Sunshine Genco, chosen from a group of five contestants, became the Manchester Fire Prevention Queen for 1995-1996 at the Manchester Carnival on July 4.
Cindy Reed was first runner-up.
All five contestants were well-versed in fire prevention. Each had thought of her own way to teach fire prevention throughout the year to the community.
After interviews by a panel of three judges, each contestant answered two questions.
"I went to school with all the girls I was running against. Everybody had wonderful answers," recalled Ms. Genco.
"It was definitely a hard decision," said Nicole Patterson, the contest organizer. "The three judges came up to me and said this was a very difficult one."
"A lot of the girls were nervous, but I was excited," said Ms. Genco. "Performing is my favorite hobby. I'm used to being in front of crowds. And knowing that most of the people out there [in the audience] were friends and family helped a lot, too. When they said my name [as winner], I got an instant rush of excitement."
Ms. Genco said she entered the contest because she wanted to help within her community. Volunteering seems to be second nature for her. She has served as a target in the fire carnival dunking booth for four years running, which is "fun on warmer days," she says.
Many in the community may have seen Ms. Genco perform with the North Carroll Ensemble high school show choir, singing at retirement homes, nursing homes and elementary schools. She also performed and sang unforgettably in the lead role of Annie Oakley in "Annie Get Your Gun" with the high school drama club this spring.
"The spring musical is my best remembrance. It was a wonderful role, and I was excited to be chosen for it," she said.
"I've always been outspoken," says Ms. Genco, describing how she'll fill the role of Fire Queen. "You need someone who's not afraid of talking to people whom they don't know, who will represent the fire company really well. I'm really glad I'll get to do it."
Ms. Genco, who is 17, graduated from North Carroll High in June and plans to attend Carroll Community College to continue her interest in music with beginning piano lessons and begin a possible teaching career. She works at Koons Chevrolet.
What advice can she give next year's Fire Queen hopefuls?
"When you're answering the questions, relax. Stand out above the rest. If your answer is the same as anyone else, it's going to be a boring contest," she said.
Single women can register until July 31 for the Hampstead Fire Prevention Queen contest, which will be Aug. 15 during the annual fire carnival.
"Basically, you must be willing to volunteer your time," said reigning queen Angela Bowen, who is organizing this year's contest. "We give the contestants a list of 25 questions and answers, so you do not need to know anything about fire prevention" until you are preparing for the contest.
The Hampstead queen becomes a member of the fire prevention committee, which includes visiting elementary schools, attending fire prevention events and the fire company open house. The queen helps the ladies' auxiliary with dinners, bingo and other events.
She also can enter the Miss Carroll County Fire Prevention Queen contest and the Maryland Fire Chiefs' Association Queen contest. Winning either one gives the contestant several days in Ocean City for a parade and the state contest.
Single women ages 16 to 25 who have no children and who live in the 21074 zip code area can apply. Five have applied.
The contest includes an interview before a panel of three judges chosen from the Carroll County men's and ladies' fire auxiliaries, and a stage contest in which the contestants answer three questions about fire prevention in front of the audience.
The new queen and all the contestants ride in the Wednesday evening parade up Main Street in Hampstead. The queen also receives a savings bond.
Ms. Bowen's reign included an invitation to tour Children's Village, a fire prevention facility in Hagerstown designed for children. All second-grade children in Washington County receive fire prevention education at this hands-on center.
For instance, "a residential home that had burned down was relocated there so children can walk through and see what fire can do," Ms. Bowen said. "There's a dollhouse with a fan that sends smoke through house.
Children's Village officials "teach police safety in a mini-village with a [pretend] Pizza Hut and emergency room. The children sit in miniature cars and do police safety, like how to cross the street and stop at signs. It's really exciting. Mike Weller, who is in charge of the facility, wanted us to bring the idea to establish one here."
Ms. Bowen suggests that women who wish to be named Fire Prevention Queen "find something original" to pursue. "Each fire company wants you to do something that they're not promoting" in another program, she said.
For example, "most [area] churches are fire hazards," she said. So she established fire drills for Greenmount United Methodist and Grace United Methodist churches.
"We didn't interrupt services. We had a fire drill planned, posted in the bulletin and I explained the procedures. The fire company was there to time the exit from the church," she explained.
Information: Angela Bowen, 374-6965.