In the two years and counting that I’ve been in Durham, the Beaver Queen Pageant (BQP) has not been mentioned, at least not in my presence. Not until a few weeks ago did I become aware of it, having seen it on list of things to do in Durham. Somehow, despite being around for 15 years and despite possibly having the largest turnout to a public event of Durhamites I personally have experienced, this event has flown under my radar. This is partly probably due to the fact that as a student, I am only really in Durham during the academic semester and am, like many of my other undergraduate peers, ‘transient’ residents of Durham. (Stelfanie Williams, Vice President for Durham Affairs, described us this way in a panel this past Wednesday.) Many of us, being brought to Durham by Duke, spend our years here living at Duke but not participating very much in Durham. Although I know I’m not the first to vocalize this, it seems to me that it would a great idea to publicize what’s happening outside of Duke and not only what’s happening in it.
The BQP was started as a way to raise funds and public awareness for the Ellerbe Creek Water Association and their effort to protect beaver habitats here, which points to a spirit of engagement and community in Durham. However, after seeing the huge turnout, I hesitate to say that this community represents the entire Durham population, because it does not.
I had no expectations for the Damilton-themed BQP except that there would be many references to the Hamilton play and quirky beaver-themed entertainment. The 6 contestants were introduced, and showcased their talent, and also answered a pageant question. Most, if not all, contestants used this event as an opportunity to address key community issues such as reproductive rights and LGTBQIA+ rights. I ended up being really impressed with the thought that went into the pageant, from the ability of the audience to bribe judges to have their contestant win, to a reworked soundtrack. The BQP is one of those events needs to be experienced personally. I’m glad I made it to this event this time. Will I come back? Nah, I’m good.