fair queens, sweethearts and sweetheart princesses mingled with this year’s reigning royalty and contestants to share lunch and reminisce about years past.

Who the first Roosevelt County fair queen was seems to be a mystery. The first queen was thought to have been crowned in 1954, during the 48th Roosevelt County Fair. Information is now coming forward that there may have been queens three to four years earlier, according to Robin Cox, RCF queen superintendent.

A big part of the queen’s contest has been clothing, and styles have changed over the years. In the past, contestants were required to wear a matching suit, complete with gloves, scarf and hat. Many of the suits were made of polyester, said Cox. Today, the clothes have more flash and shine with crystals a popular accent, Cox said.

When Mary Kay (Taylor) Maloney was crowned Roosevelt County Queen in 1971, she was required to wear a squaw dress during competition at the New Mexico State Fair, she said. The modeling and speech portion of the contest were held at the Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative, said Maloney, with about 20 people present.

“I liked riding and the horsemanship the best,” she said. After she was crowned, Maloney said her only duties as queen were to hand out ribbons at the fair. She then had just two weeks to prepare for the contest at the New Mexico State Fair.

Today contestants have a year after being crowned at the county level, said Cox, to prepare for the state fair contest. Before the girls ever compete at the county level, they have practice sessions to help them with their modeling, speech and horsemanship, Cox said.

Crowned in 1955, Lela Jo “Red” Wall Halliday was also limited in her duties as queen. There was no speech or dress competition, only horsemanship, she said. The day of competition was basically all that was required and then on to the New Mexico State Fair, said Halliday.

“I think it’s great they do so much more than they used to,” said Halliday.

Things have definitely changed. Reigning royalty are required to hand out ribbons at all the livestock shows. They are also involved in the community, said Cox, promoting the fair.

“It’s a responsibility, not just an honor,” said Cox.