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Show girls 60-years on

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Anne and Judith with their sash and prizes from 1971 and 1966 Photo – Jessica Howard
Anne and Judith with their sash and prizes from 1971 and 1966 Photo – Jessica Howard

By Jessica Howard

It’s been 60 years since the inception of the first Miss Show Girl Competition, and Ballan sisters Anne and Judy have reminisced on all the glitz and glamour.

Judith Hodgon (nee Holmes) was 24-years-old when she won the Miss Boort sash in 1966. She wore a floral dress and a hat with white flowers, that blew away in the wind.

Paired with the previous year’s Miss Boort winner, Judith was transported through the show’s grand parade on the back of a car. She donned the royal blue sash and carried the crystal vase that was given to the winner each year.

The annual competition saw a qualifying heat held at most country agricultural shows prior to the annual Royal Melbourne Show.

However, when Judith arrived at the city show, she found out she was too old to compete.
“It was disappointing,” she said.

“But [the Boort Agricultural Show] was great. It was a huge event growing up and winning the sash made it your day”.
Four-years later, Judith’s younger sister, Anne Eskdale was the winner of the 84th annual Boort Agricultural Show.

It was 1971 and the number of Miss Show Girl entrants was declining, so local organisations were asked to enter a competitor.

Anne was nominated by the Boort Trotting Club.

After winning her hometown sash, Anne successfully competed in the Northern District qualifier and claimed her spot at the Royal Melbourne Show.

Just 18-years-old at the time, Anne had never left her hometown of Boort. She joined 12 girls from around the state who were set up in Melbourne’s then most glamourous guesthouse – the Southern Cross Hotel.

“The Beatles had stayed at the hotel before and Bert Newton got married there, so it was the place to be, especially for someone who had come from the country,” Anne said.

“We spent four nights in the hotel, I had never left home and I was so nervous. We had a chaperone who taught us our manners and in the morning we went to the Elizabeth Arden Hair salon before having lunch with the Show Society and dinner with the Lord Mayor of Melbourne”.

Anne was interviewed in front of a panel of four judges – who crowned her runner up of the 1971 Royal Melbourne Show Girl Competition.

She was awarded a white and gold sash, a silver engraved plate and later received commemorative letters from the Shire of Gordon and local parliamentary member Winton Turnbull.

Over the dazzling four-days, Anne took with her many different outfits, including a tapestry print pantsuit and a dress made by her sister Judith. To this day, Anne still has the belt and a pair of white leather gloves that she wore with it.

The items of clothing, alongside the impressive sashes and prizes, were part of a 60th anniversary exhibition held at this year’s Royal Melbourne Show.

Former Miss Show Girl winners were invited to a celebratory luncheon in October; however, Anne was overseas at the time.

“It is sad in a lot of ways that the shows are over,” she said.

“They gave you a lot of confidence and were a really big part of our lives back then, but there are a lot of wonderful stories now so it’s good to be able to [relive] it”.

Where is Boort? – approximately 206km north of Ballan; 102km north/west of Bendigo.