CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS —
One giveaway that Wednesday’s event wasn’t the standard pageant fare came when the dozen contestants shared some of their interests with the hundreds in the audience: Gardening, coach bus trips, knitting, time with grandkids — and great-grandkids.
And it was made more obvious when the ‘evening-wear’ portion of the pageant put lots of long-legged, comfortable-looking pajama sets on display.
That’s the Timeless Tootsies Pageant, which, complete with a group dance routine to Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff,’ served as the opening act of the 59th annual Fireman’s Carnival presented by Cambridge Springs Volunteer Fire Department. Now in their second year, the Tootsies — all Cambridge Springs-area women who are 60 or older — have gained local fame by performing their dance routines throughout the year in Cambridge, around Crawford County and elsewhere, including several performances for thousands-strong crowds at Erie Seawolves baseball games.
“In my 82 years of life on this earth, I’ve never gotten this much attention,” Ida May Right, last year’s inaugural (and now outgoing) Ms. Timeless Tootsie, said with a laugh prior to the start of Wednesday’s pageant. “In a sense, that’s pretty good,” she added.
The pageant does have a “winner” as its end result — this year’s Ms. Timeless Tootsie is Norma (Noni) Stanford — but everyone involved was quick to point out that’s not what it’s about. Performing with the other members of the group throughout the year, “I tried to downplay” that title, Right said — again with a laugh — because “I wanted (the others) to keep liking me.”
When it comes down to it, she said, “the sisterhood that’s formed ... (is really) what it’s kind of been about.”
The Tootsies were created by Gannon University communications graduate and Cambridge Springs Pageant Association member Erin Bogda. “It was an idea I came up with a couple of years ago,” she said Wednesday, and “everyone was on board” within the association.
And since then, she said, the Tootsies have “been all over the place” performing for various crowds. “People love it because it’s one-of-a-kind.”
Janet Beanland, a member of the first group of Tootsies, said she and others didn’t quite expect to achieve such popularity. Starting out, “we all thought our goal was to just have fun” and bring a few more people into the Cambridge carnival grounds on the event’s opening night, she said. “It certainly worked. ...(And) we’ve certainly had a good time.”
The event’s brought more than a few people to the grounds, as Wednesday night the carnival stage area was filled to capacity. And as for having a good time, the smiles, laughs and cheers said it all.
Contestants Helen Shaeffer and Mary Hunter were named first- and second- runners-up, respectively, at Wednesday’s pageant. The entire group of 12 has upcoming performances scheduled for Monday and Aug. 26 before Erie Seawolves crowds, as well as in September during Cambridge Springs annual (traditional) pageant competitions.
And “I’m sure (they’ll) have more performances” elsewhere as well, said Bogda.
Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.