A HIGHLIGHT of the annual Begonia Festival was always its queen’s crowning.
For weeks leading up to the then 11-day March event, entrants would be nominated by local businesses, fundraise for chosen charities and dress up in their finery for a formal crowning.
However, the tradition was swept away on a tide of 1990s political correctedness, initially replaced by Begonia Festival ambassadors of both genders and then abandoned all together.
But two former queens believe it is time to bring the tradition back.
Diane Marks, who was queen in 1972, said a modern day Begonia Queen would be a smart woman who could act as an ambassador for the city.
“I don’t think it was ever about looks. It was more about how the Begonia Queen represented Ballarat,” Ms Marks said.
“It was very much an ambassadorial role. It sparked a lot of interest in the community.”
Ms Marks said she attended both the Maryborough Wattle Festival and the Ararat Gateway Festival in her official role.
“It gave us lots of opportunities to network with other cities.”
Ms Marks, who often judges different festival queen competitions, said Ararat still had a festival queen.
“We never put the emphasis on appearance. Certainly grooming and presentation are important but it’s more about their ability at public speaking.”
Ms Marks said the profile the role gave her also allowed her to start her own business. Trudy Mickelburough was Begonia Queen in 1982 and described it as one of the best years of her life.
Ms Mickelburough, who was then Trudy Phillips, worked at The Courier at the time and was nominated by another former queen, Carol Wilkins.
“I couldn’t believe it when I won. I remember smiling all night and smiling all year,” Ms Mickelburough said.
She said a modern day Begonia Queen would need to be personable, confident and able to relate on all levels to people of all ages to be the best ambassador for Ballarat.
“It would have to be someone proud to be the ambassador for Ballarat.
“I got to meet so many interesting people but I guess it would be a totally different thing these days.”
Ms Mickelburough said the biggest skill she learnt was public speaking, which opened up a lot of career doors.
“It gave me more confidence and helped with job prospects.”
Ballarat deputy mayor Samantha McIntosh said the organising committee had worked hard to bring the Begonia Festival back to the community.
She said, while there was no push to bring back the Begonia Queen, last year’s return of the floral carpet had been very successful.
Cr McIntosh said she had also seen plans for the return of a Begonia Princess in this year’s parade that were very exciting but she did not know the full details of what it would involve.