Firemen compete in Miss Firefly contest
CHAPEL HILL - Acutely aware that the recession has curtailed Marshall County's annual matching grants of $4,500 to each of its rural fire departments, volunteer firefighters are conducting a womenless beauty pageant this month to raise money for equipment to fight fires.
One of the firemen competing for the title of Miss Firefly 2009 is Fred Haley, a former county commissioner and proprietor of Marshall County Internet Service in the log cabin at Laws Hill a few miles south of Henry Horton State Park. On Friday morning, Haley displayed the red dress, black wig, shawl and slippers he has for the contest to be held Saturday Sept. 26 on the stage at Lewisburg Middle School.
"Judy," Haley called to his wife as she fussed with his costume,
The red dress' bodice doesn't reveal cleavage and it doesn't cover Haley's dark chest hair, so he was asked if his chest will be waxed.
"No," is his quick reply, but Judy says, "We'll have to."
She says, "It won't hurt but for a minute." He complains: "It won't hurt you. It'll hurt me."
Waxing remained an unresolved issue last week.
"You've got to be secure in your manhood to do this," Haley says.
A firefighter nicknamed "Bull" is said to have an ensemble of gold colored fabric and accessories.
At least 37 firemen in Marshall County are secure enough in their manhood to don a dress and, according to Kathy Orr, "strut their stuff" across a stage as if they were women. Orr is the coordinator of the 2009 Miss Firefly Womanless Beauty Pageant. She's alternately "Momma" and a real mother for her boys in the Farmington-Rich Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
Its fire hall is her second home and it's where an Olan Mills photographer took pictures for folks who bought family photos at a premium price so the fire department could raise money. It's a typical fund drive. Womenless beauty pageants are not annual events. The last one in Marshall County was more than a decade ago.
"The guy from Olin Mills said he wouldn't miss it," Orr said of the professional photographer "who takes pictures for the fire departments."
What made that night of picture taking in Farmington special last month was the pose of nine firemen who tried on dresses. Many of the gowns were donated for the cause. Many were too small.
Two more firemen from that department, five from the Caney Springs department being formed there, plus seven from Belfast, six from Berlin, one from Five Points and two each from Mooresville, South Marshall and Lewisburg fire departments have entered the contest, according to Orr.
"We had more from the city who were going to come, but they had to work," Orr said.
Lewisburg Fire Chief Larry Williams says firemen from his department won't be taking prize money back to their station house. The city's fire department is funded by city taxes and the employees aren't to receive contributions for services.
There are actually two contests during the pageant. Beyond the Miss Firefly title, there's a Miss Congeniality title. The winner is determined by the amount of money placed in a jar named for each of the contestants.
"If Fredweena wins it," Orr says, "he'll take the purse to South Marshall VFD. If a fire fighter from the city wins, it will be divided among the departments.
Meanwhile, Fred is perfecting his performance.
"I've got my walk down," he says taking a few steps across the lobby of his store.
"No," says Kathy. "You're moving your legs, not your hips."
Fredweena's theme song is "I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt."
Then, looking down at his feet in red-ribboned flip-flops, Judy says, "Oh, we've got to paint those toenails, and wait until I get finished with his false eyelashes.
"Today, we didn't do lot on him," Judy said. "I've got to do something to make his cheeks redder."
Fred comments: "I hope we can get it off."
Apparently, Fredweena will be sporting fire engine red lipstick.
"It's for a good cause," says MCIS employee Bobby Hulshof.
Fred Haley counters that the women "are having way too much fun with this."