For Elizabeth Nemeth, the tiara sparkled in her eyes since she placed third in the McDonalds’ Junior Princess competition – she was 12 years old.

Last year, when sponsored by her employer, the Jarvis Street Saloon, she was crowned 2013’s First Princess and Miss Congeniality in the Rendezvous Queen pageant. She loved the role, and is now apprenticing to take on the role of Queen “Auntie,” who along with the Queen “Mom” look after and coach each year’s field of Queen candidates.

“The best part for me was visiting the seniors,” Nemeth says. “They were all so interested in talking with me. They told me stories about past Rendezvous experiences. I still see many of them around town and they will stop and say hi. It makes me feel good that the visits we had were memorable for them, too.”

She and Janessa Tlen, last year’s Second Princess, will be emcees for this year’s Queen’s tea with the seniors.

The whole experience, including events throughout the year, has given her a confidence boost, and having grown up with only brothers, her fellow Queen candidates were like a group of sisters she never had.

This year there are 12 lovely women competing for the coveted crown, and if Samantha Darling is any example, it is definitely not all about the tiara, feathers, and fancy dresses.

I caught up with Darling and the 2008 Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Queen, Lindsay Agar, in Shipyards Park volunteering to stomp snow for the ice sculpture competition. Instead of turn-of-the-century ball gowns, the ladies wore heavy boots, parkas and scarves in the -30°C weather.

For Darling, the lure of the Queen competition is the challenge, and a chance to celebrate being back in the Yukon — acknowledging both the 50th anniversary and her own 30th birthday.

“I thought this would be a way to get back into my community after being away at school for the last few years,” she says.

Both ladies are no strangers to challenge and adventure. Darling is a glaciologist, and an instructor and program developer at Yukon College. Agar is a coordinator for the City of Whitehorse. They ice climb, hike, and ski, and are both members of the Yukon Roller Girls.

“I love winter,” Darling says. “It is never long enough to do all the things I want to do.”

Running for Rendezvous Queen is just one more winter challenge, and it helps that Agar has “been there” and is full of encouragement and support. She’s also helping sell raffle tickets – a big part of a candidate’s responsibility.

“I hate selling things,” confides Darling.

“But she is really good at it,” interjects Agar.

As they stomp down the snow in the plywood cube, they feed off each other in the conversation.

Agar’s performance in the talent portion of the competition was teaching a fitness class to the audience; Darling’s will be to play a very Yukon musical instrument – the saw. She is taking lessons from resident expert Grant Simpson.

These Queen candidates see the competition as a way to grow as individuals, gain confidence, and to give back to the territory that raised them.

And maybe sell a few raffle tickets, too.

The Yukon College Queen Luncheon takes place Thursday, Feb. 20, with lunch prepared by the Yuko College Culinary Arts Program and all ages are welcome. This year’s Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Queen will be crowned on Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre Longhouse.

For more information go to www.YukonRendezvous.com.