03/26/10 — Daffodil royalty reblossoms

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Daffodil royalty reblossoms

By Laura Collins
Published in News on March 26, 2010 1:46 PM

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Miss Daffodil 1987 Bobbi Ann (Proctor) Crawford, left, and Little Miss Daffodil 1992 Sarah Beth Harris have fond memories of the pageant experience that continues to be a part of the Fremont Daffodil Festival every year.

With the Fremont Daffodil Festival only a day away, a few of the former Miss Daffodils look back fondly on the town and their time wearing their crown.

Although all have since left Fremont, they remember growing up in the small town atmosphere and credit winning the title of "Miss Daffodil" with instilling in them confidence and a sense of hometown pride.

Bobbi Ann (Proctor) Crawford was the town's first Miss Daffodil in 1987.

"Being that it was the first year, things were done a little differently," she said. "The committee just sort of approached me."

The first year, the Miss Daffodil and Little Miss Daffodil pageants weren't the competitions they are today. Mrs. Crawford said the committee interviewed her, and possibly others, and chose her to represent the town.

"It was just an honor to me. It was my hometown," she said. "I thought it was really neat to represent my hometown as the first Miss Daffodil. It's a small town and everyone knows everyone, so it was just really neat."

And Mrs. Crawford turned out to be a great choice. She had her hand in almost everything in the town. She used to work at Alsord's Family Restaurant downtown, where Capitol Cafe is now located, in addition to working at a clothing store and lifeguarding. She was active in gospel music outreach and involved in community theater.

Since graduating from Charles B. Aycock High School, she married Ron Crawford, who was from the Rocky Mount area, and moved to Saulston. The couple have two boys, Caleb, 12, and Joshua, 8. Crawford said she homeschools the boys and, along with her husband, is still involved in music ministry, although Fremont is not far from her mind.

"I go back often. My mother still lives there," she said. "I do still love the small town atmosphere and I love the fact that people do know each other. Fremont still has some of those same qualities that I grew up with: everyone knows their neighbor, Main Street is still the hub and everyone can count on each other in times of need."

For Kathy (Mercer) Brinn, who was the fifth Miss Daffodil when she was crowned in 1991, Fremont's signature flower is especially meaningful to her.

"My grandparents, Ruth and Norwood Mercer, had our last name spelled out on the (hill) behind their house with daffodils," she said. "I would watch the letters appear as they bloomed each spring."

After many years, the letters have disappeared as the bulbs worked their way into the ground, but Mrs. Brinn's memory of winning Miss Daffodil is still vivid. Standing next to her escort and father on the floor of the gymnasium, Brinn was waiting to hear the number of the winner announced.

"I was No. 3. I had no clue I was in the running for the win," she said. "My knees just buckled underneath me and my dad had to catch me. I'll never forget that moment."

For Mrs. Brinn, the moment was much more than the sash and crown, she also proved something to herself.

"I had never done anything like that before. I didn't even tell my friends I was filling out the application," she said. "There was an interview process, and we had to write an essay. I just wanted to see if I could make it. I really gained a lot of confidence through the experience. It was an honor. I had grown up in Fremont all my life, and I was honored to be able to represent the town."

After graduating from Charles B. Aycock High School, Mrs. Brinn attended Barton College where she earned a degree in art education. She married John Brinn and moved to Belhaven where the couple have two children, Aleah, 10, and Elyse, 7. She also teaches art at Northeast Elementary School in Beaufort County.

The year following Mrs. Brinn's crowning, Sarah Beth (Gray) Harris was crowned Little Miss Daffodil in 1992 as a fifth-grader. As part of the competition, she was required to tell about her biggest influence in front of the crowd. Not knowing what she was going to say, her family was moved to tears at Mrs. Harris' answer.

"I said my sister. She went to school to be a teacher and at that point that really stood out to me. What she had done and what she wanted to be, it really stood out, and I wanted to be just like her," she said. "It was from the heart and that was real special to me."

Her parents have video of Mrs. Harris being announced the winner, which still laughs about.

"It was very exciting, but I had no idea it was going to be me. They did the third runner up, then the second runner up. On the video, my face was just shocked. I was clearly very excited," she said.

She said even as a fifth-grader, she recognized that representing her hometown was an honor, but the experience also affected her in other ways.

"It certainly helped with my stage fright. You have to get up in front of people and entertain and answer questions and walk on the stage," she said.

After graduating from Charles B. Aycock, Mrs. Harris attended Wayne Community College before graduating from East Carolina University with a degree in business administration. She currently works at BB&T as a bankcard lender support officer. Mrs. Harris remained in Fremont until about a year ago when she moved to Wilson with her husband, Adam Harris, and their 2-year-old son, Jake, although she said a part of her is still in Fremont.

"Living in the town, everyone's just so close knit. It's a close knit community, and you've always got someone watching out for you," she said. "I didn't realize that until I got older.

One of the newest Miss Daffodils, Paige Stewart, was crowned in 2004, although she and her family are deeply rooted in the small town.

"I grew up in Fremont where my dad was the local pharmacist and my mom was a teacher at Fremont STARS," she said. "I had gone to the festival every year and really wanted to experience it to the fullest extent."

Miss Stewart said she thought winning the title was a great way to be a role model.

"I remember feeling amazingly excited and really honored. Having all the little girls in Fremont looking up to you is something that I'll always remember as very special."

After high school, Miss Stewart attended the University of North Carolina and graduated with a teaching degree. She is now teaching fifth grade in Grifton.

"I think Miss Daffodil gave me a lot of confidence and it really solidified my link with the town. The town will always be a part of who I am."