1976 Dairy Festival Queen Kim Tucker Huffstetler.
1976 Dairy Festival Queen Kim Tucker Huffstetler with her husband, Don, and their son, John.
Courtesy Photo

The Golden Jubilee: 1976 Dairy Festival Queen inspired by annual parade

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

Nov. 2, 2008 - Kim Tucker Huffstetler's first memory of the Hopkins County Dairy Festival will forever be associated with the annual parade. Huffstetler attended her first festival in 1965, after her family moved to Sulphur Springs from Cincinnati, Ohio.

"We went to the Dairy Festival in the rodeo arena," she explained. "From that time on, I wanted to be in that parade."

When Huffstetler was asked to represent Junior Waverly in the 1976 pageant, she was "so excited."

"It was our nation's bicentennial and the festival had a very patriotic theme," Huffstetler said. "My float was called 'The Freedom of Imagination' and it celebrated Walt Disney."

Huffstetler credits Carolyn Keys Stewart with designing her float and was impressed by the work of the Junior Waverly members who carried out Stewart's design.

"Carolyn sketched my float on a napkin while we sat at her kitchen table," she said. "It was one of the first floats to have curved edges! I was hooked and could not wait to get it built."

Members of Junior Waverly went to Gober and Merrell's (Chevrolet dealership) garage "each night to work on my float," Huffstetler said. "I just knew it would win."

In fact, Huffstetler said she was "so disappointed that my float didn't win that I barely heard them call my name as the winner."

While Stewart and the members of Junior Waverly helped with her float, it was Duran Ardis who came through for Huffstetler for the talent competition.

"I really didn't have any talent, but Duran managed to put together a dramatic interpretation with a song and dance number from 'My Fair Lady,'" Huffstetler said. "She was the reason I was successful. She cut the music, choreographed the routine and coached me all the way."

Huffstetler's mother, Betty, went to an "old, old costume shop in Dallas" and rented an outfit for the 'My Fair Lady' number.

"I had to put brown eyeshadow on my face to make it look like it was smudged with dirt," Huffstetler said. "We dressed in the classrooms behind the stage in the old junior high gym and there was no water to wash the smudges off. Julie Hager was working backstage, and if it had not been for her running downstairs to the physical education dressing room to get water, I would have had the dirtiest face in the evening gown competition."

After being crowned, Huffstetler enjoyed "going all over East Texas to the various pageants and parades." She says she especially liked being part of East Texas Queens' Day at the State Fair of Texas.

Although she had a good time at the Gilmer Yamboree, the experience didn't look too promising at first.

"Their theme was celebrating the 50 states and I was assigned Hawaii," she explained. "They sent an elaborate sketch of the 'costume' I needed to wear. It was basically a one-piece bathing suit and a grass skirt. I was mortified!"

Once again, Huffstetler's mother came to the rescue.

"She found this beautiful satin fabric with bright flowers all over it and some long green metallic fringe," Huffstetler says. "The costume was beautiful. Mrs. Cannon at Sulphur Springs Floral made a lei for me to wear. The Yamboree ladies were thrilled."

After graduation from Sulphur Springs High School, Huffstetler attended Texas Tech University, married her husband, Don, also from Sulphur Springs, in 1979 and moved to Houston while Don attended dental school.

The couple has three children. Andi Huffstetler is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the University of Texas School of Nursing. She lives in Houston and works as a neonatal ICU nurse. Haley Huffstetler Puryear and her husband, Austin, live in Houston. Haley graduated from Texas Tech University and teaches science at The International Preparatory School. Their youngest, John, is in his third year at the United States Naval Academy.

"We moved to Mount Vernon in 1983," she explains. "After having three children, I resumed my education at East Texas State University, completing my bachelor's degree in elementary education."

She taught at Mount Vernon Intermediate School while her children were small and then went to work at her husband's dental practice when the children became teen-agers.

"I feel that my greatest accomplishment since the Dairy Festival is my family," Huffstetler said. "Don and I have truly enjoyed being parents and we are very proud of all three of our children. They have all become very service-minded, which I think is evident in the professions they have chosen."

Being in the Dairy Festival developed Huffstetler's self confidence, and it was also a learning experience.

"I learned from the example of the adults involved in the pageant," she explained. "I learned the importance of being involved in your community, especially when you can encourage and support young people. I could have never won Dairy Festival Queen had it not been for all of the help that I received preparing for and during the pageant."

The 1976 Queen now encourages young women to compete.

"Go for it, and most of all, enjoy it," she said. "The Dairy Festival is like the Rose Parade and Miss America all rolled into one big event."

Huffstetler says that she stays in contact with several of the girls who were in the pageant with her.

"I am happy to report that they are still some of my best friends," she said. "We get together every summer and spend a weekend laughing and enjoying the memories that we shared as participants in the festival."

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Information from the 1976 Dairy Festival Pageant program

"The American Dream"

Co-hosts: Richard Wilson and Cecil Pearson

Entertainment: Blue Blazes and Sulphur Springs High School Band and Miss Janet Skidmore

Court escorts: National Guard

Duchesses:

Jan Pearson - Hopkins County Miss Flame

Julie Hager - Miss Sulphur Springs

Rachel Hawley - Miss Rains County

Sally Hollandsworth - Miss Wills Point

Stephanie Mayfield - Gilmer Yamboree Queen

Kay Murley - Winnsboro Autumn Trails

Laura Puckett - Mineola

Vikilyn Wilerson - Dogwood Fiesta Queen

Patricia Gray - Grand Salline Festival Queen

Kris Sparks - Miss Mount Vernon

Tammy Caldwell - Como Miss Flame

Princesses:

Charlotte Ashcroft - Representing Rotary Club - Sponsored by Rockwell International

Vicki Price - Representing Mothers Culture Club - Sponsored by Pratt Packing Company

Karey Brice - Representing Dial Study Club - Sponsored by Sulphur Springs State Bank

Karen Murray - Representing Waverly Club - Sponsored by A-1 Auto Supply

Sharee Garrison - Representing B.P.W. Club - Sponsored by Texas Power and Light Co.

Anna Ray - Representing Kiwanis Club - Sponsored by Peoples National Bank

Margaret Bauman - Representing Standard Club - Sponsored by City National Bank

Kim Tucker - Representing Jr. Waverly Club - Sponsored by Sulphur Springs Farm Store

Chandra Mattison - Representing Alpha Tau Kappa Beta Sigma Phi - Sponsored by General Telephone Company

Mary Raines - Representing Sulphur Bluff High School - Sponsored by Coca-Cola-Dr. Pepper Company

1975-76 Hopkins County Dairy Festival Board

President - Bruce Fielden

Secretary - Mrs. Rod Henderson

Treasurer - Mrs. B.F. Ashcroft

Pageant - Mrs. F.G. Rogers, Mrs. Bill O'Brian, Mrs. James Reed, Paul Hershler, Mrs. Sim Barclay, Mrs. Jack Foster and Mrs. Billy Lawson

Talent Show - Mrs. Bill Hager, Mrs. B.B. McCool, Mrs. Gene Watson, Mrs. Lewis Helm, Mrs. James Moore, Mrs. Walter Helm, Mrs. Dan Phillips

Tickets - Mrs. Joseph Longino and Mrs. Pete Long

Duchesses Arrangements - Mrs. M.Z. Bailey

Parade Marshall - Billy Sam Elliott

Lighting and Sound - Charles Tolleson

Publicity - Joe Parris Jr.

(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.)

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