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.