Queen of the Chesapeake: Not Just a Beauty Contest

For 70 years the Maryland Yacht Club has hosted the annual Queen of the Chesapeake Pageant, each year crowning a young girl to represent yacht clubs across the state.

On Saturday, club members gathered to see who would go home with the title first awarded to Rachel Holmes in 1948. This year’s Queen, 16-year-old Mia Sokol of Pasadena, Md., represents Bodkin Yacht Club. And she represents them with kindness: Sokol was also awarded “Miss Congeniality” at the pageant.

Make no mistake: Queen of the Chesapeake isn’t a beauty queen. There are no categories for bikinis or evening wear. Instead, the judges choose the girl who will best represent the Bay and its important issues.

Contestant “princesses,” each representing a member yacht club, compete in the categories of poise, personality, essay, and personal achievement. At the end of the day, only one will leave with the crown and trophy.

The girls are interviewed to determine personality scoring, and must read their essays aloud at the pageant. This year’s essay asked contestants what information they would bring back, given the opportunity to go into the future for a day. Sokol wrote that she would look for any clues about how to conserve the Chesapeake Bay including information on pollution control and marine life.

Tasked with making appearances and giving speeches at a number of Yacht Club events, “Queen of the Chesapeake” is much more than an honorary title. The queen is expected to raise awareness among the yacht clubs regarding the health of the Bay. In her work at Bodkin Yacht Club on her way to becoming Queen, Sokol raised more than $2,500 for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“At our opening weekend for the past two years I’ve set up a table for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation,” Sokol said. “We have pamphlets, and brochures, and little coozies, and things like that which give information to the yacht club community about preserving the bay.”

Sokol will be awarded the $2,000 Queen’s Scholarship when she enrolls in college. She has recently been inducted into the Tri-M Music Honor Society and works as a lifeguard at her local YMCA.

-Charlie Youngmann