Tonawanda News — Like the event it’s named for, this year’s Canal Fest Pageant turns 30 today as scores of young women from the Tonawandas prepare to shine tonight before a panel judges at the Riviera Theatre.
The eventual crowning of a Canal Fest Queen this evening — as well as Teen Pricess, Junior Princess, Little Princess, Tiny Princess and Little Mister — is a tradition serving to kick off one of the area’s largest summer festivals.
But for most of the many bright young contestants hailing from the Twin Cities, the experience is also a rite of passage. Regardless of the outcome, the pageant is designed to put on full display the many achievements, idealism and, yes, beauty of some of the area’s best and brightest young women.
“We’ve had some pretty impressive former Canal Fest Queens, from teachers to a research biologist to business owners,” organizer Maryalice Demler, a Lumber City native and news anchor at Channel 2, WGRZ-TV, said.
The pageant’s emphasis on scholarship and community service, she said, is not to be overlooked, and stems from the event’s beginnings under the local chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Club.
Demler was a member of that group when the pageant was formed and holds the distinction of being the second Queen ever crowned in 1984.
“They were the ones who really emphasized scholarship. They wanted their Canal Fest Queens to exemplify professional women,” Demler, who took over organization of the event in 1999, said.
While Demler has herself exemplified those ideals, so too have many others to grace the pageant’s stage.
To mark the occasion this year, she said a PowerPoint presentation during the pageant will recap the past 29 pageant queens, and will include a visit by Phyllis Phillips, vice chairwoman of the organization New York State Women, an offshoot of the original Business and Professional Women’s Club.