In 1946, when Joan Downing (nee Nisbet) was named Miss Summerland, the contest was set up as a beauty pageant for young women.
That year there were six candidates, but no organized pageant program. Downing later recalled having to walk up and down Main Street in a bathing suit.
In 1969, the program changed from a beauty pageant into a well-organized developmental program for young women. Training now included public speaking and deportment — skills the young women could use for the rest of their lives.
And in the 1980s and 1990s, two Summerland pageant contestants later went on to become Miss Canada.
This year, the pageant is undergoing another change as the first male candidate is participating.
Opening the pageant to young men as well as young women is as significant a change as introducing an organized pageant program half a century ago, and the coming year will be a learning process for pageant organizers, contestants and the community as a whole.
With male and female contestants, the door is now open for male and female ambassadors, representing Summerland around the province.
This will also mean some structural changes to the program as well as changing some of the terms used.
The references to a queen and princesses will need to change in order to make the program more inclusive.
Out-of-town travel will also change, as the youth ambassadors will now require male and female chaperones and separate accommodations for male and female representatives.
While the changes are significant, including young men in the program is an important development.
The skills taught through the program are increasingly important for young people entering the work force.
Those who are able to speak publicly and those who are able to carry themselves well will be better equipped than those without this training.
— Black Press
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