Miss Herne Bay
We shall, this weekend, select the person who will represent our town as Miss Herne Bay for the 2008/2009 season.
On Easter Saturday the clans will gather at the Kings Hall where, in the company of representative Carnival Courts from around Kent the selection dance will be held and after for what for the contestants is probably a fairly daunting experience the Carnival Queen and her Court will emerge triumphant.
A bit of fun and froth, certainly. And why not? It is, though, at a different level, an event that involves a great deal of hard work and organisation, sets the scene for the following twelve months of community service and dedication, raises significant funds for the town's good causes and is in my view immensely worthwhile.
For a number of years now the Carnival committee have be kind enough to ask me, as the Chairman of the Try Angle Awards Foundation, to chair the panel of judges. It is a task that I both enjoy and regard as an honour. Let's be clear about this: The Carnival Queen selection is not and is not intended to be a "beauty parade". The young ladies who enter, or who allow friends to persuade them to put their names forward, take a great deal of trouble, certainly, to look and sound their best and to give a good account of themselves. We are, though, always impressed with the understanding that the entrants have of the task that, if successful lies before them.
And task it most certainly is.
The colour and the music and the excitement of the round of carnival parades is spectacular, as it should be. The Queen and her Court get to wear stunning dresses while seated on an always magical carnival float and they receive gifts of flowers and other goodies in the same abundance as they may receive accolades and silver cups for their presentation and appearance.
That is the "glamorous" side of being a Carnival Queen or Princess. Behind that lies a huge amount of commitment on the part of the Chairman of the Carnival Committee and, in the case of Andy Birkett, of his wife, Kate and a family that have to make their own sacrifices in terms of time and dedication to look after the team and to make sure that things happen in the right place, in the right order and on time. They are supported by a Committee that also puts a great deal into the Carnival year and that has done so during the entire time that I have been involved in the process. They in turn are backed up and supported when necessary by many of the town's statutory organisations, including of course the police, and by the volunteers that work so hard to make the Herne Bay Festival and its crowning Carnival a success.
Then there is winter! I recall a bitterly freezing and windy Saturday last Autumn when the Court turned out in all their shivering finery to support the Royal British Legion in its Poppy Day appeal and there have been too many other cold and wet occasions to list when the girls have put on their Glad Rags and their genuine smiles and in public brought some sunshine to the Town that, for a year, they represent. If they would, sometimes, prefer to be doing other warmer, less tiring or more sociable things with their young friends then that would be understandable but they do not let it show. It is no surprise that so many participants have, over the years, gained hugely in self-confidence and maturity from the experience and then gone on to highly successful personal careers.
In an age when it is becoming increasingly difficult, because of bureaucracy and `Elf `n Safety and Child Protection and all sorts of other correct and worthy but time-consuming inhibitions to persuade people to put time and effort into public service for and with young people I believe that we owe a huge and very public debt of gratitude to all of those involved in Herne Bay Carnival and, most particularly, to the Chairman, to the Queen and to her Court.
I have absolutely no idea as yet who has entered the selection process this year and still less who will succeed. I do know, though, that we are very lucky to continue to have a group of attractive, bright and enthusiastic young people prepared to serve the Town in this way and I hope and expect that whoever is on Saturday crowned as Miss Herne Bay 2008 will have a hugely enjoyable and successful year.