Hill-billy Hootenanny: Purty Pals & Gingham Gals

Take Dorothy out of Kansas, stick her in a fantasy world where she meets fairy god-mothers with crowns and magic wands and high-heeled slippers… and whaddaya got?  You’ve still got ginghamized Dorothy, bless her, headin’ back to Kansas- just a little older and wiser.  “There’s NO PLACE LIKE HOME”…


Here in the Appalachians, you send a tomboy, “Chip”, (me, see below, age 10 and 14)  to a new place, and she’s confronted with crowns and high heels and told she’s expected to help organize a bunch of princesses, and she’s in a tail spin… but guess what? The mail lady (Glinda the Good Witch?) knows everybody, waves her magic wand, steps in with her ruby shoes and all is well… turns out those princesses are just good ole country girls like Chip herself!  The tricky bit’s gonna be getting them OUT of Kansas!

tomboy Julie

Apparently Queens’ Pageants (formerly ‘beauty pageants’ but no longer quite so exploitative of women) are popular in every single town in New Brunswick.  The crowned gals are even EXPECTED to wear their tiaras and sashes to school the following day, and actually aren’t laughed out of the building, either! (Having taught in 4 rather rough schools in 3 different countries, I find this VERY difficult to come to terms with, but apparently it’s common practice and just as accepted as one of my 12-year-old students carrying an ankle knife to school in inner city Leeds, U.K. or my 15-year-old pupil breast-feeding her baby in my English class ‘on the rez’ in Browning, Montana!)

I’ve often been surrounded by lovely young women while teaching in Canada and abroad.  Some of the girls I’ve had the pleasure of working with onstage have even gone on to become actresses/models/singers and strong professionals who use some of the public-speaking and debate skills I helped them work on in their high-school days. However, this pageant thing is a very new concept to me.

with grads

(above, some of the lovely young ladies to whom I taught Drama and coached in a variety of musicals, ‘on the rez’ in Browning, Montana – please note, the above were NOT the same students who breast-fed their babes in class!)

For those girls, and some of the others I’m so proud of, I made a banner last year on International Girls’ Day, (although they are no longer ‘girls’, but very strong and talented  women now, and can all be seen or heard in public forums in one way or another).

girls' day

above, some of my beautiful former students – from the USA, the U.K., and yes, Canada, too!

However, none of those girls are really the tiara-wearing types, either.  Up until a month or so ago I was feeling very much ‘out of my element’!

New Denmark is a wonderfully-close-knit community, as you’ll know from reading some of my previous blog postings.  It’s not just a mountain area where everyone pitches in and helps each other and attends church, dances, games’ nights, luncheons, etc. on a weekly basis – it’s got the additional distinction of being the largest AND oldest Danish community in Canada, and is thus rooted in tradition.  Founder’s Day in New Denmark has always been an important celebration, and until recent years was an annual event.  The little rural museum just up the road from us is a Provincial Historical Site, as “Immigrant House”, where the majority of settlers stayed in 1872 before being granted their land, was on that corner. There’s a great video posted online about the Centennial Parade from 1972, which I just love watching! It’s so dear and even, now, familiar! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAvS-3M78rQ

This year, by accident (I was meant to be going to a meeting of the historical committee and ended up at the 145th planning committee meeting instead!) I am helping organize the Founder’s Day activities, and thus you’ll see lots more photos from this fun event later in June. It’s held around the 19th of that month every 5 years now, because that’s when the first ship with the majority of Danes landed here.  One of the events is a big parade from near our farm, at the rural museum corner, up the hill past the church and on to the little rural ‘rec centre’.  And what’s a parade without a bevy of beautiful young ladies waving their delicate hands and straightening their tiaras on a floral-decorated float?    Here’s a screen shot  with their centennial year’s Queen and Princess, 1972:


