Beauty emerges from chaos

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2010

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – At last weekend’s St. John Sugar Queen Pageant, audience members were treated to a nearly flawless evening of entertainment and glitz. But pulling off such a feat is an exercise in creating order from chaos, according to pageant organizers Suzanne Entremont Cancienne and Maria Hotard-Stelly.

“That’s the beauty of it all. Nobody knows what’s going on backstage,” said Cancienne. “It’s all drama.”

Normally, Stelly dons a headset and keeps in constant communication with the sound and lighting booths. Keeping everyone on time with the cues is an important aspect of putting on a professional show.

“It all comes together because of communication,” said Stelly. “That’s the

only thing that makes it flow.”

Cancienne, on the other hand, said she has the duty of running around backstage making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be and doing damage control when necessary.

“I always stay in my street clothes,” she said. “I do the running.”

This year, however, when she found the air conditioner was not working properly, she found herself struggling to find fans to keep the contestants’ makeup from running. Finally, she decided to put on one of the headsets only to find they were not quite as easy to work as she had assumed. After someone finally showed her how to open that particular line of communication, she signaled to the people in charge of the technical aspects the problems they were having backstage.

Such mini crises are not unfamiliar to these ladies. In contrast to the finely tuned production the audience sees, backstage is a whirlwind of activity and damage control, and anyone available may be called upon to put out a fire here and there.

This year, for example, when Sugar Queen LXI Candace McGaff was not quite ready for her big entrance, Master of Ceremonies Mike Hoover was called upon to stretch things out a little bit. Consequently, the judges received a bit lengthier introduction than was planned while a team of people tied the laces in the back of McGaff’s dress. From the audience the mini-crisis was unnoticeable.

This year, a fog machine not only added dramatic effect but provided valuable extra seconds when getting everyone in place.

And when an unplanned-for shutterbug decided to march onstage during the show, Hoover’s wit and charm once again saved the day.

“I know I can count on him to add stuff in if we need it,” said Stelly.

Hi Sugar Specialist Barbara “BaBa” Oncale is usually in charge of making sure all the young ladies look perfect taking the stage, but this year her role in one of the numbers took her away from the dressing room. Consequently, Lacey Volion spent much of the intermission having a small hole in the back of her dress repaired.

While all this “calculated chaos” may seem like quite an ordeal to most, these ladies thrive on it.

“Right now, the wheels are turning for next year,” said Stelly.