By Chapin Jewell


Tribune Correspondent


If you’re a Frankfort fan, you may find yourself with a sign in your yard that reads "A Keyser Tornado fan lives here." If you’re a Keyser fan, it’s possible you’ll wake up in the morning with your yard adorned with a Columbia Blue Frankfort sign.


Don’t fret, hopefully nobody will sincerely question your loyalty or check your temperature to make sure you haven’t come down with something.


Turns out you’ve just found yourself in the middle of a fundraising campaign for a Miss Falcon or Keyser Athletic Queen contestant. Sure, it will take a few bucks to get the sign moved out of your yard, but the beauty is you get to decide who gets the sign next. The cycle repeats itself, for months, all the while raising much needed funds for the athletic programs at Keyser and Frankfort high schools.


The 2020 Keyser High Athletic contestants, as announced by the Keyser High School Athletic Association, are Rebekah Biser, Gracie Bomboy, Kyleigh Fazenbaker, Hannah Felton, Lydia Gattens, Sierra Hester, Kyrissa Iser, Averi Smith, Abby Spurling, Taylor Stewart and Paige Winkler.


Keyser’s 2019 Athletic Queen winner was Brenna McCloud. This year’s KHS Athletic Queen will be crowned at the first home football game currently scheduled for Friday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m.


The 2020 Miss Falcon contestants, as announced by the Frankfort Athletic Booster Association, are Hope Kiszka, Jaden Rapson, Shyann Barnes, Shelby Ortt, Bryce Michaels, Cyra Shepard, Sierra Wigfield, Kloey Robinette, Raven Duvall, Emily Mantheiy, Michelle Phillips, Mckenzie Fletcher, Savannah Johnson, Alyssa Corwell, Jade Cordiall, Aaliyah Suter, Jocy Darrah, Karlie Sabers and Katie Miltenberger.


Frankfort’s 2019 Miss Falcon winner was Madison Bearinger. This year’s Miss Falcon will be crowned at the first home football game currently scheduled for Friday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m.


There are many similarities, and just a few differences, between how Frankfort and Keyser run their Miss Falcon and Athletic Queen fundraising efforts. At Frankfort for example, the Miss Falcon contestants are selected each year by the rising senior football players. They are provided a list of the rising senior girls and they select them.


At Keyser, there is not a specific selection process; those desiring to be a contestant may simply sign up.


Both programs are run by the booster organizations. At Frankfort, the Frankfort Athletic Booster Association supervises Miss Falcon fundraising. At Keyser, the KHS Athletic Association supervises Athletic Queen fundraising. There’s a bit of a difference in terms of how the money raised is specifically doled out.


At Keyser, the contestants are traditionally allowed to select two sports, but this year with the pandemic issues, that number was extended to three. The money raised is split 50/50 between the sports selected and the general fund. At Frankfort, the contestants are allowed to choose a sport, with 5% of their money raised going to said sport, and the vast majority, 95 percent, going into the general fund.


So far, the contestants for both Athletic Queen and Miss Falcon have masterfully planned a variety of events, from traditional tried and true favorites and new, innovate fundraising options. Through the use of social media, the contestants have reached out to their social network and beyond, utilizing technology in a good way to get the word out about events and items for sale.


While this has been the trend in recent years, the COVID-19 related issues have affected both programs, making for challenges and a change from the norm.


According to KHS Athletic Association treasurer Tina Stephen, "We’re almost two months late getting started. We normally start in March, but we didn’t get started until June this year. June 15 was the first day we could actually get out and meet with the girls. We’re behind the eight ball there with getting a late start."


According to Frankfort Athletic Booster Association vice president and Miss Falcon coordinator Kristal Weaver, "This year we had to do the selection process via technology as opposed to in school. Normally we go to the school and present them with formal letters saying they’ve been selected. Of course, we didn’t have that luxury. We still tried to keep it special for the girls by Facetiming them, and then we’ve conducted meetings via Zoom."


Now perhaps more than ever, the contestants fundraising for their respective athletic programs need the support. If the situation arises, please consider being generous, even a little extra generous if possible. With all the shut downs and restrictions placed on businesses, organizations and events, this year there are barriers and challenges that traditionally don’t exist as the contestants attempt to raise funds.


Further complicating the issue, the financial impact of the global pandemic means that there is less money to go around. A closed or affected business, an out-of-work or affected person, for example, simply may not have the money to give that they typically would. At both schools, the contestants have been reminded of the economic situation many people are in.


"We’ve told them, be mindful of the businesses. There are a lot of small businesses that may not recover from COVID. Try not to nickle and dime people, be sensitive," Weaver explained.


"We told them, people may have bought a full-page ad last year, but they may go to a half-page or quarter page this year. Take the form to them, let them know what you’re doing. If you haven’t heard from them in four or five days, follow up with them. Sometimes people toss it to the side and forget, but understand that people may not be able to do as they normally would," Stephen stated.


Despite the challenges, the contestants at both schools have been creative in their plans.


According to Stephen, "We actually have 11 contestants this year, which is a few more than usual; we’re excited about that. We met with them on that Monday and by Tuesday they were already putting stuff on Facebook about what they’re doing. We told them, you have to be creative this year because we don’t know if a business is going to be open or if you’ll have to contact them by email. But they’ve come up with a lot of different things to do and still maintain social distancing and such."


According to Weaver, "I’ve noticed this year a lot of girls are selling stuff, so you have a chance to buy something instead of attending events which may still have restrictions. But the girls have been so creative, and they’ve had to plan things where they can practice social distancing, keeping themselves safe, and the community safe. The community has been great and supportive so far."


Both Weaver and Stephen were in agreement that there’s just so much uncertainty about what the future of fall sports, really all sports, may hold, particularly as to what the economic impact will be to sports budgets.


"We are in such an unpredictable time that we are unsure what we’re going to need to provide for our athletes to keep them safe. We don’t know if we’re going to be able to play with fans, that we’re going to have the money coming in from ticket sales. The costs of keeping our athletes safe and our programs run are not going to change, so I think it’s going to be very important for everyone to come together. It’s important that we create a cushion in funds for our athletes and our programs," Weaver stated.


"It’s most definitely important this year. The first football game is supposed to be Aug. 28, but who knows if that’s going to happen? With the pandemic we need to wait and see, and a big thing is how many people are you going to get there, how many people are going to be allowed? There are all kinds of things that we need to wait and see about, you don’t know what’s going to happen. If you lose your gate, that kills you," Stephen explained.


So, buy some potato candy or a brownie at a bake sale; buy a Keyser or Frankfort tee-shirt or decorative face mask; take a chance on a Falcon or Golden Tornado gift basket, a gift card lottery or a Yeti cooler; participate in a Catfish or Cornhole tournament. Whatever you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.


There are plenty of opportunities to support the cause, seek out an Athletic Queen or Miss Falcon contestant if you haven’t been approached already. Times are tough, but in these tough times we need to make every effort to support the youths that are engaged in positive activities.