Charlotte Randall: Sweeter than Honey

If you’re ever in Umatilla, Florida there’s someone you must meet. Charlotte Randall, charming, generous, interesting, and retired chair of the national Honey Queen Program will gladly share her abundant knowledge about beekeeping and the program that keeps it alive. She calls beekeeping “the most fascinating business,” and is quick to remind you that ninety percent of what you see on your table is pollinated by bees.

Randall married into a beekeeping family in 1958. She first became involved with the Honey Queen Program on the local level, and moved up to become National Chair. Her husband’s role on the board of the Sioux Bee Association and the National Honey Board, along with her own role on the Nomination Committee for the National Honey Board made Randall a valuable and knowledgeable member of the Honey Queen Committee for over twelve years. The National Honey Board is a USDA supervised federal research and promotion board that strives to increase awareness of honey and its benefits in order to maintain a strong market. Randall’s knowledge in this area gave her insight into the Honey Queen selection process. She was such a valued member of the  committee that she was then nominated Honey Queen Chair and served in this position for two years.

As Honey Queen Chair, Randall’s primary role was being there for the Queens and Princesses if they ever needed anything. The Chair is responsible for helping facilitate travel, functions, and housing for the American Honey Queen during her yearlong reign. She organizes the judges and voting process for the annual Honey Queen Competition and heads the Honey Queen Committee. As a previous Honey Queen Committee member, she was able to facilitate its role in selecting the judges, supporting the Queens and Princesses from each state, receiving applications, and participating in the ABF Conference. The Chair is also a resource for future and past Queens and Princesses, as well as at large members that may have questions regarding the program. In addition to keeping her Queen’s spirits high, Randall spoke about the inspiration she received from them as they tried new things and sought new experiences.

Charlotte Randall is quick to sing the praises of the Honey Queens she supervised during her time as Committee member and Chair. She boasted their successes as anesthesiologist and commanders in the army where they utilized the valuable skills they acquired in their role as National Honey Queens. She feels the Honey Queen Program is a beneficial stepping stone to future careers as it gives the girls a chance to travel, become adept public speakers, and open their eyes to trying new things. She also touted the queens’ extensive knowledge of the American Beekeeping Federation and beekeeping in general. Randall’s role as selfless guiding light to these young girls is apparent in her statement that “watching them do good makes you feel good”.

Despite her love of the beekeeping industry, Randall recognizes its challenges. Trying to support three sons on the family hives and beeswax business wasn’t enough and she sold it seventeen years ago. However, she continues to live in Umatilla and positively impact her community through cooking at an adult center and volunteering at her church.

Interview with the 1978 American Honey Princess: Lynn Hoopingarner

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Hoopingarner, the 1978 American Honey Princess.  Before she became the American Honey Princess, she was the Michigan Honey Queen as selected by competition.  At the time, Ms. Hoopingarner was a junior in college at Michigan State University.  Two days before the state Honey Queen competition, her father (whose involvement with beekeeping spans over 40 years) gave her a flier about the competition.  At first, Ms. Hoopingarner thought “a beauty pageant?” but when she saw that the Honey Queen received a $500 scholarship, she decided to give it a try.  During the competition, she showed the judges that, in addition to being able to play “Scarborough Fair” on guitar, she knew the most about beekeeping and honey.

Her reign as the Michigan Honey Queen involved events mainly during the summer, especially for all of the agricultural fairs (it is Michigan, after all).  As the American Honey Princess, Ms. Hoopingarner had the opportunity to go as far as Texas and Disneyworld in Florida.  Her favorite part of being a Honey Queen though, was meeting beekeepers and all sorts of people who might not necessarily be involved with the industry.  However, the position became a little challenging when Ms. Hoopingarner would hear the same “Hi, honey” puns over and over.  She also told me that being a Honey Queen was hard work, more so than people might expect.  For instance, during the Tulip Festival in Michigan, she stood on a float for the duration of a parade that lasted four hours in the dead heat of the summer.  And while smiling might be easy for a few minutes, sustaining it for hours will make anyone’s face hurt.

Currently, Ms. Hoopingarner is a management consultant in Southern California, having started her own business twenty years ago. She has remained involved with the beekeeping industry and the American Beekeepers Federation.  According to her, the media coverage of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) helped promote the beekeeping industry.  Now, at cocktail parties, her friends ask her about the current state of the bees and she always keeps them informed.

In its essence though, the Honey Queen program selects its yearly spokespeople.  Ms. Hoopingarner’s experience as the Michigan Honey Queen and later the American Honey Princess helped her self-confidence and gave her practice in public speaking.  For her, the Honey Queen program is really about teaching.  In addition to live appearances at various events, interviews on the radio and television are just some of the ways in which she able to teach the general public about bees and honey.