In 1961, it probably seemed unlikely that the tradition of the Colonel’s Daughter contest would last another half century and more.
Regardless, at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24, Fort Verde State Historic Park will host the 57th annual Fort Verde Days’ Colonel’s Daughter Contest, mirroring the longstanding tradition in Midwestern and Western communities of naming a local rodeo queen, while putting a distinctly Camp Verdean spin on it.
A panel of judges will review the girls’ performances and select the 2017 Colonel’s Daughter. As is the case with many such events, the judges are all out-of-towners, ensuring impartiality in selection. The girls’ names are unknown to the judges and will be called by number. According to rules in place since 1960, contestants may range in age from 13 to 18.
“The young ladies [are] given a riding pattern, which the girls have been practicing, for the horsemanship portion of the contest,” Camp Verde Cavalry Event Co-Chairman Jim Meredith said. “The horsemanship will be judged on the young women’s ability to sit her horse well and give a well balanced, graceful, effortless appearance and have her horse under control at all times.
“For the poise and personality portion of the contest, the contestants are required to be in full 1800s attire and answer a number of questions regarding horsemanship and the history of the fort and current events.”
This year the contest features 10 girls, ranging from 14 to 17 years old. Most, according to Meredith, come from Camp Verde. One of the 14-year-olds returns from last year, when she took part as the youngest competitor.
For the past several weeks, Meredith has been working weekly with the contestants, practicing each aspect of the competition, making sure that the competitors do the tradition justice.
Following the contest, the winner and other contestants — the Colonel Daughter’s Court, as they’re then known — will ride in the 61st annual Fort Verde Days parade, escorted by the Camp Verde Cavalry, Saturday, Oct. 14.
According to Meredith, the crowned Colonel’s Daughter will receive gifts from town merchants, including a winning buckle and spurs. The rest of the court will not be left out, however: All participants will receive a gift from town merchants.
There is no fee to attend the Colonel’s Daughter Contest on the parade ground, but the regular park entrance fee applies to those touring the historic homes and museum. As the event lasts two hours, Meredith encouraged guests to bring their own folding chairs and non-alcoholic beverages.
For more information on the event, contact Jim Meredith at (602)540-0029 or Fort Verde State Historic Park staff at 567-3275.