One major part of the event’s festivities are the Regatta Princess and Queen pageants. And Heather Wood, Regatta pageant director, is once again preparing for this year’s pageants.
According to Wood, who has been pageant director since 2001, she has been involved with the Regatta for quite some time, and began her involvement as Regatta Queen in 1995.
“I was a tomboy and so my mom bet me I wouldn’t do (the Regatta pageant), and I did it and then won,” Wood said. “I found out it was a lot different then what I expected a pageant to be.”
She added that she ended up becoming more involved in the pageant world, and emceed the Regatta Queen pageant from 1996-2000. She also does pageant coaching in her spare time. In addition, Wood has been involved as Regatta co-chair for the past few years, but did not serve the position this year due to a scheduled family trip.
Wood described staying involved with the Regatta pageant as coming from her love of working with youth.
“I enjoy working with the youth and teaching them life skills through the pageant, like how to conduct an interview, healthy competition, gain self confidence and learn about yourself,” she said.
In addition, Wood described her ties to the community as keeping her involved with the Regatta itself. As for her job as Regatta pageant director, she described watching the pageant evolve over the years as being interesting.
“(The Regatta pageant) keeps me young, and to see the changing trends and see how things have changed from when I did the pageant — clothing, hairstyles and music — is interesting,” Wood said.
However, it is working with the contestants that makes the pageant enjoyable for Wood.
“Getting to know all of the different girls that come through the pageant (is my favorite part of being director). Some do it every year and some only once. It’s neat to meet different kinds of girls,” she said.
Throughout her years working with the pageant, Wood said that she has formed several fond memories. However, she described the 2008 pageant as being particularly memorable.
“At last year’s pageant we did a Dancing With the Stars theme and had 11 different men from the community who volunteered their time to do the open dance routine with the girls,” Wood said, adding that it was nice watching the men learn how to ballroom dance for the pageant.
According to Wood, being director of the Regatta pageant is quite a busy job as planning for each pageant usually takes almost a year.
“We start two weeks after the pageant at the end of July to plan for the next year. We come up with a theme, put together sound to it and work on the opening production,” she said..
In addition, judges, who are not Mason County residents to assure fairness, must be secured prior to the event. Also, props and sponsors must be lined up. According to Wood, there is more than $4,000 in cash and prizes for this year’s pageant, and the money all comes from local businesses. Wood said that she was grateful of the support from local businesses as it allows to keep the Regatta free event for both the youth and community.
Wood also coaches the Regatta Queen following the pageant to compete in the Fairs and Festivals Pageant, which takes place in January in Charleston.
“(The queen) competes against 80 queens from across the state, and the winner of the Fairs and Festivals Pageant is the queen of the West Virginia State Fair,” Wood said.
Prior to the pageant, contestants are required to attend practices. Wood described fitting in pageant practice and duties as director as being difficult at time to balance with her job as well as taking care of her two children. However, despite this she said that she enjoyed being involved with the Regatta.
“Our pageant focuses on having a great time. A lot of pageants focus on what is next — the next level. (The Regatta pageant) focuses on being yourself and really wanting the girls to focus on having a great time,” Wood said. “It is not about fitting in the mold of what someone else does. It is abut yourself and getting comfortable with who you are.”
Wood also described the Regatta pageant as helping girls gain valuable life skills through the private interview, which is the biggest part of the contestant’s pageant score.
“People actually don’t see the biggest part of the competition. Judges talk one on one with the contestants and get to now them personally,” Wood said, adding that the contestants must dress as if they were going on a job interview for the private interview portion of the pageant.
As for the Regatta, Wood said that she liked the event for what it offers to the community and encouraged others to attend.
“The Regatta is a free event. We don’t charge the girls an entry fee for the pageant, the major events a free and so is the concert. The only thing you have to pay for is the river cruises. We provide a whole weekend of entertainment that families can come to because it doesn’t cost a lot of money,” she added.
Wood encouraged others to be themselves and use their gifts.
“Be yourself. God gives everyone a special talent and that is your crown,” she said.
This is certainly one piece of advice that Wood has applied to her own life as she continues to use her talent to help young women find theirs through the Regatta pageant.
The Regatta Princess Pageant is slated for 6 p.m. this evening at the State Theater and the Regatta Queen Pageant will be 6 p.m. Thursday, July 2 at the State Theater.
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