Betty Pool, of Mansfield, always likes to be a little different. So when contestants in the 2019 Ms. Texas Senior Classic Pageant got together for the first time during a Victorian tea in Tyler, she came dressed as a peasant lady during the era of Queen Victoria.
While the other contestants in the pageant wore dressy dresses and many also donned hats and gloves, Pool appeared as a poor lady who had been to the market and filled her basket with fruit, chicken and other items. She also carried a cup requesting money and it already contained a few pennies.
A friend who was in the pageant last year talked Pool into competing this year for the first time. She is an artist, and plans to paint a rose for the talent category of the pageant, a nod to its branding as the Rose Capital. Pool is retired from AT&T, where her job involved travel across the U.S.
The pageant will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at Tyler’s Holiday Inn, 5701 S. Broadway Ave. Contestants must be at least 60 years old and residents of Texas. They will compete in four categories: writing a philosophy of life, interviewing with judges, modeling a long dress and performing a talent.
Although the pageant is a statewide competition, this year’s contestants come mostly from North and East Texas, including Tyler, Mesquite, Wylie, Forney, Arlington, Bullard, Sulphur Springs and Kilgore.
Teapots were the centerpiece for elegantly decorated tables at the Victorian tea and first meeting of the contestants Friday in the Rose Room of Tyler Rose Garden Center. They got acquainted and took pictures. Theme of the tea was “Ribbons, Roses and Lace.”
As contestants found their seats, volunteers rushed to fill their tea cups. The program included a performance by singer Cameron Rix and a talk by Jo Anne McMeans about Queen Victoria, who was queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901.
For Linda Pickle-Hill, of Sulphur Springs, this is her fourth year to compete in the pageant. She enjoys the sisterhood, camaraderie and fun so much that she looks forward all year long to the next pageant. She had been home three days after last year’s pageant when she called and reserved a hotel room for this year’s pageant.
Pickle-Hill, 63, describes herself as “not your mainstream kind of gal.”
She is a semiretired minister who still conducts revivals and special meetings. But she has had several other careers, too, including serving in the Marine Corps and as a legal secretary, real estate and survey secretary, and 20 years riding on the three-day dressage circuit, the type of horse riding in the Olympics.
Probably the youngest contestant is Vender Wright, 61, of Sulphur Springs, who is competing for the second year. She said, “I came back because I love it. I love mingling with the women. I love the atmosphere. It changes your outlook on life. Even though we are aging, we are aging gracefully.”
Wright not only has a year’s experience in the Ms. Texas Senior Classic Pageant, she won the title of 2019 Ms. Senior in the Hopkins County pageant. Wright is retired from working in a nursing home and is married with three children, five grandchildren and an English bulldog named Bertha. Her talent is singing.
Patsy Rabe, 75, was runner-up in last year’s Ms. Texas Senior Classic Pageant and felt she had to come back and do it again.
“I like getting dressed up and I like the fact all these ladies are my age and we have a good time together,” she said. “It’s just a fun thing and so many sweet ladies. You make friends for life.”
Rabe has been married 57 years and was a stay-at-home mom to her two children because her husband wanted her to be there for the kids. Originally from Canton but residing in Mansfield, Rabe said, “I’m an East Texas girl with an East Texas accent.” Her talent will be comedy.
First-time contestant Sheryl Coffee, of Tyler, founder of the Fragrant Hours Ministry and author of the book “A Lingering Fragrance,” often speaks to encourage and inspire women. She hopes to meet new women from all over Texas during the pageant and to have a different audience.
Coffey also works for the Piney Woods Regional Advisory Council. Her talent will be reading an excerpt from her book, which conveys an allegory about the making of perfume and how it relates to life, how people look at life and their demeanor.
Mary Ivey, 72, of Sulphur Springs, hopes that after competing last year, this year she can win or at least place in the competition and is looking forward to socializing.
Last year, Ivey said, she enjoyed the fun, meeting the other contestants, watching the talent and seeing the gowns.
“It was beautiful,” she said, adding that her talent this year will be the character Daisy Mae.
After the tea, the contestants had the opportunity to meander through the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden.
Women interested in entering the pageant may contact Jo Anne McMeans, assistant state director and a former queen, at 903-780-0349.