Residents of a Durham neighborhood are back working to help the environment – by showing off their inner beaver.
The 11th annual Beaver Queen Pageant will be held Saturday, June 6, in the meadow below the bathhouse at Duke Park. Funds raised benefit the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, which works to educate the community and reduce pollution in Ellerbe Creek in Durham. Ellerbe Creek runs into the Neuse River and the Falls Lake Resevoir.
“We laugh and call it the dirtiest creek in the state because it collects all the pollution runoff from the city of Durham,” said member Lee Ann Tilley. “Our focus is reducing the pollution build-up in the creek.”
Duke Park neighbors started the pageant in 2005 as a small celebration after working to change road construction plans that could potentially have harmed beavers after a beaver dam-related flood.
In the pageant, contestants adopt beaver personas, complete with beaver tails and whiskers, and compete to win the Beaver Queen title through traditional beauty queen pageant contests.
This year’s pageant will have a Bollywood theme.
“I'm most excited about the talent portions,” said Tom Merrigan, an architect and musician competing as Dr. “Beaver Buck” Teeth.
“As a piano player and singer who likes to perform on the street and in the park and get some raised eyebrows, this is such a great opportunity for the antics I enjoy.”
Merrigan said the pageant is fun for the whole family and full of double entendres based on the beaver theme.
“The kids love it and have a great time, but there's also a higher level of understanding and jokes and antics that the adults really get into,” he said.
Joanne Andrews, a founder and contestant this year, said the event has grown from a few dozen neighbors and friends to hundereds of people. She expects this year’s pageant to attract up to 1,000 people.
“Just to see the community and all its facets come together and just play really hard is so fun,” she said.
In the pageant, onlookers “bribe” judges to help their favorite contestant win.
Becky Payne, an organizer, said the pageant raised about $17,000 last year.
“It’s a really successful way of raising money,” Payne said. “It brings awareness to what the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association is doing in the area, all the wonderful greenways that they’re providing, the cleaning and stewarding of urban areas for everyone to enjoy. They do a lot of good that many people aren’t aware of because it’s right in the city.”
Valerie Wood, a professional singer competing Saturday as Madame Beavery, said, above all, the event will be fun.
“I’m just looking forward to the community and the laughter.”
Payne said the event’s emphasis on the environment and artistic expression is very representative of Durham's community.
“It’s just, to me, something that speaks to the people of Durham and gives them something to participate in that they feel good about,” Payne said.
“They get to put a tail on and dance around in the meadow and have a good time for a day, while doing some good.”
If you go
What: The 11th annual Beaver Queen Pageant, a free, family-friendly event
Where: in the meadow at Duke Park – at Acadia and Knox streets, Durham
When: 4 p.m. (Pageant starts at 6 p.m.)
More info: http://beaverlodgelocal1504.org