The Sapphire City Festival of Inverell has been launched and the search is on to find the Queen.

Is royalty passé? Perhaps. Role models are changing, and these days Taylor Swift is more the idol than Lady Di. And that’s why there were just four bright young women vying for the title of Sapphire City Festival Queen at the launching of the Regional Australia Bank Sapphire City Festival, held at the Inverell Tourism Centre on Tuesday, September 11. 

They were there to prove – along with outgoing Queen Gaby Watson – that real “queens” are those with pure hearts, who want to serve their community. As queens, they will be the face of the festival and do charity work for the community. 

They pledged their willingness to fulfill their duties as they received their royal blue sashes: ceremoniously pinned to their shoulders with white ribbons, symbolising Inverell’s efforts to become Australia’s first “white ribbon community”. While mingling with local officials and other townsfolk, they were assessed for their poise, elegance and grace. One by one they disappeared to be interviewed. Questions focused less on their beauty regimen and more on their gritty involvement in charity. They were also quizzed about the town and the community.

“They were similar to the questions I was asked when I applied to represent the town as Inverell Showgirl,” said Ashlee Walker, 20. “I gained a lot of confidence when I held the title.” Hardly the dainty lady that feminists would scoff at, when Ms Walker isn’t wearing feminine dresses and doing charity work, she rides horses, quad-bikes and participate in rodeo events. She wants “to prove that country girls do wear dresses.”

The girls don’t see each other as rivals. Dignity, after all, is the hallmark of any prospective queen. Kelsie Dodd, 18, works for the Inverell Campus of the Community College Northern Inland and loves dancing, choreography and children. “I never had much confidence and I entered to get out of my comfort zone,” she said. 

The candidates have yearned to be “queens” for some time. Abby Fittler, 19, says it was something she always wanted to do. She took the plunge after seeing the current queen achieve her goal last year. “She’s my role model,” said Fittler, a student at the UNE, who enjoys photography, cooking and gardening. 

Breanna Mason, 22, has wanted to be the Sapphire City Queen since high school. “I just saw this as a way to get more involved in the community,” she said. Now a self-employed full-time mother, she decided to grab her chance and fulfill her dream. 

The Sapphire City Festival runs from October 20-29 and is family event with many events that culminate with a parade and fireworks show.