14 February 2024

Miss Wagga Wagga Quest puts out the call for the next generation

| Chris Roe
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two young women wearing sashes

Miss Wagga Wagga Velika Hayes and Community Princess Jess Barclay. Photo: Chris Roe.

According to Shakespeare, “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”, but for Velika Hayes and Jess Barclay, the titles of Miss Wagga Wagga and Community Princess have not been a burden.

“Being a titleholder is definitely different to being an entrant, and it is a lot harder, but I really do love it,” said Jess, who was crowned Community Princess in November last year.

“We do a lot of events and now, rather than having to introduce ourselves, people notice we’ve got crowns on our heads and they come up to us and want to know more about us and what we’ve done.

“And the little girls love the crowns!”

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Applications are now open for a new generation of entrants and Velika said participating in the quest and becoming Miss Wagga Wagga had been empowering.

“I think that the development workshops that we did as entrants really set us up to do public speaking and interviews and we’ve learned how to get a message across,” she said.

“Jess and I went to school together and I remember in year 10 we had to do a two-minute speech and the whole week beforehand we’d be freaking out and we’d get up there shaking.

“But now we are asked to do a 10-minute speech with a presentation and we’re a lot more calm and relaxed, so there was definitely a lot of personal growth and it sets you up to be more confident with even doing things like job interviews.”

Jess agreed that the pair had grown in confidence and were more connected to the broader Wagga community.

“I feel like we have so much that we can give other people and I know that in our generation, we can have a big role in what Wagga’s going to turn into in the near future,” she said.

three male politicians with two young women on stage wearing sashes

Miss Wagga Wagga titleholders Velika Hayes and Jess Barclay with representatives of three levels of government: (from left) Mayor Dallas Tout, State MP for Wagga Dr Joe McGirr and Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack. Photo: Miss Wagga Wagga Quest.

The Miss Wagga Wagga Quest will hold an information evening at the RSL on Thursday, 22 February, for young women considering becoming an entrant.

“For me, I knew of the Miss Wagga Wagga Quest but I didn’t actually know much about it so it was going to the information night that prompted me to apply,” explained Velika.

“It was very informational and [2023 titleholders] Kate [Pevere] and Haylee [Berkinshaw] were there and spoke about their time as entrants and I thought it sounded like so much fun.

“So for me, entering the quest wasn’t as daunting as it was for Jess, who didn’t go, because I knew what to expect.”

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After the crowning ceremony in November, Velika and Jess launched into a whirlwind few weeks before a quieter start to 2024.

“December was really full-on in the lead-up to Christmas and then there was not too much on until Australia Day and that’s when things kicked off again,” Velika said, explaining that the pair was invited to the mayoral reception and awards ceremony on 25 January and the citizenship ceremony the following day.

“I really like the citizenship ceremonies,” said Velika.

“We’ve met a lot of these people around town and at different events and it was just so rewarding to be able to give them their certificate.

“One man came up to me and I was like, ‘Are you excited? ‘ and he said, ‘Yep, I’m just so excited to be an Aussie!’ and that was just so nice.”

a mayor with two young women wearing sashes, and a family with flags and certificates

Velika Hayes and Jess Barclay joined Deputy Mayor Amelie Parkins and Mayor Dallas Tout at the 26 January citizenship ceremonies. Photo: Miss Wagga Wagga Quest.

Jess agreed that welcoming newly minted Aussies has been a highlight as well as seeing their charity fundraising for communities pay off.

“Seeing our plaque on the door of the room at Ronald McDonald House that we sponsored as entrants, and being able to see it come to life, was probably one of the most rewarding moments,” she said.

“Applications are also open for a Community Princess grant that people can register for online and we are also looking for beneficiaries for the entrants to raise money for this year.

“All of those things are online on the Miss Wagga Wagga Quest page.”

With a busy year ahead, the titleholders are excited about continuing to engage with the community and sharing their story with the next generation of entrants.

You can learn more about the Miss Wagga Wagga Quest information evening and apply to be involved as an entrant or beneficiary through the website.

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