About the only thing I’m familiar with in that picture is the TRUCK.  But I digress… Having heard rumours (I guess) that I was a former Drama teacher – and NOT having heard rumours that I was a tomboy who despised cutesy, demure women, frivolous ball-gowns, high heels, and anything superficial or commercialized, a former director of the Founder’s Day planning committee pointed his over-large finger at me at the very first meeting and delegated me in charge of the pageant.  Luckily for me, Mary Beth the Mail-lady (secretary of no less than FOUR committees in this small “happenin’ ” place!) immediately stepped in and organized a bunch of people who knew a lot more about pageants than I EVER will, to help!  Mary Beth has ordered the tiaras, too, so thank God that’s out of my hands, as they’d have ended up with Stetsons or dressage top hats!  (We suspect M.B. ordered the extra one so she can be seen driving about the hills and dales delivering her letters and feeling “special” ).


Another lucky thing: ’twas Mary Beth herself who said “why don’t we just make the theme ‘COUNTRY’ this year?  Well, ole Chip of Rustic Revivals can do THAT!  And it ties right in with our enormously talented photographer, a former New Denmark pageant gal herself, Miss Tiffany Christensen.  As I’ve organized and decorated so many rustic weddings and events in my rural-based businesses, so has Tiffany taken plenty of rustic and rural-based photography, because it’s not only what we see and live out here, it’s ALSO become a world-wide fad even for those who’ve never set foot in a barn or old klunker of a pick-up truck before!  (On Saturday, my Rustic Revivals was at our first N.B. craft sale, right at the little rec centre where the pageant will take place, and had some of the best attention ever, because folks in the mountains ‘get’ primitives, and several custom orders are coming in also for yet more ‘Burlap Bags’, ((as Richard calls me)) creations.  I’ll be doing a special Easter blog with my latest line next week.)

Thus, Tiffany and I have both been involved in promoting the beauty and history of the rural landscapes around us.  Here’s a lovely photo she took recently, and she’ll be doing a number like this for the pageant girls, as they are to have a ‘spa and photography day’ together in May.


You can see the rural and rustic trend that is so popular now for both weddings AND grads/proms, etc, so why not in our own rural pageant?   (Excuse the blurriness of the following – this is obviously not in Tiffany’s originals, but my ad program isn’t always in love with the wordpress one!  Isn’t her logo neat?  Look how the camera is subtly wrapped into her initials!  And the natural leaves/sheaves represent the countryside we love!)


As Rustic Revivals  has also now debuted locally (after 7 years of ‘touring’ the back roads of Montana, Yorkshire, Aberdeenshire and Ontario!), we realize the mountains here in Appalachia are just the right spot for us!  Although online selling isn’t to be ruled out :



And RURAL Revivals, (its sister company), as special rural events organizer and country-themed decorator/interior designer (  http://www.facebook.com/rural.revivals


http://www.rusticrevivals.wixsite.com/ruralrevivals  ) will also be comfortably-based and definitely using Miss Christensen for all events photography and official before-and-after shots of our specialty rooms with shabby chic/’country’/French Provincial/ ‘cabin’  make-overs (if you haven’t yet viewed my own crappy before and after photos, see previous posts on renos).  Former campaigns which have included us in newspapers and on television have resulted in less attention than in just having the good readers of this blog spread the word…

…so I’m hoping that those of you who are in New Brunswick or who have the money to fly her out to you, will consider using Tiffany Christensen as YOUR official photographer as well!

Of course she doesn’t just take portraits in rural settings; have a look at all her lovely work on her FB page:


I tried 3 times to catch the magic of the hoar frost on the mountainsides, for instance, this winter, and failed spectacularly, but Tiffany has a real talent:


She was also able to capture the stunning autumnal colours here better than I!


