In 1984 I was chosen as Ms. Quito for the first Paisley Mosquito Festival. The mosquitoes were REALLY bad back then, so the locals were ready and willing to help the City of Paisley raise money, in the form of a festival, to go toward mosquito control. Just eight years earlier in 1976 Paisley hosted a Bi-Centennial celebration for America, so there were still plenty of folks around who knew how to throw a party.
The first year saw about 300 people turn out for the Mosquito Festival. After the story about the festival hit the New York Times front page and other major media, people swarmed in for the next several Mosquito Festivals.
Up until a few years ago, I still had my 1984, 1985 and 1986 Paisley Mosquito Festival T-shirts. For the 1984 T-shirt, Bob Gibbs whipped out a logo of a blood-thirsty mosquito. The shirt was light blue with red lettering that read, “I Survived the Paisley Mosquito Festival.” Wayne and Bobbie Negus loaned the committee $300 to help buy the first year’s T-shirts. We also went door to door to pre-sell T-shirts and to introduce the idea of the Mosquito Festival. (Wayne and Bobbie also loaned us a 3-holer for use as an information booth.)
Nova Young, the mayor’s wife, made a wonderful tiara for me, Ms. Quito, out of aluminum foil and vintage rhinestone earrings. I led the parade, sitting in the sunroof of a VW bug. Upgrading the parade the next year, the Slug Queen from Eugene rode in a grand yellow 1977 Buick T-Top, proudly waving her official rejection letter from the Johnny Carson Show in her elegantly gloved hand.
Also in that first year’s parade was a vintage La France firetruck that the City took out of storage. Unfortunately we couldn’t start the firetruck (the festival committee didn’t have the money to buy 24 sparkplugs for that particular engine) so we towed it, with Bullet, our Bassett hound, as the firedog.
It wasn’t until our little parade of tractor, dogs and kids rolled into downtown Paisley on that Saturday morning 20 years ago that we knew that the Mosquito Festival was going to fly. Standing there at ‘the corner’ were scores of parade viewers. It was great! The weather was beautiful, the mosquitoes were awful and we knew we were going to get rid of the 500 T-shirts we had purchased. Before the day was over we were planning the 2nd Annual Paisley Mosquito Festival.
That was 30 years ago and the Mosquito Festival is still going strong. Congratulations to the City of Paisley, all the hard work by committees over the years, the citizens of Paisley who shine up their idyllic little town every year, the ranchers and businesses who donate blood, sweat and more blood, and to the friends of Paisley who annually support the ultimate small town festival.
Two thousand fourteen marks the beginning of the fourth decade of the Paisley Mosquito Festival, which is held on the last weekend in July. See you then.
Beverly E. Hills
Due to the pertinent local historical information this letter was allowed even though it exceeds our word limit