Hendriks made history as first Ontario IPM Princess in 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
In September of 2017, Huron County made history with the crowning of the first-ever International Plowing Match (IPM) Princess in Walton. The icing on the cake was that it was Brooklyn Hendriks, Huron County’s representative, who rose above her 14 other competitors to earn the historic crown.
In the previous 99 IPMs held in Ontario, a Princess competition had never been held. It was in Walton in 2017, at the 100th IPM, that a Princess competition was first held at the provincial level in Ontario.
This would have been the 15th year the Huron County Plowmen’s Association held a Princess competition. It was first spearheaded by George and Ruth Townsend 12 years before Hendriks was crowned on that warm day in Walton, culminating in over a decade of hard work and celebration of the young women of Huron County.
While it was Hendriks who wore the crown at the end of the day, it was equally special for the Townsends, who teared up as they spoke on the stage that day. The number of phone calls Ruth has made to recruit smart young women for the competition would number in the hundreds and George, a former plowing coach, has always been supportive of young people in local plowing matches.
George said that seeing the Princess competition on the IPM stage had always been his dream and, as he fought back tears, he said that his dream had turned out to be a pretty good one.
In the end it was Hendriks who prevailed back in 2017. Hendriks was the president of the Huron County IPM 4-H Club, responsible for the Huron County 4-H tent at the IPM. She had also been involved in dozens of 4-H projects over the years.
After all 15 contestants presented their speeches to the judges – Tim Prior of Brussels, Ruth MacLean from Kingston and Pam Emmott from Princeton – the top five were chosen and those contestants then gave a short, impromptu speech, based on a question they were asked by the event’s emcee.
The final five contestants were Hendriks, Brynn Depencier from Chatham-Kent, Abbey Cocking from Haldimand County, Alexandra Carkner from Leeds County and Rebecca vanDonkersgoed from Oneida.
After nearly a half-hour of deliberation on an extremely hot day, the judges returned with their decision that Hendriks would be the one to wear the crown.
Prevailing on home soil, Hendriks said, made her particularly proud. This was her match, she said, and that made her want to win it just that little bit more.
Hendriks was determined to win in Huron County in 2017, especially knowing that a win there would lead to a shot at the first-ever provincial crown at the IPM.
What first attracted Hendriks to the competition is that it was similar to agricultural competitions she was familiar with through her love of 4-H. To her, being the Princess of the Huron County Plowing Match was just another agricultural competition. Hendriks also enjoys public speaking and has proven to be good at it over the years, whether it was through school speech competitions or her eventual Princess win.
In the 2017 Huron County competition, Hendriks competed against 11 other young women, which she says made her rather nervous. Not only were there a dozen competitors vying for the crown, but she knew many of them from school, 4-H or from the community.
Knowing that winning the Huron County competition meant a bid for the first-ever provincial crown at the IPM added pressure for Hendriks. So, when she won, she said she was pretty thrilled.
She then spent the rest of the summer as the president of the special Huron County-wide IPM 4-H Club. The club formed with just under 20 members with the goal of hosting the county’s 4-H Club tent at the IPM. Those who participated learned about hosting an event from both an administrative and a logistical side.
Hendriks truly benefitted from being involved with the club thanks to the regular history lessons from long-time 4-H leader and plowing match judge Don Dodds, who served as one of the leaders of the club. Hendriks said that Dodds filled the club members with knowledge of Huron County history and stories from past IPMs that served her well for her Princess competition interviews.
In September, when it came time for Hendriks to represent Huron County in the IPM competition, she admits that while she had prepared mentally, she was so busy in the days leading up to the actual competition that she didn’t think about it much.
With the Princess competition due to only take one day (on Saturday of the IPM, the final day of the match), she was busy until the time of the competition. This is unlike the Queen of the Furrow competition, which sees contestants spend the entire week together and getting to know one another in advance of the on-stage part of the competition.
Hendriks said she was nervous for the IPM competition and that being the first contestant to speak that day didn’t help. But, in the end, she was relieved to speak first. Not only did she get it out of the way, but she was the first to mention a number of topics, so she set the tone of discussion.
She said she remembers the agonizing wait while the judges made their decision that afternoon. When she was named to the Princess competition’s top five, she said she was happy, sitting with the Huron County crown and a top-five finish in the provincial competition. When she won, however, she was over the moon.
When she was being crowned by George and Ruth Townsend, her mind went back to something George had told her over a month earlier. When she was crowned the Huron County Princess, George told her that “she better win” the provincial crown the first time it was up for grabs, especially since it was happening in Huron County.
She said she was happy to have made the Townsends proud, not to mention the numerous family members she had in the audience, including her grandparents.
The experience, she said, has been tremendous. Admittedly, the Ontario Plowmen’s Association hasn’t had a playbook for the Princess competition and Hendriks and her family have often had to play it by ear, but she says she has enjoyed every second of it.
She hopes that what she’s done has provided a bit of a path for future Princesses to follow and that it will be easier for Princesses in the future.
As for the whole reason for the Princess competition, to prepare participants for the Queen of the Furrow competition, Hendriks says it has succeeded and she hopes to one day compete in the Queen competition.