Having said that, I’m not a COMPLETE amateur when it comes to pretty country girls posing for the camera.  Last spring, nearly a year ago, in fact, a gorgeous former riding student from Scotland came for a visit to Ontario and wanted the ‘typical’ Dukes of Hazzard/’Western’-and hill-billy-style pics. So, I introduced her to my native friend and her teepee,another former riding student and her horse, Richard’s ’73 Nova for that Dukes of Hazzard effect and also, of course -his moonshine jug. Then I got my camera out. Here’s a slideshow for fun:

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I also loaded up all my rustic decor and we spent an all-afternoon photo-shoot with some work that I’m pretty proud of, and she SHOULD be as well:


The ‘other type of riding’…

While I wouldn’t suppose to be as good as Tiffany, and while it DID take us about 50 photos just to get one good one, I am rather proud of the above.  Now, someday, especially with the gorgeous gals we have in this year’s pageant as models, Tiffany might even have a front cover for some real fashion mags.  I do like to think that ours could have just as easily been on a Vogue special issue:


And, funnily enough, here she is even posing as a MaryBeth !


That’s right, I’ve worn many hats in my time, in many different places around the world… Off-stage, On-stage, Mounted, UnMounted, in various positions for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Education etc.  Mom/Joy even thinks that should be the title of my autobiography.  Either that, or she’s suggested “The Many Beds in Which I’ve Slept”?  I keep telling her that just makes me sound like a slut…


julie's many hats


The pageant girls, and I won’t name them here, are all eager, however, to be dubbed “Queen”, or at least “Princess”, despite them being very much Appalachian Country girls in their own right.  One of them is line-dancing for her talent, and another even asked if she could ride her DIRT BIKE for her talent portion!  So I’m no longer worried about dealing with the demure, prissy type – these young ladies are up for anything!  Ironically, not only has the group dance which I’m choreographing morphed into a hill-billy dance in barefeet (and I was a chorus dancer in L’il Abner onstage in barefeet forty years ago!) but the other talents a few of the girls wish to show-case are Poetry Reading and doing a Monologue.  With NO suggestions even, by me, an English/Drama teacher, with published poetry and an award on her wall for doing Dramatic Monologues!  Well, really, since MaryBeth rounded up all this extra help for me to have the promenades, turns, waves and poise stuff looked after, I can do this! Who’d have thought this pageant gig would end up being so close to my own propensities  (ie: rustic decorating, slopping out verse, projecting loudly, and strutting about in patched clothes with a heavy emphasis on my heels… Yeeeee-haaaw!)

By the way, speaking of all-things-hill-billy:  In regard to this week’s title, did you know a ‘hootenanny’ is actually a SCOTTISH word, which should please Mom/Joy?  According to Wikipedia, it is simply “a Scottish word meaning ‘party’ or ‘celebration’. With the Scots being one of the biggest groups of settlers in the Appalachian region (bringing with them their whisky-making tradition and methods, leading to the area’s moon-shining tradition) it is not surprising that hootenanny became an Appalachian colloquialism. ”     Besides I like it better than ‘hoedown’, although that is an equally pleasant-sounding alliteration to match with ‘hill-billy’. It’s just that ‘hoe-down’ will likely be needed in future titles to represent our extensive gardening, which is a must when living self-sufficiently!

Every Monday night we are in rehearsal now with the girls.  Chantal, one of the moms, a MaryBeth recruit to our committee, and herself a participant in numerous provincial pageants (“but that was HOW many years ago?” her daughter piped up last night) is an invaluable wealth of info. for both me and the young ladies, as she is instructing them in poised walking with books on heads, and my old Tickle Trunk petticoats on their lower half to aid in twirls and turns.  Even with ‘cammo’ and baseball hats, Chantal can get these ladies to SPIN!


chantal 1

(above, note the Danish ‘welcome’ in our church basement:  “Velkommen” – it’s seen in every public building here in the community, and the Danish flag, on Mary Beth’s cartoon mailbox and picket fence, is seen flying on at least every other farm!  Also, please note that while I have permission to publicly post these photos of the pageant gals, I am not going to name them, as a respect to their underage privacy!)

I also asked Chantal to please choreograph the girls’ initial ‘promenade’ in their casual clothes (which they are piecing together with only $10.00 from second-hand and rummage sales, don’t you think that’s a wonderful tradition?) and also their ball-gown finale, when they will be escorted on to the stage by two little 7 year old boys dressed in flannel shirts and wearing cow-boy hats and boots to keep in line with our ‘Down-Home Country’ theme.  I can’t wait to see that!

