BELLVILLE -- The bleachers were full at Bellville’s town square Thursday evening, where spectators gathered for a Street Fair tradition—the annual performance by the marching princesses.
The baton-twirling troupe is 85 strong this season, according to director Terry Shupe. It includes girls from Bellville, Butler, Lexington, Mansfield, Fredericktown and Lucas. They have been practicing since May.
“I think they like the Bellville Fair performance best because they get to enjoy the fair afterwards,” said Jennifer Inman, whose two oldest daughters are part of the group.
The princesses are grouped by skill level, and can start the program at 3 years old.
Inman enrolled both of her daughters as soon as they met the age requirement. They are 6 and 8 now, and still twirling. Inman says watching them perform brings back good memories — she was in the marching princess program for seven years.
“When I found out it was still going on, I was like ‘my girls have to be in it,’” she said.
Twirling is also a family tradition for Shupe. Her mother, Judy Derman, was a majorette at Colonel Crawford. Both Terry and her sister Sheri were majorettes at Clear Fork.
Terry’s daughter, Megan later followed in her footsteps. She and the other marching princess instructors, Dicxie McCune and Blaine Scharver, all participated in the program and went on to be majorettes with the Clear Fork High School marching band.
“It’s very rewarding to watch when they start taking lessons at a young age and then finally make it to the football field as a majorette,” said Shupe.
It's a progression she's gotten to see many times, having directed the program for 32 years.
“I think being involved in marching princesses shows the girls that hard work plays off,” said McCune, who began twirling at 5 years old. "Moving up in each class is an accomplishment and then becoming a majorette is the final goal.”
McCune teaches the tricks, intermediate and advanced groups.
“What I enjoy the most is seeing the reactions on the girls’ faces when they complete a new trick for the first time,” she said. “This year’s group of girls is very talented. They all have pushed themselves to learn harder routines and tricks than they have ever done before.”
The marching princesses will end their season with a performance at halftime at the Clear Fork's varsity football game on Sept. 28.
“I enjoy getting to know the girls,” says Scharver, who teaches the preschool class. “They have learned so much over the summer and it’s fun to watch them learn.”