The first National Pinto Bean Fiesta and Cook Off was Aug. 29, 1987. It started with a trail ride south of Estancia and was planned to cover all the way to Moriarty. There were wagons and horses and I was not a part of it.
That was a few days before the Miss Pinto Bean contest held Friday night the 28th, at the Estancia Co-op restaurant. This fiesta was the idea of Vedda King and Diane Arnette (now Diane Stearley). It was to bring interest in the Estancia Valley from Edgewood to Moriarty to Estancia itself. I had just moved to Edgewood with my husband, Bill, who flew jet fighters for the N.M. Air National Guard. Our sons, Will and Tom, were just starting middle school. I had begun a job teaching English at Estancia High school.
I am from farming country in Iowa, so this valley really appealed to me. The folks in Estancia told me about the Miss Pinto Bean contest and as I had been a storyteller for libraries in Albuquerque, I had a Miss Piggy costume. Urged on my friends, (I guess) I draped myself in pinto bean earrings, necklace and bracelets. El Comedor in Moriarty sponsored me so, I went as Miss Pork and Beans.
They ran the contest as a real beauty competition. I was up against 17 candidates—one dressed as gas. Yes, you read that right. It was tough. I was 40 and would have worried about my hair, but it was a yellow wig under pig ears and a huge purple hat. I did add a Fiesta dress over my floor length purple gown. And for my talent I sang, “You’ll Have to Speak Louder, I’ve Got Beans in My Ears.” (A real song from the 60s) To my surprise, I won. I was the first Pinto Bean Queen.
They gave me a dozen roses, a plaque which hangs in my kitchen, a 40-pound bag of pinto beans, a quart of motor oil, and a $20 savings bond. (I still have that!) And if you think that the glory never ends, I got my picture taken with the 1987 Miss New Mexico. She was a real beauty. I had not bothered to pluck my eyebrows, so I was glad to have the mask. The night was full of music and dancing. I shook a lot of hands. My friend Hap Ver Kamp who did photography for the Citizen; and who was a first-class photo journalist (he took pictures of Winston Churchill but that day chronicled the whole evening).
I turned those pictures over to the Moriarty Historical Museum this week. The photos by Hap also include the cook -ff part of the Fiesta at Crossley Park, after a parade down the main street. I wore my costume again and in August it was a tad hot. But as a good Queen Bean I waved and smiled inside the piggy head. Then in the fall, a month later Vedda and Diane had me ride in the State Fair parade. First it was freezing in the early morning and then it was hot again. Then there was an Old Timer’s Day parade, the 4th of July parade. That costume got a lot of workout.
One day when I was driving with the costume on, I put my glasses on the outside. They sat on my piggy snout. A policeman pulled me over on the side of the park, where I had a group of kids waiting for Piggy tales and that is the reason I had it on while I was driving. I gave the officer my license, and he wanted to know how he could tell it was me with my head on. I told him he could arrest me; however, I did not want to remove my head in front of the kids. Then he asked me to step out and I knew I was in trouble. He had me sign an autograph for his daughter and his partner took a picture of us together. The show did go on; I do love storytelling to kids. Some days, it’s hard to be the Queen. It has been 31 years since my reign. Now I am just an old Has-Bean. (Funny huh? Go on, laugh. You know it’s funny.) Roaring Mouse out.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.