Print Poise, personality prevail in Colonel's Daughter contest
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 17 August 2011 15:00

Much of the physical landscape may not have changed, but there’s no doubt the Verde Valley was a very different place 140 years ago.

2010 Colonel's Daughter finalists line up during last year's contest.As a bit of a nod to that frontier past, the Camp Verde Cavalry is preparing for the 51st annual Colonel’s Daughter competition, always held on the last Sunday in September on the parade grounds at Fort Verde State Historic Park.

The name of the contest is a reference to an 1882 novel written by retired U.S. Army Capt. Charles E. King, who was stationed at Fort Verde in the 1870s.

He was wounded in a skirmish at Sunset Pass his first year at the fort but stayed in the Army until 1879.

King took his experience there and used it to help create the fictional Fort Sandy in “The Colonel’s Daughter; or, Winning His Spurs.”

“The Colonel’s Daughter” of the title was based on the real-life daughter of an officer at Fort Verde. It’s the subtitle to the book, “Winning His Spurs,” that gave rise to the spurs each Colonel’s Daughter receives from the Camp Verde Cavalry, in addition to other gifts collected from local merchants.

Dressed in full 19th century-era clothing to match the atmosphere at the 19th century military post, the girls will be judged on “horsemanship, poise and personality,” said Jim Meredith, chairman of this year’s competition.

The hopefuls will be tested on how they can handle a horse through a series of maneuvers. They will also give a speech about why they should be the next Colonel’s Daughter.

Meredith said the winner will be selected by a three-judge panel brought in from out of town, likely from the other side of the mountain.

Meredith said the girls will be expected to know the history of the fort, and the judges may even ask if any of them read the book itself.

For the horse-handling part of the competition, the girls will be allowed to wear blue jeans and a white long-sleeved Western-style shirt, but for the rest, it’s all clothing that evokes that time and place that often seems so long gone.

Half of the competition judging will be based on the horsemanship, the other half on the aforementioned personality and poise.

In addition to the spurs and prizes, the winner also gets a savings bond, belt buckle and a horse blanket, Meredith said. What’s more, the winning girl will be escorted by the cavalry during the annual Fort Verde Days parade in October.

There are a few other rules as well. Future potential Colonel’s Daughters must be between ages 13 and 18 by Fort Verde Day, they can’t have been married and they have to have their own horse and transportation.

This year, the competition is set for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25, at the fort.

Meredith said interested young ladies should pick up an application and return it as soon as possible, in part to get everyone together to practice horsemanship.

“It’s a great small-town thing,” Meredith said. “Other towns have rodeo queens, but we’re unique with what we do here in Camp Verde.”

Applications are available in town at Fort Verde, National Bank, the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and the Camp Verde Feed Store. For more information, call Meredith at (602) 540-0029.