By Meladi Brewer
GREENVILLE — The Miss Annie Oakley shooting competition kicked off the festival.
The Annie Oakley Days Festival is a family-friendly festival in honor of Darke County’s most famous daughter, Annie Oakley. The Festival will run from July 29 through 31 and will feature live entertainment including western acts, cowboy mounted shooting, musical performances.
Annie Oakley advocated for women to learn a sport primarily dominated by men, and today this advocacy is honored every year at the Annie Oakley Festival. To start out Annie Oakley Days, the Festival hosts a Miss Annie Shooting Competition the Wednesday and Thursday before the opening of the festival at the fairgrounds complete with costumes.
2021 Miss Annie Oakley, Paige Brewer, says one of her favorite memories about being the 2021 Miss Annie Oakley is the hug she got from her friend, Morgan Hissong, 2018-2019 Miss Annie Oakley, after she had won the title. She says Hissong truly embodied the essence of Annie during the 2018 competition going further than just being a competitor.
“She helped me shoot. She was always there,” Brewer said. “Whenever someone was freaking out, she would fist bump you or something, and it helped you calm down.”
Brewer said Hissong did not care if you were up against her, she would give tips on how to improve so the contestants would have a good chance of winning.
In a 2018 Daily Advocate article, Hissong said, “I like the image Annie has on Darke County. She was a good role model. I like to think I possess some of those same qualities, and I like to think that makes my family proud.”
The Miss Annie Oakley competition means more than winning and bragging rights, it is a way to truly embody the advocacy Annie Oakley dedicated her life to.
“Annie was the first female shooter, and she was there to teach the world that no matter your gender, you can do whatever men do just as well if not better,” Brewer said.
Brewer says during her reign as Annie, she got to represent who Annie Oakley was and had the opportunity to show little girls how men and women are equal. She also said she embodies Annie’s infamous quote,
”Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.”
She advised future contestants to not give up and to stay relaxed. She says even if you don’t hit it the first time, you always have that second chance to hit it again.
“And if it doesn’t go good that year, you always have another chance to do it again because the second year I came back, yeah I bombed that bad. I relaxed, came back another year and ended up winning,” Brewer said.
Brewer reflected on her time as Annie. She believes she has the competition and title to thank for allowing her to grow as a person.
“It got me out of my comfort zone. I’m able to talk publicly and not be afraid to say my opinion. It helped me learn that I can do things if I keep trying,” Brewer said.
The skills she has learned in the competition and as Annie herself have pushed Brewer past her mental blocks and allowed her to take the necessary strides to who she wanted to be.
“It is a great opportunity, and even if you are kind of skittish about the competition and think you aren’t as good, please just give it a shot because you have the same chance of winning as the other girls, and it is not about winning anyway,” Brewer said.
She added it is about the memories, and the representation of Annie herself because Annie did not care if you were the best at a skill.
“She just wanted females to know they have the ability to try the skills that were stereotypically deemed only for a man,” Brewer said.
For more information regarding the Annie Oakley festival visit www.annieoakleyfestival.org. If you are interested in becoming a future sponsor please contact JoEllen Melling, President of the Annie Oakley Festival Committee at 927-548-1018 or email [email protected].
To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected].