Always a new experience

Published 9:28 am Friday, October 17, 2014

After 25 years in the newspaper business reporting on news and sports, I consider myself somewhat of a versatile reporter with the ability to handle any assignment.

I’ve covered golf matches and tennis tournaments on the sports side. Though not terribly adept at the lingo that is involved in the sports, I’ve managed to make it through all and write informative articles.

Writing on the news side presents various challenges of its own.

Trying to sift through all the legalese at council and board meetings is a challenge all to itself. The main thing is to ask questions after the meeting concludes whenever something is not all that clear when information is first presented. Sometimes that calls for a lot of questions. I’m thankful to everybody in Washington Parish working with me to get the facts I need.

Writing about the 2014 Washington Parish Fair Queen Contest was challenge all unto itself since I had never covered an event quite like that.

I was unfamiliar with where I should sit to get the best view for a photo of the contest and also gather information for my article. Most importantly, I was totally unfamiliar with pageant protocol, the violation of which is considered an unpardonable sin among some pageant people.

After some deliberation, I settled just behind the stage out of view of the audience and listened intently to each contestant’s information as it was announced. That was a little difficult since some of the fair workers were on their phone and contestants and pageant officials hurriedly discussed what was happening next.

I didn’t stop to think that a queen contest is much like a tennis match in that the players need quiet and concentration to focus on what they’re doing at a specific time. If I failed to hear some of the contestants’ pertinent information when it was read to the audience, I waited until she returned backstage where I quietly asked her about the parts I missed.

That plan worked for about the first three or four contestants until a fair committee member politely asked me to stop with the questions as the pageant was going on. I plead guilty. I did manage to get some manageable photos and pertinent information.

Franklinton High School senior Destanie Austin made a beautiful Fair Queen. I especially liked her answer to the pageant question posed to her about the best advice she has ever been given.

“The best advice I have ever been given came from my grandmother was that blood is always thicker than water and to never let peer pressure get in the way of my morals.”

I’d say that was a rather mature answer from a 17-year-old.

Hopefully the younger kids in the audience took that advice to heart and learned something.

It might have been my first queen contest to cover, but I definitely learned something, too. Hopefully next time covering a queen contest I’ll simply melt into the background and no one will even know I’m there.

Randy Hammons is a staff writer for the Daily News. Contact him by phone at 985-732-2565 or by email at