Queen-maker prefers background role

Alexandra Blossom Festival princess convener Dianne Elliot displays the range of royal headgear...
Alexandra Blossom Festival princess convener Dianne Elliot displays the range of royal headgear on offer for contestants today. Photo: Jono Edwards
"You may be a bit old," Alexandra Blossom Festival princess convener Dianne Elliot says when considering  whether a certain 26-year-old male reporter is blossom prince material.

"But never say never," she said with a smirk that meant she really did mean never.

Mrs Elliot has run the Blossom Queen competition for 15 years, usually preferring to stay  behind the scenes.

She was festival  secretary from 1996 to 2008 and still  organises the volunteers who run the  five ticket stations.

The competition is not about beauty and does not mirror the pageantry of the likes of Miss America, she says.

"They don’t talk about world peace."

As early as June, she does her usual rounds canvassing  local businesses for prizes. This year’s prize pool is about $4800.

"I’ll walk into shops and they say ‘Oh no, not you again’."

The festival queen event has been part of the festival since its beginnings in 1957.

This year, the six  princesses and one prince have been taken to a host of events, including the Senior Blossom Queen competition, the festival art exhibition and mardi gras.

"At this stage I’m more or less in the background, reminding them of what they’ve got coming up, introducing them to people."

The winner is chosen by a panel of judges based on criteria including personality, presentation and community involvement.

"It used to be a public vote. If you were on the winning float, you were the queen."

The competition attracted a certain type of enthusiastic young person, and Mrs Elliot loved meeting them.

"They all have such a wide range of things in the community, you wonder how they have time to do their schoolwork."

This year, the competition has changed  in a small way due to the addition of its first prince, Alexandra Senior  Youth Forum  member Jeff Afan.

These included getting more male-appropriate prizes from businesses such as jewellers and beauty salons.

"We had to make sure when we went to the businesses  there would be something a male would want."

As recently as 2010 there were 15 floats and princesses, more than double  this year’s seven,  which Mrs Elliot cannot explain.

"People’s expectations are changing, but there are still people who think it’s important to keep the tradition alive."


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