Sarah Benson (front) led the Trail Ambassadors in a walk down history lane during a tour of historical buildings in downtown Trail on Sunday. A new category was added to the program this year that challenged the girls to brush up on the Silver City’s past and present their new-found knowledge to a panel of six judges. (From the left) Monica McPhee

Trail Ambassador candidates get a taste of city’s history

Sunday after noon, candidates from the Trail Ambassador program took a walking tour, learning about Trail's history.

If you think winning the Miss Trail title is all about beauty, then think again.

The May 9 pageant promises to be a “no holding back” show of glitz and glam, according to the group of young role models getting ready to put six months of training on display as they vie for the Silver City crown.

But getting there was more of an exercise in putting pen to paper and brushing up on Silver City history for this year’s five candidates in the Trail Ambassador program.

On Sunday’s soggy afternoon the Grade 11 girls huddled under one umbrella and traipsed through puddles in downtown Trail for an entertaining lesson about the city’s historical buildings from Sarah Benson, director of Trail Museum and Archives

The walking tour played into the program’s new educational category, worth 10 per cent of the final tally on pageant night, in addition to the traditional challenges that have contestants learning to write engaging speeches, and conquering fears of performing and speaking in front of a crowd.

“We looked at the main role of our ambassadors, which is promoting the Trail region,” explained Michelle Epp, program coordinator. “And we realized that our candidates were not being given the opportunity to showcase their knowledge in this area.”

The girls were tasked to research Trail history, the city’s tourism opportunities, and one or all of the Home of Champion categories of sports, industry or lifestyle, before presenting their newfound knowledge to a panel of six judges last week.

“We told them to think about something they are passionate about,” said Epp. “Not only did they display new knowledge of their city, they were forced into conversation with strangers (judges).”

The candidates chose topics ranging from the city’s recreational history and past sports heroes, seasonal tourist attractions, bios of Home of Champion inductees, past and present photos of Sandy (Gyro) beach and the history of city landmarks including the Greater Trail Community Centre.

Besides becoming City of Trail history buffs – Miss Firefighter Samantha Theobold, Miss Italo Canadese Ella Meyer, Miss Kiwanis Monica McPhee, Miss Knights of Pythias Alyssa Hunt, and Miss Legion Vivian Huang – said the knowledge presentation gave opportunity to practise public speaking, which is a skill they all agree is a highlight of the competition.

“I’m terribly awkward with an outgoing manner that didn’t always work,” said Meyer. “I learned how to conduct myself in public keeping a game face, what is and isn’t appropriate, and how to greet people.”

Hunt, Huang and Theobold admitted to being somewhat shy and that learning public speaking skills has built their overall confidence.

For self-professed “geek” Monica McPhee, embracing a whole group of new friends topped everything else she learned in the competition.

“I was never one to have a lot of friends,” said McPhee. “I had a couple of really close friends but now I have a whole new bunch.”

The weekend walking tour began at the Trail Memorial Centre with a chat about Trail Smoke Eater history, then zigged-zagged through town with a heads up at the AMEC offices to take in the 1930 West Kootenay Power and Light Company logo stamped on the building’s exterior top floor.

The next stop briefly held up the history lesson, when Benson quizzed the girls about the origins of the now closed Liquidation World building on Spokane Street.

“Do you remember what well known store was in this building?” Benson asked the teenagers.

After a silent moment, she reminded them the store was once an Eaton’s retail outlet.

But the answer only elicited quizzical expressions.

“I keep forgetting how young you girls are,” Benson chuckled. “None of you are old enough to remember what an Eaton’s store was.”

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