1969 Dairy Festival Queen Janet Skidmore was the last queen to wear the hand-sewn crown.
Courtesy Photo

The Golden Jubilee: 1969 Dairy Festival Queen used confidence from pageant to launch singing career

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

Sept. 21, 2008 - If she hadn't competed in the 1969 Dairy Festival pageant, Janet Skidmore Cason might not have had the confidence to audition for a singing job, a job that resulted in her performing with a group called "The Good Times" in and around Dallas for more than two years.

"Participating in the Dairy Festival enhanced my life by encouraging me about my singing," said the former queen. "Singing has been a huge part of my life."

Cason had help when it came to choosing what to sing for the talent phase of the competition.

"My father picked the song," she explained. "This is a man who can't carry a tune, but wishes he could. The song was called "Feelin'." It had a line, 'feelin' groovy all the time,' which I thought was a hoot, but the song wasn't bad."

In addition to winning the crown, Cason won the award for most ticket sales, but admits to some help with that part.

"The Rotary Club was my sponsor," she said. "They sold enough tickets for me to win that part of the competition. They were so nice to me."

After high school graduation, Cason attended Austin College in Sherman and graduated in three years with a degree in art and English. She moved to Washington, D.C., worked for the government and landed a job with the Baker and Botts law firm, which she said, "impressed my father."

She moved back to Texas and worked on her master's degree in art at East Texas State University. It was during this time that she joined the singing group called "The Good Times."

"It was wonderful fun and hard work," Cason said. "We did four-part harmonies and different types of shows besides just Top 40."

After disco put an end to "The Good Times," Cason's father taught her how to "run title on land in the oil and gas business."

In 1979, she married George Cason and continued to work in the oil and gas business until they moved to Amarillo in 1982 for her husband's job. The couple have two children, Zachary Skidmore Cason, 27, an auditor for the Texas Department of Banking in Dallas, and Alex Skidmore Cason, 23, who lives in North Richland Hills and teaches 4- and 5-year-olds at the Primrose School.

"When I lived in Washington, D.C., I sang with a small group for a time, which was exciting to me," Cason explained. "When I stayed home with my children, I became involved in community theater, performing in "Peter Pan," "Barnum," "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Sweet Charity" and "Madame Butterfly."

Cason also put her training in art to good use, doing costumes and makeup for the community theatre, but the time came for Cason to go back to work "for real."

"I got the chance to do something else I'd always wanted to: take photographs and write for a newspaper. I'm amazed sometimes at how lucky I've been. You could trace it back to the pageant and trying something that was a long shot. You just have to try; you never know the outcome until you do try."

After working with the editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe News, an opening came for a reporter, and Cason got the job.

"It helped that I had done years of public relations work for all the volunteer groups I'd been involved with," Cason said. "The editor already knew I could write."

After a divorce in 1992, Cason and her children moved to Dallas and she resumed work on her master's at Texas Woman's University.

"In 1996, a friend in Sulphur Springs called with an opportunity to do petroleum land work again, and we packed up and moved," said Cason. "My parents, Bob and Joan Skidmore, still live here."

Cason did land work until 1998, when an opportunity to work at a small newspaper opened up.

"I took a writer/photographer position at The Commerce Journal," she explained. "I was made editor within two months. It sounds great, but I had never been an editor before. I had to learn the computer system, but by the end of five years, I felt pretty good about it all."

She and her daughter moved to Commerce, where Alex finished high school and joined her brother as a student at Texas Tech University. Hip surgery and health issues have keep Cason close to home these days.

Cason has fond memories of the Dairy Festival.

"Participating in the pageant was so much fun for someone like me who had always watched the Miss America pageant," she said. "This was the closest thing to that, so I took it all very seriously and yet had fun with it all."

When it came time for Cason to pass her title, she truly "gave up" her crown.

"I literally gave it up to Leo St. Clair at the Hopkins County Museum," she said. "It was an unusual handmade, cloth crown with jewels sewn on, and it was rather heavy."

Cason also has some words of advice young women about competing in the pageant.

"I'd encourage any young woman considering entering the pageant to 'just do it,'" she said. "If you have a sense of adventure, go for it and try; it can't hurt, and it can be a good experience. It's one of the few competitive situations for girls in which they can learn a lot about themselves and others."

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Talent Entries:

Miss Judy Copeland - Country and western song

Miss La Veda Coursey - Vocal presentation

Miss Patsy Minter - Dramatic monologue

Miss Penny Nichols - Organ solo

Miss Janet Skidmore - Vocal presentation

Miss Vali Walker - Song and dance

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"Dairyland Carnival" was the theme for the 1969 Hopkins County Dairy Festival Association pageant

Emcee - Jim Paul

Music - Grady and Vicki King and Hank Price

Carnival Performers - Laura Hinton and Sophia Putman

Morna Harry - 1968 Dairy Festival Queen - Escort - Steve Moss

Duchesses

Terry Hamilton - Winnsboro

Nancilea McDonald - Mineola

Kathy Jones - Pittsburg

Ann Kidwell - Trenton

Susan Womack - Naples

Sharon Shelton - Mount Vernon

Debra Cain - Quitman

Carol Wheeler - Commerce

Christi Simpson - Daingerfield

Joyce Hinsley - Cooper

Princesses

Vali Walker, Junior Waverly Club - Escort, David Gulley

Janet Skidmore, Rotary Club - Escort, Frank Ashcroft

Penny Nichols, Mothers' Culture Club - Escort, William Highfield

Patsy Minter, Kiwanis Club - Escort, Rom Ramshay

La Veda Coursey, Dial Study Club - Escort, Ricky Teer

Judy Copeland, Business and Professional Women's Club - Escort, Cliff Neal

Dairy Festival Association

General Chairman - Carl Brice

Pageant Coordinator - Mrs. F.G. Rogers

Talent Coordinator - Lynn Massingill

Secretary - Mrs. Bill Elliott

Treasurer - Mrs. Mike Pribble

Festival Staff

Pageant Decoration - Mrs. Bill Elliott, Annada Elliott

Stage Construction - Billy Sam Elliott, James L. Jones

Tickets - Mrs. Joseph Longino, Mrs. Pete Long

Duchesses Arrangements - Mrs. Bill Hager, Mrs. Walter Helm

Queen's Arrangements - Mrs. Billy W. Harry

Special Arrangements - Beta Sigma Phi

Publicity - Mrs. Harold Belcher

Judges' Arrangements - Leo St. Clair

Carnival-on-the-Square - Jim Tyree, Sterling Campbell

Art Designs - Jim Limbaugh

Sound - Joe Wilton

Lighting - Bill Hager

Programs - Mrs. Mun Watkins

House Manager - Jeanne Graham

Ushers: Linda Granack, Kathy Barrett, Martha Pearce, Sheila Jacobs, LuLinda Hughes, Billie Beth Berry

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