Judy Gillis-Lanham smiles for the camera after being named 1966 Dairy Festival Queen.
The Golden Jubilee: 1966 Dairy Fest Queen looked to Broadway for talent inspiration
By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor
August 31, 2008 - Contestants at the 1966 Dairy Festival Pageant had all of Broadway at their disposal. "Music Magic in Dairyland" was the theme that year, and contestants could choose from a wide variety of musicals for their floats and talent.
Judy Gillis-Lanham, sponsored by the Rotary Club, chose "Bye, Bye Birdie" as the theme for her float and performed a pantomime dance to "Put on a Happy Face," a number from the popular musical during the talent competition. Frances McMullen served as Gillis-Lanham's dance instructor.
Judy Gillis-Lanham and her granddaughter Katelyn Roberts, 3, of San Antonio, share a special moment during a recent visit.
"My inspiration for both the float and the talent competition came from the movie starring Janet Leigh, Ann-Margaret and Dick Van Dyke," Gillis-Lanham said. "Our float was named first place."
Gillis-Lanham said she chose the number for talent because it was "fun and it fit my personality."
According to a clipping from the May 8, 1966, edition of the News- Telegram, Becky Booker was first runner-up to Gillis-Lanham. Linda Linam was "cited for her poise and personality," while Melinda Morgan "captured the talent division." Gillis-Lanham also won ticket sales that night.
"Several years ago, I hosted a luncheon for the contestants," Gillis-Lanham. "I had just remodeled my house and had the girls over and served them lunch. I showed them the silver bowl that they gave me when I won ticket sales. They were shocked."
Gillis-Lanham has the bowl on display in her home.
Eight young women participated in the pageant that year. "They will be featured in programs three times during the festival week - in the beauty, and talent judging, in a May 5 downtown parade and at the pageant," according to an undated clipping.
"My life was irreversibly changed when they announced my name," Gillis-Lanham said. "Being queen of the Hopkins Dairy Festival enhanced my life by teaching me social graces. By meeting new people, I learned that everyone has something interesting to share and enjoy."
Gillis-Lanham enjoyed representing Hopkins County throughout East Texas.
"I met Sissy Spacek at the Dogwood Fiesta in Quitman," she said. "And I received peaches from Pittsburg, yams from Gilmer, a leaf for my charm bracelet from Winnsboro and they presented me with roses when I was in the Tyler Rose Parade."
One of her most cherished memories is of her father saddling up her horse, "Smut," for the Autumn Trails ride in Winnsboro.
Although her family was not involved in the dairy industry, they were active in the cattle business.
"My family ranch was founded in 1873 by my great-great grandfather, H.A.. Gills," she explained. "My grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. A.K. Gills and Mr. and Mrs. Ashley Plunkett continued the family's ranching traditions."
Gillis-Lanham has fond memories of time spent on the ranch.
"Growing up, I remember my Granddaddy Plunkett teaching me how to milk a cow and my grandmother showing me how to pasteurize the cow's fresh milk in a double boiler and how to churn the cream into butter," Gillis-Lanham said.
Gillis-Lanham's father, Jack Gillis and his uncle Bobby Gills, operate the ranch.
After giving up her title and high school graduation, Gillis-Lanham attended East Texas State University, the University of Hawaii, Hendrix College and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1971.
Gillis-Lanham has two daughters, Ashley Ann Roberts and Alison Leigh Bagley, who live in San Antonio.
"Ashley is blessed with two beautiful daughters, Katelyn and Lucy," Gillis-Lanham said.
In 1997, she returned to Sulphur Springs from San Antonio. In 2007, she married Dr. Larry Lanham of San Antonio, who now practices with Dr. Kenny Thompson, formerly of Sulphur Springs, at East Texas Children's Dentistry in Mount Pleasant.
She now works part-time as a registered health information administrator in the health care industry. She functions as an independent consultant working in nursing facilities, home health and assisted living facilities.
Her hobbies include cherished time with her family, traveling, entertaining, snorkeling, fly fishing and leisure time at Lake Quitman.
Leo St. Clair helped build Gillis-Lanham's float when she was queen.
"At that time, he gave me a Swiss music box that played Mozart's Minuet from his collection," she said. "Leo's generous gift began a lifetime of collecting music boxes for me."
Judy Gillis-Lanham believes that her experiences as 1966 Hopkins County Dairy Festival Queen led her to a few "life slogans that have helped her throughout her life - "Bloom where you are planted" - "Let your light shine." - and "All things are possible through God."
Information from the 1966 Dairy Festival Program
Narrator - Sunelll Rogers
Soloist - J.T. Adams
Organist - Mrs. John Anglin
1965 Queen - Her Royal Majesty, Janet Bailey
Escort - Norman Roberts
Carol Ann Trap - Cooper
Karen Penny - Daingerfield
Linda Garrison - Gilmer
Ann Bass - Mineola
Rosalind Ramsay - Mt. Vernon
Shelia Nix - Emory
Mary Frances Carter - Naples
Elizabeth Spacek - Quitman (later to be known as Sissy Spacek)
Vickie Wilmont - Tyler
Dianne Boyd - Winnsboro
Janice White - Mount Pleasant
Mary Alice Adams - Commerce
Marilyn Morris - Paris
Melinda Morgan - Talent - Singing Pantomime - Escort - John Granack - Float - Camelot - Sponsor - Business and Professional
Judy Gillis - Talent - Pantomime Dance - Escort - Phil Kenley - Float - Bye, Bye Birdie - Sponsor - Rotary Club
Cynthia Cherry - Talent - Pantomime Dance - Escort - Bob Kirkpatrick - Float - The King and I - Sponsor - Dial Study Club
Linda Linam - Talent - Pantomime Dance - Escort - John Rives - Float - The Sound of Music - Sponsor - Standard Club
Marynell Anderson - Talent - Piano Skit - Escort - Sammy Fox - Float - Brigadoon - Sponsor - Hopkins County Farm Bureau
Marilyn Reynolds - Talent - Song - Escort - Vick Hines - Float - Carousel - Sponsor - Senior Waverly Club
Carol Swindell - Talent - Dance - Escort - Harold Richey - Float - South Pacific - Sponsor - Junior Waverly Club
Becky Booker - Talent - Pantomime Dance - Escort - Mike Camp - Float - Babes in Toyland - Sponsor - Mothers Culture Club
General Chairman - Carl Brice
Vice Chairman - Jim Shockey
Pageant Coordinator - Mrs. F.G. Rogers
Secretary - Mrs. Paul Herschler
Treasurer - Mrs. Mike Pribble
Talent and Beauty Competition - Mrs. Verdon Graves - Mrs. Billy Hager - Mrs. Durwayne Irvin - Mrs. Paul Herschler - Paul Herschler - Rawlings Lemon
Decoration - Mrs. Bill Elliott - Mrs. R.C. Cates - Mrs. Tip Sparks
Tickets - Mrs. Joseph Longino
Queen's Arrangements - Mrs. Mike Pribble
Special Arrangements - Cody Greer - Bill Taylor - Beta Sigma Phi
Parade - Paul Herschler
Float Arrangements - Leo St. Clair
Hostess for Duchesses - Mrs. Grady Prim
Talent Show - Mrs. Verdon Graves
Program - Mrs. Mun Watkins
Tommy Darling - Tony Highfield - Marvin Jones - Larry Campbell - David Rabun
(Editor's Note: In June 2009, the Hopkins County Dairy Festival will celebrate its 50th anniversary. In the weeks leading up to the festival, the News-Telegram will visit with former Dairy Festival queens to reminisce about the festival, the pageant and what it meant to wear the crown.)