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Speical Section: Altamont Fair Preview Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 7, 2008

Pageant reunion: Former director, Miss Altamont Fair winners share memories

By Jo E. Prout

ALTAMONT — New Miss Altamont Fair pageant contestants will be joined onstage this year by four former winners and a former director.

The reunion was the suggestion of former Miss Altamont Fair Jackie Flynn two years ago, according to the current director Shirley Fronk. Fronk, her husband, Lawrence, and her daughter-in-law Mary are running the pageant this year, the Fronks’ fifth year. For 15 years before, they assisted former director Patricia Leigh Dwyer, Shirley Fronk said.

“We felt this was good timing,” she said. Fronk admitted that, although the idea was Flynn’s, they have been unable to communicate with her to invite her to the reunion.

Fronk said that the pageant is open to girls and women from ages 5 to 105, with those over the age of 22 entering the Ms. Altamont Fair category, whether they are single or married.

“It’s a good way to help young ladies become young women,” Fronk said. “It was hard for me as a kid growing up — low self-esteem.” Fronk said that being in a pageant can help girls with the same problem. “I just felt it was something worth getting into.”

Calling the contest an “all-natural pageant,” Fronk said that the only makeup girls can wear is lip gloss. Hair pieces and provocative clothing are not allowed; only modest clothing is acceptable, Fronk said.

“Our goal is to not look for the outer beauty of anyone, but to look for the inner beauty. We hope each one feels like a winner,” Fronk said. “Just to get on a stage is an accomplishment.”

“A good experience”

Patricia Leigh Dwyer now lives in Atlanta, Ga., but she started the pageant in the late 1970s.

“In 1975, I entered the Ms. Bicentennial pageant run by the town of Guilderland. I won,” she said. The pageant was held at the fairgrounds. The next year, the fair director asked her to run a “beauty queen” pageant for the Altamont Fair, she said.

“Right away, I lost the words ‘beauty queen,’ ” Dwyer said. “I called it Miss Altamont Fair.” Dwyer had been modeling clothes she made in 4-H competitions since the age of 8. She introduced winners of the Miss Altamont Fair pageant to the different superintendents at the fair booths, she said.

Miss Altamont Fair served as a representative of the fair, she said. “Winners would be around the fairgrounds the whole week. They would go to the state fair and be an advertisement for the Altamont Fair with her banner. They were always in a gown with a tiara and a banner,” Dwyer said.

“It was a good experience for the girls. I just saw them blossom,” she said. She said that she encouraged girls who thought they were not pretty enough or confident enough, and she coached each entrant.

“It was for anybody. It really got to be quite popular. It really was for girls who would never, ever dream of entering a pageant,” she said. She would watch girls who were terrified of speaking publicly and wonder, “Where did that poise come from?” she said. Interview scores were worth 60 percent of the contestant’s points, she said.

“The girls were really phenomenal. They would get up there and shine. It made me proud,” Dwyer said.

Dwyer danced with the Atlanta Ballet at the age of 16, then returned to her family in Guilderland, where her father was a superintendent at the Altamont Fair.

“My heart has always been in Atlanta,” she said. She moved there five years ago, after raising her family here. On her return for the pageant reunion, she will be able to see for the first time a plaque at the poultry building honoring her father.

“I’m really glad that Shirley and Larry Fronk kept it going after I left,” Dwyer said. “It’ll be good to get back to the fair and the fairgrounds. I can’t wait to see all the girls and see old friends.”

This year, individual interviews for the younger girls will be conducted privately, instead of publicly as in the past, Fronk said. Parents will be allowed in the room, but the judges will deduct points from the girls’ scores if parents try to coach the girls.

Asked if she would enter the Ms. Altamont Fair category, Fronk said, “I’m 65, and not interested.”

The application deadline for all categories is Friday, Aug. 8. Applications must be in the fair office by 3 p.m.

Always a winner

Former winners Debbie Bush, Amy Osterhout Anderson, Jessamie O’Brien, and Yvonne Perry Hulbert will assist with the crowning ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 12. During the ceremony, each will briefly discuss how the pageant helped shape their futures, Fronk said.

Perry Hulbert, who uses Yvonne Perry as her stage name, is a Voorheesville native who spends her time now as an adjunct theater professor, director, and actress. She will return to the fair this week after working on the soap opera All My Children in New York City. She is playing a doctor in a recurring role on the show, she said.

“I grew up in Voorheesville by Indian Ladder Farms. Going to the fair was a big part of my childhood,” Perry Hulbert said. “I just would do anything to be onstage. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a beauty queen.”

Perry Hulbert said that she won other local pageants, too.

“It was an opportunity to learn something new. I just thought they were cool,” she said. She enjoyed having to answer questions “on the spot,” she said.

“It was great fun and then I got to be in a lot of parades,” Perry Hulbert said. While representing the Altamont Fair, she once rode in the Schenectady Christmas pageant, she said.

“I’ve never been embarrassed about being in pageants,” she said. Even at the age of 16, when she won the pageant in 1983, Perry Hulbert considered an acting career.

“My motivation was to learn everything about presenting yourself in public. There were not a lot of opportunities in Voorheesville at that time. I had to think outside the box,” she said. “I really ate it up. I liked what it stood for. And, as one of six kids, any attention I could get was welcome,” she joked.

“I remember not telling anyone,” she said. “I didn’t tell anyone at school that I won pageants. I got to ride an elephant, I remember that.

“The hardest part of being in pageants was that I didn’t have any gowns. I wore an old prom dress at the Altamont Fair,” Perry Hulbert said.

She remembered that she had to borrow a dress from her science teacher, Ms. Tilkington, to ride the elephant while representing the Altamont Fair.

“I’m just glad that the fair is still there,” she said. “That was the first time I was on the radio. Now, I work on the radio all the time.”

Perry Hulbert and her husband, Mark, have two daughters, ages 6 and 8.

Perry Hulbert teaches acting classes at the University at Albany, and has taught at Siena College and Union College.

“It keeps me humble and connected with what I do,” she said. She said that students are not taught in high school how to talk or how to listen. “I’m teaching them how to communicate,“ she said. “A lot of kids really struggle.”

In acting classes, she said, “They blossom. I love the students.”

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