Whether baton twirling or rock painting, singing or dancing, 17 of the region's grand dames are expected to bring their talents to the Colorado Building on the Colorado State Fairgrounds September 1 as they vie for the title of Colorado's Silver Queen. The contest is slated to begin at 4:00 p.m.
Now in its 48th year, the annual pageant has highlighted the area's senior women in good-natured judging of a live interview and display of talent. The contest is open to hopefuls ages 60 and over, with contestants nominated by staff and administrators of local skilled-nursing, assisted living and independent-living facilities.
The victor will be crowned at the Colorado State Fair September 1.
Here's a snapshot of the contestants:
Bessie Bradford, 92, Hildebrand Care Center, Canon City: Bessie Bradford grew up in Limestone County, Texas. She graduated as her school salutatorian, and later was involved in Toastmaster's International, where she learned leadership skills by attending meetings and completing community projects. She also taught Sunday School.
Cathryn Anderson, 83, Evergreen Gardens, La Junta: Cathryn Anderson was a mid-wife, helping deliver many babies. She also was a second-generation mail lady. She also worked at the courthouse and for the local health department, as well as working with cattle ranching.
Antonia Torrez, 87, Bent County Healthcare Center, La Junta: Antonia worked as a kindergarten teacher's aide or eight years at the Primary School in Las Animas. She worked at the high school as a library aid for more than 20 years and as a tutor for all grades at the Community Center in reading and in art. She has been a lifetime member of the VFW Auxiliary and would help serve dinners for funerals or any area meetings.
Elizabeth Stanford, 79, Rock Canyon, Pueblo: Elizabeth "Liz" Stanford was a member of the Spanish Club and girl's pageants in high school. Later, she taught Sunday School and experienced mission work across the United States, especially during Christmas and the holidays. She plays the organ and piano. When asked as she describes her early life, she said it is "a series of mystery, grief, joy and wonder."
Sylvia Lopez, 74, Genesis, Pueblo: Silvia Lopez hails from San Diego and was a hospital cook for 18 years. Her favorite memory was when she put the school bully in his place. She loves to make people smile and laugh.
Shawnee Benton, 69, Sharmar Village, Pueblo: Shawnee Benton lived in Oahu, Hawaii for six years. Her grandfather, Roland, Carper, was in the Navy during Pearl Harbor. She was a member of the Rocky Mountain Baptist Church and often helped with the youth and vacation bible school. She also was a volunteer at Irving Elementary School for many years.
Irene Kelso, 91, The Chateau at Sharmar, Pueblo: Originally from Muskogee, Okla., Irene Kelso was a music teacher for kindergarten, fifth and sixth grade. She and her daughter went on a cruise with Steve Harvey, and she was nominated as "Queen of the Cruise."
Maxene Leonard, 99, Bonaventure, Pueblo: During World War II, Leonard served the nation by working for the Quartermaster Corps as a seamstress. She worked as a cook at of the (now closed) Idlewild Ski Area near Winter Park and she was a cook for the Devil's Thumb Dude Ranch. During the time that she owned and operated the Fraser Valley Cloth Company, she learned to modify ski suits for para-Olympic skiers. (Skiing with a disability was a new concept at that time.) She will turn 100 in December.
Vada Acrey, 88, Bonaventure, Pueblo: Vada Acrey was a schoolteacher for 30 years, starting as a special needs teacher then moved to Park Hill Christian Academy. After retiring, she worked at Pueblo Community College until she was 80.
Fran Lenzotti, 99, Primrose of Pueblo, Pueblo: Fran Lenzotti just celebrated her 99th birthday. She owned Lenzotti's Grocery store in Walsenburg and worked at the Huerfano Hospital for 25 years. She has volunteered at St. Mary's Catholic Church, mainly as a lector, and has volunteered at the Veteran's Home Hospital in Walsenburg from her retirement until she moved into Primrose.
Becky Helmsing, 61, Pueblo Regent, of Pueblo: Formerly the garden manager at Walmart and a firefighter queen in 1980 in Powhatan Point, Ohio, Helmsing faced critical heart valve surgery in 2018. She had three strokes at once on the operating room table and was in a coma for three months. She had to relearn "everything," the facility said. "Becky is one of the strongest ladies we know," said activities director Natasha Cason of The Pueblo Regent.
Natalie Stevens, 52, Belmont Lodge, Pueblo: Natalie Stevens is a talented artist, earning national awards for her artwork. She was a high school history teacher and was the "Den Mom" for her son's Boy Scouts Troop.
Audrey Lewis, 91, Pueblo Regent, Pueblo: Audrey Lewis was the office secretary at Central High School and taught catechism and bible study at the Shrine of St. Therese. She also is part of the garden club.
Tamra "T.J." Laskey, 57, Brookdale Senior Living, Pueblo: She is the top active member of the facilities Diamond Art Club.
Barbara Sena, 76, Life Care Center, Pueblo: A degree in computer science, Barbara Sena worked in Seattle as a seamstress, making coats for department stores. She belongs to the Legion of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
Faye Archer, 96, Desert Willow Health and Rehabilitation Center, Pueblo: A secretary for five years and clerk for a general store for 29 years, Faye Archer has been an active volunteer in helping with community events at the Church of Christ.
Gloria Chacon, 86, University Park Care Center, Pueblo: Gloria Chacon worked as a psychiatric tech/mental health worker at Colorado State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for more than 20 years. She won state contests in her teen years for her poetry submissions and for her paintings