Strawberry Festival full of memorable opportunities

I thought the stressful days of the Troy Strawberry Festival were behind me.

Years ago, I was the tapped to be the Troy Daily News bed race driver. The enormous pressure placed upon my shoulders by group sports editor David Fong kept me up at night. Literally. I couldn’t sleep 48 hours before or after each bed race.

He still brings up our victories to this day. I believe it is one of his highlights in his life right behind marrying the most kind and patient woman on earth and having his two children. I know it’s at least in the Top Ten.

This year, I looked forward to being able to enjoy the annual Troy Strawberry Festival without stress or the lack of sleep.

Yet, I found a new venue to share my Strawberry Festival stress among the masses.

I was asked to be one of three judges for the 2015 Strawberry Festival pageant by the committee chair Jennie “The Queen” Hewitt.

It’s kind of cool to have those sweet connections.

At first I tried to get out of it. Then I realized I was overqualified. You see, I have no pageant judging experience other than watching the event each year for the last seven years. The Queen must have thought those 35 hours of observation counted. In fact, this was the first year I haven’t covered the event due to the fact I was actually judging it. It was finally my turn.

To be honest, I was terrified. Terrified in the sense that I knew how important this small town event was in a young girl’s life.

You see, I call my best friend “The Queen” because she was the 2000 Troy Strawberry Festival Queen. Back then, we weren’t really that close of friends like we are today. Yet, it’s funny how this small blip of an event pulled us closer together more than 15 years ago.

I remember sitting in the audience during that pageant. Jennie and few other girls from our high school were participating and my group of friends were there to cheer them on.

We were the wild, crazy teens screaming with excitement after she sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and when she was crowned. It was a big deal.

So I knew how important this event was to these young women’s lives. There was no way my 18 year-old self could have walked across the stage in a prom gown. I would have tripped or fell over just trying to stand still. I also doubt my interpretation of Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time” would have been well received.

So I took this judging gig pretty seriously.

I probably made the process too over the top. You see, we (meaning the media) have to stay in touch with the winners at the festival, after the festival, and before the next year’s festival. So we like the chatty, sweet ones. Trust me, some queens are easier to interview than others.

It was fun to get to know all the girls in the short time they were in front of our judge’s table. We asked some tough questions and got some great answers. Each one had great qualities and I tried to hunt my favorites down to encourage them to try again next year.

So it’s probably no surprise that I literally almost had a panic attack trying to make sure the most deserved participant was the clear and obvious winner in both spirit and in soul. It’s a memory for a lifetime. Heck, I can remember Jennie winning 15 years ago and I wasn’t even in the show!

I honestly believe we got it right. Miss Bobbi-Jo Myers was sweet and a quick-witted speaker during the intense interview session which no one else sees but us. And boy, can she sing.

So when the numbers from the whole pageant added up to selecting her as the winner, I knew I could sleep at night.

Just don’t ask me to judge the Little Miss and Mr. Strawberry contest. Ever.