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First Berwick Gala Days queen thinks back to early days of the festival

Diane Clarke, the first ever Gala Days Queen, sees the annual celebration as an important time of year in Berwick and the surrounding areas.
Diane Clarke, the first ever Gala Days Queen, sees the annual celebration as an important time of year in Berwick and the surrounding areas. - Chris Saulnier

‘A memory that I’ll have forever’

BERWICK – As another annual Gala Days celebration approaches, Diane Clarke recalls her experience as the first Gala Days Queen.

“I think it’s important, it’s important to the community, it’s a time when so many people from the surrounding area come together and we all have fun and enjoy each other,” said Clarke.

“And looking back at my time as queen, it was special to me. It was a memory that I’ll have forever and can share with my grandchildren.”

The first Gala Days Princess Pageant took place in 1964, 19 years after Gala Days first began in Berwick.

Clarke, a Berwick resident, grew up just 12 kilometers east of Berwick in the small community of Woodville, and was 18 years old at the time she became the first Gala Days Queen.

Clarke felt that being chosen as the Gala Days Queen was a way for her to represent, and show her pride for, her small community.

“I was very proud to represent my community,” said Clarke. “Because it was a small community but with wonderful people, and I think I was very prideful.”

Winning the pageant had a long-lasting positive impact on her life in terms of building her confidence.

“I think it’s like anything you are successful at, it gives you confidence, and I think that was the case and I met new people, and new experiences always help you,” said Clarke.

Over the years, through volunteer work, Clarke has continued her involvement with Gala Days and the princess pageant, and has also been involved with the annual Apple Blossom Princess Pageant several times as a co-chair of the committee.

Through this continued involvement, Clarke says she has seen these pageants have the same positive impacts on those who take part now as the first Gala Days Princess Pageant had on her,which is why she has enjoyed staying involved.

“I think it gives the girls, or the community, a chance to explore new things, and I always felt that it helped me, so I thought it was a great idea to contribute in any way that I could,” said Clarke.  

“I think pageants are character building. When you do these things, either Gala Days or Apple Blossom, you gain confidence that allows you to perhaps try new challenges that you might not have thought you could do before.”

While currently in its 54th year running, little has changed about the Gala Days Princess Pageant. Contestants are still evaluated on their skills and abilities associated with public speaking, interviewing, deportment, interaction with the public, and more.

As for what Gala Days itself means to Clarke, she says that while her experience with the celebration has changed over the years as she’s aged, the main idea of community celebration and togetherness has remained a constant.

“You go at a young age and see the parade and think that’s wonderful, but as you grow older other things interest you. I know that I enjoyed the flower show as I was a young mom, and so it’s an added dimension really as you grow older because there are more things that you like to see,” said Clarke. “But, for me at least, the overall feeling of togetherness and community celebration has remained the same.”

Comparing the events of Gala Days now to when she was queen, Clarke says that while there are things that come and go, there isn’t much that she misses as, on top of the core attractions that have stayed throughout the years, the celebration has grown and added much more for people to do.

“There are few things that you miss, because it’s enlarged and there is more now to do,” said Clarke. “And I still always go to the main events, the tea on Saturday afternoon, and fireworks Sunday night, and the parade on Monday.”

This year is the 73rd annual Berwick Gala Days and the celebrations will take place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 3 in Rainforth Park, as well as other locations throughout the Town of Berwick.

The crowning of the 2018 Gala Days Queen will occur during the Gala Days Princess Tea Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. at the St Anthony of Padua's Catholic Parish Church, 122 Mill St, Berwick.

The pageant is open to those ages 15 to 19, living in a community between Auburn and Cambridge.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Gala Days Princess Pageant can contact Donna Conrad at 902-680-5062, or donna@donnaconradteam.com.

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