Program set for Queen’s Luncheon

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Years ago, the Queen’s Luncheon would have featured women wearing navy blue jacket-dresses with navy stacked heel pumps and a matching pillbox hat and gloves — all indicative of the best fashion styles.

Times may have changed, but Denison’s still is carrying on the tradition of displaying the year’s best fashions at the Queen’s Luncheon and Fashion Show.

The $15 tickets are being sold at the Suffolk Visitor’s Center for this year’s Sept. 30 luncheon at the National Guard Armory.

“We look forward to it every year,” manager Cecelia Strickland said. “It’s the big kick-off to the Peanut Festival, you get a peek at fall fashions, and our models are all Suffolk customers. They’re younger, older, middle-aged and all sizes. It’s just so exciting.”

The luncheon has been held annually since 1981 by the Suffolk chapter of the Pilot Club, which is in charge of everything from decorations to food to serving.

At the lunch, guests will enjoy a meal made by the women of the Pilot Club, the Denison’s fashion show and the coronation of the 2010 Suffolk Peanut Fest Queen and her court. Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson will be the mistress of ceremonies.

Since 1941, the peanut festivities have included the pageantry of a queen and her court. The first “Queen Arachis Hypogea” (named after the botanical name for the peanut plant), Olive Cawley of New Jersey, was attired in an all-peanut gown, and her entourage included 50 princesses from dozens of communities and neighboring states.

The second festival queen, Patricia Donnelly of Detroit, had been the 1939 Miss America. Dignitaries who greeted her at the airport included Suffolk philanthropist and businessman Amedeo Obici. Obici scattered roasted peanuts at her feet, rather than the traditional rose petals.

The modern predecessor of today’s festival, Harvest Fest, was started in 1978, and the festival queen was chosen by the general public. Since then, the title has been bestowed to many young ladies, who represent the festival and the city at numerous functions.

Today’s festival queen is selected from among high school seniors by a panel based on four criteria — a creative writing essay, school activities, awards and achievements and community involvement.

All proceeds from the Queen’s Luncheon are given to local charities and used to give scholarships to Suffolk students.

Last year, the club gave $2,600 to local organizations and charities, including ForKids, Project Lifesaver, Relay for Life and the Alzheimer’s Association.

“For us, it’s a very special community event,” said Margaret Smith, Pilot Club of Suffolk president. “It’s a great afternoon to spend time with other community members while raising money to put to use back into the community.”

To purchase tickets, call the visitor’s center at 514-4130.