Okay, you really need to watch this. It took nearly all day to make and I’m kind of proud of the integration of our photos with Mario’s images. The painting process is done, he’s just sealing today, so it’s the right time for an un-memorial to christen the piece.
Mario said the mayor AND Dave Scola came by to congratulate him on how beautiful it is. And I just got an email from Lara on the council saying the same thing. There was a blurb about it in the community focus, and kids have been excited about the frog and the turtle. This was a hard project to complete at almost ever level, first convincing Worth A Dam that it was okay to do something that felt like a memorial, then convincing the city to let us, then wrestling with everyone get the project insured: it was a battle at every step.
But we won. The battle and the war. And now Martinez will have a beaver dam on Alhambra Creek forever.
Well it’s time to celebrate now. How about enjoying the 12th annual beaver pageant in Durham North Carolina. The fun part is, that Worth A Dam’s Lory Bruno will be attending so we have a beaver emissary!
The Beaver Queen Pageant is not a beauty pageant with a twist. Rather, it’s a beauty pageant with a lot of twists. More twists and turns than its longtime beneficiary, Durham’s Ellerbe Creek Watershed.
For starters, its contestants dress up as beavers. In drag.
Still with us? Good. Now note that points are taken off if contestants’ tails aren’t at least partially, um, functional. Engineering is essential.
Contestants assume various alter egos. This year’s winner was a comer named Scarlett O’Beavah. Ostensibly, the lovelies are judged on the quality of their tail, evening wear, stage presence, something called wetland-ready wear and talent—which almost invariably involves pop songs rewritten for the occasion. (One year featured a mysterious contestant known only as Belvis.)
But at this pageant, the judges are gleefully on the take, available to the highest bidder—once, that is, they’ve bought their way into their seats. The more budget-conscious vote-riggers can help fudge the selection process by stuffing the ballot box with the perfectly good votes they’ve paid for. With their own (or other people’s) money.
In the tradition of the other kind of voter-financed elections that have marred North Carolina politics for too long, this exercise in civic representation isn’t merely pay-to-play: It’s strictly cash-and-carry.
Over the past six years, the pageant has substantially raised the visibility of its namesake—the beavers that have now made an unlikely lodge in a wetland behind a Roxboro Road strip mall. “The attention they’ve drawn has cleaned up that natural resource,” notes Duke Park resident Bill Anderson. “I can remember the Cub Scouts coming down to that marsh and pulling out five tons of trash in the early days.
“You go there now, it’s just amazingly clean, when in the old days it was a dump zone.”
But the Beaver Queen Pageant has done more than exhort neighbors to clean up an environmental eyesore. The $15,000 they’ve raised over the past half decade has helped the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association buy the wetlands the beavers call home this past year, as a part of their land trust efforts in acquiring and protecting ecologically significant areas in Durham’s urban environment. Their philanthropy has been “an enormous help in mobilizing the community to steward and maximize the benefits of the Beaver Marsh and our other preserves,” says Diana Tetens, the association’s executive director.
Still, this family-friendly neighborhood party and environmental, philanthropic endeavor started out as something significantly different. Picture an underground, after-hours drag pageant in 2005 led by activist Katherine O’Brien.
HA! This definitely has a more ‘diversity’ than ‘biodiversity’ flavor to it, but I’m thrilled that anyone in North Carolina is saving wetlands or valuing beavers! We loved their last slogan of ‘Peace. Love. and Beavers’. So we can only assume this year’s will be awesome too. Lory is bringing a flyer of our festival with her to cross pollinate!
Go see the mural today. Snap a photo of yourself with your favorite part and I’ll be happy to share it on the website!