2024 Miss New Brunswick pageant cancelled

by | Jun 24, 2024

Organizers hope to institute changes and have pageant return in future

For years, pageants have been a chance for applicants to showcase beauty, talent, and community involvement. Contestants wear their finest attire and smile brightly on stage to win over the hearts of crowds and judges.

The Miss New Brunswick pageant was first introduced in 1955 under the name of the Upper St. John River Valley Competition. The pageant was held at the Island Park grandstand and was originally a fashion show rather than a pageant.

Woodstock’s Marion Kirkpatrick won the title in 1955, making her the first Miss New Brunswick. Since then, each summer, the winners from the community pageants throughout the province compete for the title of Miss New Brunswick. That won’t happen this year. Organizers cancelled the event because there were too few contestants. Only five communities had representatives.

Twyla Rogers is the head coordinator for the Miss New Brunswick pageant. She said the pageant relies on the winners from the community pageants around the province to fill in the number of contestants.

“Miss New Brunswick is based off of other pageants, and this year there are less pageants,” said Rogers.

The significant drop in pageants throughout the province is attributed to various factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, many communities decided not to host pageants.

Hartland and Carleton North were two of many communities that didn’t reintroduce the pageants after the lockdown. Most recently, New Brunswick’s First Town decided not to host a 2024 Miss Woodstock event.

Rogers said that the amalgamation of municipalities has also caused a drop in pageants. In the past, Chipman and Minto would send their individual winners to represent them at the Miss New Brunswick pageant; now, there is only one winner between Chipman and Minto: Miss Grand Lake.

Hoping to increase the number of participants, the Miss New Brunswick pageant committee decided to open registration to everyone. With larger areas like Fredericton and Moncton not having pageants, the committee hoped women might register from those areas, but there were no participants.

“We wanted at least 10 contestants, but just five days before the deadline, we literally had no registrations,” said Rogers.

Carleton County’s Kristen Culberson reacts to her name being called when she became Miss New Brunswick in 2019. (Theresa Blackburn photo)

Kristen Culberson is a former Miss New Brunswick. She won the title in 2019. She believes the lack of participants is due to the format of pageants needing to fully adapt to today’s society, which emphasizes the importance of character rather than beauty.

“The focus should be more on the personality, the community involvement, and volunteerism, instead of necessarily, glitz and glam and being number one,” said Culberson.

Culberson believes that the talent portion of the pageants reinforces stereotypes, keeping people from entering the competition. Most of the talents shown by contestants are “traditional talents,” such as singing and dancing, which not everyone possesses. Culberson added that many people think their particular talents aren’t acceptable for pageants and don’t participate.

“I’m an engineering student, and the idea of highlighting non-traditional talents like robotics or science experiments could be a really cool way to make pageants feel more accessible to people who may believe what they’re good at isn’t necessarily suited for pageants,” said Culberson.

Culberson said she hopes to see the return of Miss New Brunswick. She said she learned from her travels around the province, meeting new people and believes others should get the opportunity to have the same experience, but she also thinks the pageants need to be revamped to fit the current culture.

“Having the titles gave me an amazing opportunity to have a platform as a high school student and as a young woman to speak about issues I cared about,” said Culberson.

Although the organizing committee had to cancel this year’s pageant, Rogers hopes they can host it in the future. For now, Rogers and her council hope to revise the pageant and come back with a format that better suits today’s generation.

“It’s different times, and we need to maybe look at it a little differently next year,” said Rogers.

Kristen Culberson’s mother, Darcy Culberson, shares in her daughter’s joy after she was crowned Miss New Brunswick during Woodstock’s Old Home Week in 2019. (Theresa Blackburn photo)

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