A New Ms. Eelgrass Is Crowned

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Community events

The Ms. Eelgrass contest returned this year to the Chatham VFW, where it began 35 years ago.  Here, Judge John Forger and the newest Ms. Eelgrass, Maria Price. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – A new Ms. Eelgrass has been crowned!

That may sound bit grandiose for the somewhat subdued event—at least by Ms. Eelgrass standards—held at the VFW Sunday afternoon. But the beauty pageant (if you could call it that) carried on a tradition first begun more than 35 years ago, albeit in a more family-friendly atmosphere.

There were four contestants, one fewer than the first Ms. Eelgrass contest held at the old Sou'wester in 1983, but the costumes were every bit as creative, and the entrants every bit as courageous, as the initial bevy of beauties.

Held as part of the chamber of commerce's first End of Summer Bash, the contest, along with raffles and an auction, helped raise money for Chatham Children's Fund's Backpack Project, as well as chamber programs. With food from the Chatham Squire and Red Nun carried in the light breeze in the field behind the George Ryder Road facility, families played corn hole while the Jody Moore Band belted out classic tunes from the small stage. The event was postponed from Saturday to allow Hurricane Dorian to pass by.

Although its impact was fleeting, Dorian dragged blue skies and sunshine after it, making for an interesting contrast with the original Ms. Eelgrass contest, held in darkest night and fueled by copious liquid fortitude. The storm also seemed to have swept away the legendary Captain Eelgrass, whose descendant was rumored to be in attendance but who no doubt had duties to take care of elsewhere.

The original Ms. Eelgrass contest moved to the VFW after its first few years at the Sou'wester. It was the sort of hyper-local event where everyone knew everyone else and the double entendres flowed as freely as the beer. It was started as a lark by Skip Hall, Dave Rauscher and others with the invented purpose of choosing a mate for Captain Eelgrass, the alter ego of the late fisherman Paul Lucas, famed for the luxurious crop of eelgrass that grew on the bottom of his boat. Over its 10 years, it raised thousands of dollars for Monomoy Community Services and other local nonprofits.

This year's four contestants took turns prancing onto the stage, introduced by Chatham Merchants Association board member Steve Wardle. Maria Price was first, draped in waterfalls of sea vegetation and sporting a “Made In USA” sash and sparkly fish-scale shoes. Up next was Santino Torretti, decked out as an anglerfish (the species with a light dangling in front of its head). Torretti works for Zudy and said he was coerced into entering the contest with “a day off.”

“Shelly Shellfish” was Danita Scribner, the chamber's operations manager, dressed in a lovely blue summer dress. “She loves to dance!” commented Wardle.

The final contestant was Rebecca Lufkin Catron in her Sea Fairy costume, the defending Ms. Eelgrass. She won when the contest was resurrected for one time only in 2014.

“Can she do it again?” Wardle mused.

It took judges Pat Vreeland, John Forger and Louis D'Acosta a while to answer the question. But first they had a surprise—a special “Little Miss Eelgrass” prize for 3-year-old mermaid Harper Rose Daly.

Finally, the judges' decision was announced, and Maria Price took the stage as the new Ms. Eelgrass.

“I'm glad we were able to find a crown in your size,” commented Wardle as Darci Sequin tried to fit the pearl-draped wreath onto her nest of fishing-line hair.

“First of all,” Price admonished, “I had to scale a lot of fish to make these shoes.”

Last, Price, the manager of the Sara Campbell clothing store in Chatham, said she was honored to be a part of the local tradition and help raise money for local children.

“This was a blast!” she said after trying out her new “throne,” a monogrammed beach chair from the Cape Cod Beach Chair Company.

The day's big auction item, tickets for two to sit in a skybox for a Patriot's game at Foxboro Stadium, donated by Trish and Tom Kennedy, was won by Rick Roy with a bid of $1,050.