The Digital Journalist
Selected photos from Michael O'Brien's The Face of Texas.
© Michael O'Brien

Gatorfest Queen/ANAHUAC - Shannon Perry, of Anahuac, TX, was crowned Gatorfest Queen in 1989. The contest is devoted to finding a "complete young lady" who embodies the spirit of the small town and the annual festival.

Gatorfest, held in September the weekend after Labor Day, was established a little over a decade ago as an Anahuac Chamber of Commerce fund raiser to celebrate the reopening of the alligator harvesting season in Texas. (Alligators were on the endangered species list for several years.) The festival is an action-packed weekend featuring contests for the largest alligator hides, live music and entertainment, street dancing, and the crowning of the Gatorfest Queen--as well as the younger Gatorfest Princess and the even younger Little Gatorfest King and Queen. There's an educational tent hosting a live baby alligator and experts expounding on alligator minutia. And there's plenty of good food, including, of course, alligator entrees of every variety: alligator-on-a-stick, grilled alligator steaks, alligator etoufee, and alligator gumbo.

Shannon Perry, meanwhile--now 28--has buckled down to real life: After competing in the Miss Texas pageant in 1993, she went on to attend Sam Houston and Lamar universities and now lives on her own in Houston, where she works as an account manager for a large insurance company.

"People still remember me as the Gator Queen," says Perry, who's holding out on marriage and kids until she's lived a little. "I'll always be remembered as the very first one."