At Saturday's Shad Derby Coronation Ball, one lucky Windsor girl will become the face of Windsor's famed spring festival, and part of the town's celebrated past.
The making of a Shad Derby Queen, however, is far more than a crowning, prizes and the opportunity to ride in a convertible down Broad Street. It's a detailed process performed over the course of months by which each queen candidate benefits.
Since the announcement of this year's 17 candidates in February, the girls have appeared in a number of public events, undergone a rigorous night of interviews from the judges, developed an essay and delivered a speech.
The girls will make their final speech Sat., May 5 prior to the judges' final decision, representing the culmination of their hard work and the end of a campaign that reaps benefits beyond the interview rooms and receptions held in their honor.
"It also brings the girls together," says Lori Butterick, who, along with Mariah Lombardi, is co-chair of the Queens Committee.
The girls are all from Windsor, but with some of them attending Simbsbury's The Masters School, Northwest Catholic, Kingswood Oxford and Windsor High, the candidacy has served as a bit of a reunion for many of them, according to Butterick.
"It's really brought them back together in that they haven't seen each other in five or six years, and now the ball has brought them together," Bitterick adds.
Under the guidance of the Queens Committee, and in the face of adversity that is the process of having their accomplishments scrutinized, the girls are able to form a special bond.
They hold an essay night, getting together at one girls' house to toss ideas around to answer this year's question; they tie-dye shirts to wear in the annual Little League parade; they even had the pleasure of a day of pampering at Windsor's Cutting Edge Salon.
There are plenty of moments for the girls to have a little fun, and it's all in the name of shining a light on Windsor's best and brightest young women.
The selection of a queen is "based on how well you present yourself to people, how knowledgable you are of current events, and how well spoken you are," Bitterick says. "I think it just shows what great students and what great young women Windsor is producing."
"I think a good Shad Derby Queen is someone who's really well-rounded," adds Bitterick. "They do well in school, they understand the world around them.
And, Bitterick says, the process isn't just about the girls. It's also about the town they love. "The get to show their love for Windsor, and these girls love their town," she says.
The following is a list of this year's candidates for queen:
Ericka Biagioni - Miss Gold's Gym - Windsor High School
Saralynne Brown - Miss Nat Hayden's Real Pit Barbecue - Northwest Catholic High School
Camille Caliendo - Miss Windsor Exchange Club - Windsor High School
Rebecca Lynn-Charette Lazarus - Miss Hairdresser on Fire, LLC- Windsor High School
Megan Connelly - Miss Windsor Jaycees - Windsor High School
Christianna Gilbert - Miss PC Development Group - The Master's School West Simsbury
Alyssa Hopson - Miss Century 21 William Smith Realty - Loomis Chaffee School
Chandlyr Jackson - Miss All Stars Gymnastics - Windsor High School
Hayley Malloy - Miss Jordan & Young Dental - Windsor High School
Sonia Matias - Miss Nunes Quality Plumbing & Heating - Windsor High School
Allison Mendola - Miss Union Street Tavern - Kingswood Oxford School
Rebecca Porri - Miss Connecticut Bank and Trust - Windsor High School
Maebh Sheelan- Miss Tunxis Grill - Northwest Catholic High School
Wafa Simpore - Miss Windsor Lions Club - Windsor High School
Christina Tasillo - Miss Rice Hardware, Inc. - Windsor High School
Sarah Whalen - Miss Ashley's Distinctive Jewelry and Gifts - Windsor High School
Bowie Wong - Miss Windsor Kiwanis - Windsor High School