Editorial: Have pageants had their day?

17:34, Jan 05 2014

Some editorials begin without a clear idea of where they might lead.

This is one of them.

The topic: Caroline Bay Carnival beauty pageants. The reason for the uncertainty? A desire not to be too critical of the carnival programme given attempts to tweak it in recent years; the fact the carnival relies so much on the goodwill of volunteers; the reality that it brings people from out of town; and the amazing fact it has been running for 103 years.

So something is obviously working.

And the beauty pageants are as much a part of the formula as the merry-go-round and free concerts.

Oh, and I am a bloke, so may have a different perspective not shared by at least half of the population.


Why then is it a topic for discussion?

Because a number of people have commented on the low entry numbers this year: three in the Miss Caroline Bay contest and five each in the Princess of the Sands and Queen of the Carnival events.

Once upon a time there were so many entrants they had to hold heats. Once there were so many people in the audience the pageants just seemed so ... natural.

So when three or five entrants are on stage, and the concert crowd has largely moved on, questions start to be asked. It does not seem so natural any more.

I wonder how the entrants themselves feel.

The explanation for the low numbers might be as simple as the weather.

Or maybe times have caught up with the concept.

That is certainly not the case in the mind of Caroline Bay Association president Kevin Ancell. He is quite firm that the pageants will stay: "We intend to do exactly what we're doing for the next 100 years", saying they help young girls with self-confidence and potentially to further their careers.

Good on him, no mixed messages there.

Yet, is the drop-off in interest due to other things?

Like sexual equality, like the internet and privacy issues.

The carnival is known for its grassroots family appeal. There is something old-fashioned and homely about big wheels and candy floss, and games and talent quests. But maybe beauty contests don't fit any more.

Contests with low numbers are embarrassing to watch and, I'd imagine, to be a part of.

Give it one more go next year but perhaps look at the format and the inducements to take part.

The Timaru Herald