To become the national Honey Queen, a candidate must first be her own state’s Honey Queen. The 1974 American Honey Queen (who wishes that I not disclose her name) is from Nebraska, although she didn’t compete to be the Nebraska Honey Queen. Not long ago, I had a very enjoyable chat with her to talk about the Honey Queen program and her experiences, among other things. Instead of competing in a state-wide competition, she told me, she met with a group of honey producers who asked her a series of questions and decided that she could compete in the national competition representing the Cornhusker State. Her trip to the National Honey Queen competition was sponsored by the Nebraska Beekeeper’s Association and her grandfather who was a beekeeper himself. Once there, she demonstrated her knowledge of beekeeping through a series of interviews. Moreover, she was expected to maintain a positive and professional manner. Clearly, she impressed the judges because she soon became the American Honey Queen.
As the national spokeswoman for the bees and honey (under the auspices of the American Beekeeping Federation), she had the opportunity to travel all over the country, meeting many people along the way. For example, at the Texas State Fair, she stood in a booth devoted to bees and beekeeping, answering all of the public’s questions as quickly and as well as she could. However, one of her biggest challenges came when she had to tactfully correct misinformation about bees and honey, such as exaggerated health benefits from bee products. Being a young woman and an easy person to contact for an interview about bees and honey also opened doors to opportunities such as radio shows. Also in her capacity as the American Honey Queen, she went to state fairs, parades, schools, and civic groups, to name a few.
The 1974 Honey Queen knew about the program from a very young age. Her grandparents hosted Queens and she always thought it would be fun to do. Once she became the American Honey Queen though, she assumed the responsibility that goes with the fun. She had a few presentations (and props such as enlarged photographs) prepared to suit any crowd, such as young children or large civic groups. The experience taught her to be self-sufficient and confident, as well as responsible and independent as she was away from her family for many of the events. She described her time as the American Honey Queen as one of personal growth. Having to be an educator early in her life is one of the most useful experiences that she took away from the program.
She has remained a member of the American Beekeeping Federation and since the late 1970’s, has maintained approximately 40 hives as a hobby. The equipment she has is her grandfather’s but since the late 80’s, has not kept any bees because the diseases have made it cost prohibitive for her and her husband. At the moment, she is employed as a professor but is considering using her retirement for beekeeping.