Colleen Henson: Honey Queen’02

Colleen Henson (Texas)

The Honey Bee Queen’ 02

Colleen answered the phone with a chirp in her voice. We had been exchanging emails for quite a while but found it hard to find a time that worked for the both of us. There was a sigh of relief on both ends of the phone as we finally caught each other in-between class time – Colleen owns her own dance studio, Let’s Dance McGregor, and juggles her time teaching classes and organizing shows. We began by talking a little about the Honey Queen competition, enlightening me about the differences between the local, state, and national level competitions. She found the task of creating a honey marketing presentation the most challenging part of the competition, as ‘you just don’t know what the others are doing!’ Colleen decided to draw on her love for dance, and put together a 10-minute commercial that “danced the song of honey” through jazz. ‘The main story behind the dance was to show how the use of honey was adapted through the different generations – first from the grandmother to the granddaughter through cooking, followed by the granddaughter to her husband (in the military) through recipes and using honey as an antiseptic for his wounds’, Colleen explained.  Despite being a daunting experience for her, Colleen said she loved the rush of the competition, meeting a number of new people who were all motivated individuals just like herself.

When asked what spurred her to take part in the Honey Queen competitions, Colleen attributed a big motivation coming from her childhood years being constantly surrounded by beekeepers. By the age of 8, Colleen had already attended several bee workshops and became the local Honey Princess by the age of 12 – she had always dreamt of being the Honey Queen someday. Colleen mentioned that being the Honey Queen had taught her a lot; she was constantly meeting new people and being pushed out of her comfort zone, she learned to adapt and compromise in different situations to make the outcome as positive as possible. ‘The best part of the job is the relationships you build with others, not only do you touch people but they will touch you too’, Colleen cooed.

During her time as the Honey Queen, Colleen said she learned more about the honeybee and the honey industry than she ever thought possible! It opened to her many different opportunities, and she feels blessed and thankful for everyone she ever met during her travels. Although Colleen has not remained as involved with the beekeeping industry over the last couple of years – in part due to the start up of her dance company – she did serve on the Texas Honeybee chair committee for two years, and occasionally goes to conventions in the area. Colleen still cooks with honey all the time, her favorite recipe being the honey cream cheese pie and honey balls/cookies, and urges us all to try it!

Alyssa Fine: Honey Queen’12

Alyssa Fine (Pennsylvania)

The Honey Bee Queen’ 12

Alyssa’s hectic and busy traveling schedule quickly became evident as we corresponded with each other via email, trying to find a time that suited the both of us for an interview. Philadelphia one week and then to Maine by the weekend, I actually caught her at the airport as she waited for her next flight. Alyssa grew up with honeybees in her backyard, as her father, Albert Fine, is a small-scale beekeeper. In the last 8 years or so, she started working more closely with bees, and works with her parents and sisters to run the Fine Family Apiary, family business, where she helps in developing beeswax cosmetics. Alyssa found the honey marketing presentation the hardest exercise during the Honey Queen competition. ‘It was nerve wrecking… you don’t know who the judges are so it’s really daunting!’ she shared. Alyssa kept repeating that competition at all levels is highly knowledge based, but as a candidate it is also important to show your ability in connecting with an audience to share that knowledge; it is for this reason that Alyssa decided to present her marketing presentation as an infomercial, promoting bees wax and its many benefits.

When asked how she first found out about the Honey Queen program, Alyssa explained that it was her father who had been in touch with an older Honey Queen and introduced the both of them. Their meeting has sparked off her interest in honeybees, and she found herself taking a beekeeping class while she was studying in Penn State to get some hands on training with the bees. A lot of her motivation to become Honey Queen came from within, ‘I’ve grown up with bees, and so have the previous queens, but what they have done I can do better’, Alyssa said with a giggle. Her self-motivation has paid off well and Alyssa has enjoyed the opportunity to travel and network throughout the entire country. She loves being the spokesperson for the beekeeping industry, and has also learned a lot more about the commercial beekeeping industry where previously she had only been exposed to small-scale farmers, such as her father.

‘Only now have I really realized how much we rely on bees, I most definitely have a new respect for beekeepers throughout the country’, Alyssa mentioned quite matter-of-factly. Alyssa’s passion for her job can be easily detected by her tone of pride in her voice, and you couldn’t help but imagine her fidgeting with excitement as she shared her favorite honey recipe – the blueberry buckle.