Queen Silver Excellence Program committee members Chere Lane

Queen Silver Excellence Program committee members Chere Lane

Tradition ‘reigns’ over Carnival

It’s impossible to imagine Vernon Winter Carnival with no Queen Silver Star, but by this year’s deadline date, only five applications had been received for the program.

“We need a minimum of 10 girls to run the program,” said Queen Silver Star Excellence Program vice-chairman Brittany Sjoblom, a past Queen Silver Star.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand how the program works and who is eligible to take part. We want to have another information session and extend the deadline.”

The program, in its 52nd year, has changed with the times to become a way for the young women who participate to learn or improve a variety of life-enhancing skills, do community service and earn scholarships, while representing their community.

“Girls may hold themselves back because they think this is only for the popular, pretty, rich girls but it is for anyone who wants to participate. Some girls are very shy and would like to take the program to change but are too shy to even come to an information session,” said Sjoblom.

Some potential participants are intimidated by the talent part of the program.

“People don’t have to be perfect or stop themselves because they think they don’t have what it takes. We help them with what it is they want to showcase. It could be reciting a poem or a funny skit. They come up with some neat things,” said Chere Lane, chairman of the program committee and past Queen Silver Star.

Another stumbling block could be the commitment of time and money. There is no registration fee for the candidates and their total cost is about $100, which includes shoes, a trip to Peachland, and a few incidental expenses like photocopying. There is assistance available if this would be a barrier to taking part. The candidates do not have to find their own sponsors but are matched with sponsors. The clothes for official appearances are provided but candidates provide their own gowns. These do not need to be expensive and can include creative choices like making a gown, borrowing one, buying one at a resale shop, or re-purposing a grad dress. One year, one stylish and financially savvy  candidate found her gown at a thrift store. The important thing is that the gown suit the wearer, not that it be expensive.

While the time commitment can be intense at times, the participants take it as a learning experience and a way to learn problem-solving and self-esteem.

Courtney Liefke, who is now treasurer for the committee, was a candidate for Winter Carnival 2005, starting the program in the fall of 2004 when she was in Grade 12 at Kal school.

“I really believe in the program. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want other young women to have the opportunity I had,” she said.

“My grandparents, Doreen and Chris Brown, ran the program years ago, and my mother, Shelley Liefke, was a candidate. It was something I always wanted to do. I also had friends who had done the program.”

The program starts in August with a barbecue, where the new candidates can meet the previous year’s candidates and the current royalty to find out more about the program.

“The program was more than I thought it would be. It was a lot of work but I benefitted in so many ways. The big thing for me was the speech craft. I think it changed me and made me more mature for where I was at that time in my life. We provide classes in things you’re not going to learn in school, like how to put yourself out there and time management — around the time of proclamation, I had all the rehearsals and had to fit in study for two provincial exams, but I did it,” said Liefke.

Lane did the program when she was in her first year of college.

“It is a lot of work but you learn how to focus and be successful in what you do, skills you can use in any part of your life that take you far beyond the program. There is a strong support network with the instructors, the committee members, and the candidates themselves. They are very proud of each other as they see the progress each one is making in the personal development program,” said Lane.

Liefke said the candidates make amazing progress and accomplish so much between September and February.

Sjoblom said, “The classes benefit the girls for the rest of their lives, in their relationships with family and friends, at work and school, and in the community. Chere and I both ended up working at the places where we did our community volunteer work. And we learned time management. We couldn’t be here on the committee if we hadn’t.”

It’s a life-changing experience that helps prepare young women to be the best they can be  for the next step in their lives.

“I would say to anyone who is thinking of taking part to do it. You’re going to have a ton of fun, learn a lot and make some wonderful friends,” said Liefke.

The Queen Silver Star Excellence Program is open to young women ages 16 to 19 who are in school or college and live in the North Okanagan.

The program is looking for volunteers to act as chaperones, judges, sponsors, drive the float, or anyone who has an idea for a class.

There will be a Queen Silver Star Excellence Program information session for potential candidates and their parents May 28 at 7 p.m. at the Winter Carnival office, 3401-35 Ave. Deadline for applications to be received is May 30. For more information, for an application form, or to volunteer on the program committee, see info@vernonwintercarnival.com or call Sjoblom at 250-938-4347.