By Josette Keelor
In her crown, pageant sash and heels, Bonnie Reynolds might not look like a knight, but when emergencies happen the Toms Brook mother of 13 drops everything to come to the rescue. So it's a bit of a change to be the one in the spotlight.
"I do feel bad, I come to the fair every day," she said.
Reynolds, 50, was chosen as the 2013 Mrs. Shenandoah County, and most of the fair events she'll attend at the Woodstock fairgrounds this week will be her first.
Her children, too, have never been on any carnival rides at the fair because of the cost of buying so many tickets. But this year, "with me being queen," they decided to come for Tuesday's children's day when the four youngest could get in free.
Mothering 13 children takes "patience, willingness to accept change at the last minute and lots of love," she said. But mostly patience. This year Reynolds was most looking forward to seeing the demolition derby for the first time.
Having a big family was never the plan, she said -- "We had five and we just kept going," -- but it keeps her and her husband together and keeps them young.
The children are ages 29, 27, 25, 24, 21, 19, 17, 16, 14, 11, 10, 8 and 6.
"It keeps you in shape, keeps you going," she said. "My baby is 6, my last." Now Reynolds is looking forward to grandchildren.
A stay-at-home mom who works in the restaurant at the Winchester Livestock Exchange on Mondays, Reynolds competed in the Mrs. Shenandoah County pageant twice before and placed as first runner up last year.
Her daughters Olivia, 11, and Sophia, 8, also competed in separate pageants this year, but neither won.
Competing in pageants is a journey, but Reynolds said it's worth it. It's something she never would have considered doing as a child, but it turned out to be a confidence booster, a way to meet new friends and a chance to play dress-up.
"I want to encourage girls to do this," Reynolds said. "[As a child] I felt almost like an ugly duckling. My confidence came with age."
Each of the pageant winners are chosen on poise and confidence, wearing a dress of their own choosing.
"And I won it in a $20 dress," Reynolds said. "I wanted to show people you don't need a $3,000 gown."
She also had to answer a question for her pageant: What's the most important thing to remember in a marriage?
From her years as a mother, Reynolds said she's had to learn compromise, and her answer focused on how each partner should consider the other's feelings and opinions.
"The contestants I would tell to relax," Reynolds said. "It is what it is, and enjoy it."
"This was like a bucket list thing, to see if I had the guts to do it," she said. "And I did."
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org