A TOWN is to scrap its “outdated” carnival princess contest in favour of an “ambassador” role based on personal merit.

Wallingford Carnival Committee has axed the contest, which has been a regular feature for more than 50 years, for one based on personality and achievement.

But the parents of last year’s winners hit back, saying girls “like being a princess for a day”.

Traditionally, girls aged seven to 11 line up ahead of the June event to introduce themselves to judges, who then pick a winner and two attendants.

Oxford Mail:

Wallingford Carnival Queen Patsy Ann Morton in 1969 with Gosta the elephant, mascot of No 27 Squadron RAF Strike Command

They then take pride of place in a carriage for the carnival procession.

Instead, for this year’s carnival on June 21, schools will be asked to nominate a girl and boy as a champion or ambassador based on “merit”.

Selection criteria have yet to be finalised but it is hoped the move will boost entries to about 20. Last year’s princess contest attracted six entries.

Committee member Kirsty Arnold, 38, said: “We are moving away from the old-fashioned beauty contest of little girls dressing up in dresses.

“Rather than a beauty pageant, which is quite American, it is about how the kids volunteer for the town and why they are proud of Wallingford.”

Oxford Mail:

Last year’s winner Caitlin Acreman

The Wallingford School administrator said daughters Amelia, 11, and Rosa, five, prefer the new-look contest.

She said: “My 11-year-old has taken part in the carnival princess competition before and I think it is old-fashioned.

“The whole thing was depressing really.

“As a mother I would prefer this because it is about merit, rather than how she looks.”

Fellow committee member Theresa Jordan said: “We have lost a lot of traditions over the years – we used to shove little boys up chimneys.

“We love our traditions in Wallingford but we have to move on.”

But mum Lisa Acreman, whose daughter Caitlin, 10, was princess last year, said: “It is just a bit of fun.

“The kids turn up once a year and introduce themselves.

“There are no parents chasing their children with make-up.

“My daughter loved it last year. Little girls that age do enjoy being a princess for a day.

“Most children from the age of about four dress up as princesses.”

David Young, whose daughter Finley Young, 11, was an attendant last year, said: “It is a shame.

“I’ve lived in Wallingford all my life and can remember it from years ago.

“It is not Americanised at all.”