Here are some photos I took last night of Chantal rehearsing the girls in high heels to prepare for their intro-dance, which will be to Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” (’cause I wanted to have only women singers, we needed country songs for the theme, and we DEFINITELY needed a Canadian!)  As always, please click on each photo to blow up and read the captions:

To give their poor tootsies a break from the high-heels they aren’t all used to wearing (and certainly not dancing in!) we next went to my ‘group dance’, a bit of a production into which I’ve of course introduced a touch of ‘drama’ (bit of business at the beginning).  Here’s another big irony:  those poor girls, who are country/mountain gals at heart, have to learn to walk gracefully and to show off their feminine wiles one minute, switch to being what many of them (like me) would rather walk like – a relaxed mountain-girl hill-billy in bare feet, and then throw on a ball-gown and go back to that poised, tall, no-slouching grace again.  It’s really going to be an amazing challenge for them!

Here are some of last night’s rehearsal for the group dance, which will be to Lisa McHugh’s ‘Hill-billy Girl’ – but I dislike her line-dance to the same, and as one of our girls is doing a line-dance for her ‘talent portion’ (she goes for lessons every week with her grandfather, but he declined doing it in the pageant with her!) I’m putting in my own choreography.  (Though my back has been much better since the 3rd surgery in 2008, the knees, since the last crashing somersault fall off Junior in 2004 are progressively worse with osteo-arthritis.  Since they won’t do knee surgeries now until we hit age 60, and because I refuse to let the pain take away ALL my activity levels, I ‘strap up’! ) Click on any of the below to enlarge and read the captions:

Within the Hillbilly Girl dance there are two instrumental bits and I’ve planned a ‘showcase’ of each girl’s gymnastic talent aka “hillbilly jumps and kicks” to add some excitement… Here’s one from last week’s rehearsal, with faithful Tiffany taking photo:


Lastly, the girls put their high-heels back on to practice their more formal ball-gown finale. Chantal is playing the part of the little 7 year-old boys, as she escorts each to the stage and instructs them on their ‘turns’. They will then be asked a question on their thoughts or beliefs on a certain subject, by the M.C., prior to the judges making their final decisions.  Here’s each of the lovely girls as they come down the aisle to Jessica Andrews’ ‘Who I Am’ (Rosemary’s Grand-daughter).  And one of them actually IS a Rosemary’s grand-daughter, too!  I suggested that her grandmother would LOVE this song, then. However, we were informed that Rosemary was quote/unquote ‘unable to attend’.  We said ‘oh, that’s too bad, why not?’.    ‘Wal, ’cause she’s dead’ was the drawled response.


By the way, when you see very ripped jeans (above) please note that these are not being worn in preparation for the Hill-billy Girl dance with me.  For those of you not as ‘hip’ as I am to the modern fashion (the very use of the term ‘hip’ proves this is entirely tongue-in-cheek) these are the designer pants that cost so much nowadays, and another bit of irony is that the girls are going to be buying their ‘casual wear’ for the pageant at rummage sales for under $10.00, and likely (because their grandparents won’t approve) leaving these jeans at home!

Thus, the ironies of my life in the Appalachians continues.  Just when you think something is being introduced into your life which you just can’t come to grips with, you take off your shoes, your bare feet help you get sticky purchase, and there you are.  You’ve come to grips!

Kick off them ruby slippers, Dorothy.  You’re back on the farm, baby.

ruralrevivals pic

Funnily enough, the above “Find Your Style” meme is at the top of our Rural Revivals’ website: http://www.rusticrevivals.wixsite.com/ruralrevivals   and is not only what the girls are considering wearing for their group dance, but the ‘find your style’ motto is how they are being told to go find their rummage sale casual outfits for both their Princess tea and their Introductory walk onstage the night of the pageant!  So maybe I DO know more about this than I at first thought!