Durham News

5 tips on attending Durham’s annual Beaver Queen Pageant

Scarlett O’Beavah during the evening wear segment of the Beaver Queen Pageant in 2010.
Scarlett O’Beavah during the evening wear segment of the Beaver Queen Pageant in 2010. Submitted

Dirty Beaver totally pulled me in.

All her “talent” required was a long piece of plastic and buckets of water. As Scissor Sisters crooned “Because you are filthy, oooh and I am gorgeous,” Dirty Beaver explained her “quest to get clean” via interpretive slip ’n slide. She wore a pink, skirted one-piece bathing suit, a cap – and a tail.

Her handler drenched her before she dove head first two times down the the plastic hill. The third time she slid down in a forward split.

Simple, but genius.

The moment led me down my own slippery slope of competing and winning the Beaver Queen Pageant in 2010 as Scarlett O’Beavah.

Some people say I raised the bar a bit with my Facebook campaign, entourage of six beautiful ladies, Mardi Gras swag and evening wear that, of course, included curtains. (Hey, if it was good enough for Scarlett O’Hara ...)

But that was nothing compared to today’s pageant contestants.

Recent talent segments have seen Beav Aldrin (the 2014 queen) performing an aerial routine on silks, and Furrah Gnawsett-Major (the 2013 queen) playing the Star Wars theme on the clarinet while hula hooping.

The 2015 queen, Mz. Polly Nator, put on a skit that featured an evil scientist, honey and dozens of people (me included) holding elaborate puppets and props.

On Saturday the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association will hold its 12th annual Beaver Queen Pageant, a mix of folly and pageantry to protect and restore the creek, which collects about half of the city’s stormwater and is one of the dirtiest creeks in the Falls Lake Reservoir Watershed. The creek flows more than 20 miles through North Durham.

Contestants don’t have to dress like beavers. Instead they take on personalities, like Fur Pelton John, the Beave Whisperer and Furrabella-Conchita Carramba.

Scarlett’s back story included fleeing Tara and dedicating her life to Beaver Country. She started a Big Beaver Brothel, boasting her beavers had the cleanest wetlands in the South.

Beavers are judged on their talent, wetland and evening wear. Team Scarlett sweetened the pot a bit with judge care packages that included champagne and homemade cookies. Audience members “bribe” the judges to vote for their favorite, and the emcee’s commentary is laced with double entendres.

This year’s contestants are:

▪ Purdy Holsom Beaver, a singer-songwriter, “rapper wrong-writer.”

▪ BeaverJuice, who comes from the “land of the damned” and is on a quest to make Ellerbee Creek a “beautiful haunt.”

▪ Miss Muffy Beavereau, a master dam and hut builder.

▪ Twiggy Sawdust , a rock and roll wizard, emerging from his “labyrinthian dam with magic at the tip of his tail and music clenched tightly in his paws to bring happiness, joy, and equality to beavers everywhere.”

▪ Carry Beaverwood, the youngest contestant ever, is a singer/songwriter who has produced and recorded hits such as: “Gnawed Away,” “Hey Good Kit,” and “Before He Gnaws.” Carry is the creation of Ashlynn Davis, 10, of Clayton.

Let’s be clear. This silliness is for a good cause that goes beyond Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. (For the record, the pageant raised about $21,350 last year for the watershed.) The pageant is backed and generally attracts people who work very hard to keep Durham interesting, diverse and open.

Mz. Polly, aka Joanne Andrews, teaches art at Rogers-Herr Middle School. Mz. Polly spent her year raising awareness about the importance of honey bees and pulling their advocates together.

Some of her work will come to fruition on the Monday after the pageant when the Durham City Council is expected to a adopt resolution designating Durham as a Bee City. The designation encourages collaboration among bee advocates in raising awareness about the contribution of bees and other pollinators to the environment and food system.

“It gives a framework for how a city and residents can think about pollinators and helping the environment,” she said.

As queen I earned a crown, a gift certificate to Piedmont restaurant and a flower pot. At the end of my reign, they took the crown back. But I bought another one. And, believe or not, people still remember Scarlett.

I was covering a Durham County Board of Elections last week and someone got down on one knee, tipped his baseball hat and said “my queen.”

I laughed like it was nothing. But on the inside, I was beaming with Beavah pride.

If you go:

What: The 12th annual Beaver Queen Pageant, a free, family-friendly event

Where: In the meadow at Duke Park – at Acadia and Knox streets, Durham

When: Pre-pageant activities start at 4 p.m. Pageant starts at 5 p.m.


Five things you should know about the Beaver Queen Pageant

1. Come prepared

It’s hot in Duke Park meadow. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and a blanket to sit on. And maybe some chairs and a cooler. There will be food trucks, but it’s nice to have a cold beverage close at hand.

2. Come early

It takes time to set up your spot, so get there around 4 p.m., which is when the pre-show starts. The pageant starts at 5 p.m. “I do think if people get there are 5 p.m., it is little overwhelming,” says Becky Payne, head beaver wrangler and organizer. Parking is limited so carpooling or bike riding is encouraged.

3. Bribe a judge

Take a few moments to check out this year’s contestants. It’s more fun if you know who is competing and what their character represents. Bring cash to buy votes for your favorites. You can learn more about the contestants on the Beaver Lodge website http://beaverlodgelocal1504.org/ and Facebook page bit.ly/beaverbook.

4. Participate

Dress to impress in a do-it-yourself kind of way. Make a beaver tail at home, or come for the pre-show and make one at The Scrap Exchange’s booth. Or use this year’s theme, “Dam! It’s the ’80s,” to guide your attire. Also, there are many opportunities for you and your kids to dance during the pageant. Don’t be shy. All are welcome.

5. Don’t forget the after party

The celebration keeps going after the queen is crowned. Go home, clean yourself up and hit the after party at 9 p.m. at Monkey Bottom Collaborative, at 609 Trent Drive. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/beaverdance.