The SLUG queen competition is a Eugene summer staple, happening every year since 1983. As the season draws near, the next batch of potential SLUG (Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod) queens should start to prepare for the August pageant and decide what they’ll do if they get to reign — excuse me, the preferred spelling is actually “RAIN” — over Eugene as our unofficial leader.
Debbie Williamson, who rained over Eugene in 2011-2012 as Queen Holly GoSlugly (each queen picks a slug-themed nickname) says the role of the SLUG queen is flexible. “You get to attend all of Eugene’s events with a crown on your head,” she says. “You can do as little or as much as you want.”
But there is a charitable component, too. While there aren’t a lot of “official” rules associated with the SLUG queen’s rain, it is recommended that the queens, who can be of any gender, choose a nonprofit to raise awareness and money for. This makes the queen more than what seems on the surface to be a silly tradition.
Being a SLUG queen is a lifetime job. When you’ve given up the throne to a new queen, your title becomes “old queen.”
“Once a queen, always a queen,” Constance Van Flandern, also known as Queen Marie Slugtoinette from 2008-2009, says. “You’re never a former or a past queen.” The old queens have a large part in the competition, judging the potential new queens. Hopeful queens are advised to creatively buy off the old queens for votes, though it’s not exactly as nefarious as it sounds.
“We encourage the contestants to bribe early, bribe often,” Williamson says. “People get confused about that, and it sounds really greedy. I can’t speak for the other 34 queens, but the best bribe I can get is to see people out and about.”
She means that if you want to be a SLUG queen, you should show up at community-based events and try to get the old queens’ attention.
The slimy slug is ubiquitous around in the Willamette Valley, and the SLUG queen competition aims to connect Eugene to the essence of the often-dissed gastropod. “It’s a cultural celebration that really celebrates our identity as being unique and being aware of our quirkiness, it has a sense of humor,” Van Flandern says.
This year, incumbent Queen Santa Frida Babosita will throw an event, “Meet Me at the Zocalo!” shortly before the end of her rain in August as a send-off and a celebration of Latinx culture. It will be at the Park Blocks, on 8th Avenue and Oak Street. The competition for the 2018-2019 SLUG Queen will be on the Friday of that week.
The main goal of the SLUG Queen is to connect Eugeneans.
“Everyone can identify with this fun character, and we can bring people together in a way that an actual political figure may not be able to do,” Van Flandern says.
The 2018 SLUG Queen competition is Friday, Aug. 10 at the Park Blocks. More information can be found at slugqueen.com.