100 years of Carnival Queens & Miss Hampton Beach

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Photo courtesy of John Kane

Like fried dough, henna tattoos, and trips to the arcade, Beach Queens have long been an important part of the summer rituals at Hampton Beach. What started out as a way to sell raffle tickets with the Queen of the Carnival contest, open to all women, had by the 1940s evolved into the Miss Hampton Beach beauty pageant, for which only young, single women were eligible.

Spanning the decades of the 1950’s and ’60’s, the Golden Age of beauty pageants saw the rise to prominence of the Miss America and Miss USA pageants. During this era local promoters endeavored to bring a sophisticated, Atlantic City vibe to the beach and launch the contest into the national spotlight. Yet, despite their efforts, the contest stubbornly remained (and remains) a small, not-quite-regional affair, one that valued its independence from the larger pageants. The winner was the Hampton Beach ambassador, chosen not just for her looks, but for her willingness to attend community activities and promote the beach as a family-friendly vacation destination throughout her reigning year.

Don’t forget – the Little & Jr Miss Hampton Beach contest is this Saturday, July 30 – which I will be judging! – and the Miss Hampton Beach contest is Sunday, July 31- both at the Seashell Pavilion.

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