At least I didn’t get booed |

At least I didn’t get booed

Cassie Pence

Last time I was in a parade, I was a bubbly seventh-grade cheerleader back-flipping down the streets of my small town in Indiana.This time around, as one of Vail’s Mardi Gras queen nominees, I exchanged my short red-and-white skirt for a black “pleather” one-piece, and my adolescent insecurities were replaced with a genuine fear of getting booed due to the controversy surrounding the contest.

Breaking a record for Vail Daily’s online poll participation, 4,232 votes were cast for Mardi Gras king and queen. And even more surprising were the 123 comments the contest garnered, some just downright mean, accusing the Vail Daily of cheating. Here’s an example of the kind of comments we got: “I think Cassie and Mark are winning this election the same way I did” – George W. Bush, one person wrote. Here’s another: “Wow – the Vail Daily’s own candidates are in the lead – what a surprise from a paper that lacks any integrity, journalistic of otherwise. It would be interesting to see the IP addresses of those votes, impossible to think that it could come from the Daily.”

That’s enough to get my tomato-throwing warning meter up to hot-house red. But the truth is, many of my co-workers maybe voted once. What the contest really turned into was a way for far-away friends and family to show their support and be a part of my life in Vail.That said, I have a confession: My mother single-handedly won the contest. The Barbarian, as I like to call her, sat at her house all day pointing and clicking, determined that her youngest of five would take the crown. Thank god I didn’t inherit her competitiveness. She even charted the votes, figuring out exactly how many votes other nominees were getting per hour so she could top it.

But don’t tell my best girlfriends I owe it all to my mom. They would disagree, because they spent their days monitoring the contest, too. Each morning, I would get an e-mail from one in Chicago, one in Georgia and one in Oregon updating me on the results. “Mark and Ashley are catching up, Cass. We better it hard today, girls,” they would write. Mark Bricklin, my king, has very similar stories. Our friends and family took more ownership over the contest than either Mark or I.I would note, however, that the poll is anything but scientific, and anyone with a computer could have had the same kind of support going. Other candidates no doubt did. So, if that is cheating, guilty as charged. But I certainly didn’t ask for the help.Next year, I hope the the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau accepts write-in nominations, and we get some actual love birds riding in the parade. (We only had one set this year.) Despite all the negative Web comments, I had a blast dressing in costume and waving at all the tourists, and at least I didn’t get booed. But I had some hard boiled eggs in my pocket, just in case!

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