It may be a stretch to refer to the Miss Riverbottom contest a beauty pageant.

“None of the contestants are what you’d call beautiful,” said Stan Lundy, caretaker of the Pekin Boat Club. “They’ve got beards and hairy chests, and they wear wigs.” 

The East Peoria Boat Club (EPBC) started the competition in 1977 in an effort to pay the club’s utility bills, according to Kim Roberts, this year’s Miss Riverbottom communications chairperson. Over the years, the Miss Riverbottom contest grew in popularity.

“Today, the event draws in members from more than 25 boat clubs that belong to the Illinois River Basin Boating Association (IRBBA),” said Roberts. “The clubs recruit a male club member who is willing to dress in women’s wear then be judged as they strut their stuff across the stage in the swim suit, talent, and evening wear competition(s).”

The contest was originally a one-day event, Roberts said, but has grown into a four-day festival of live music from local bands, food vendors and family-friendly activities. The festivities will begin Wednesday with the opening of EPBC’s marina and campground at 5 p.m. and will continue through Saturday’s 3 p.m. competition before ending Sunday with a full breakfast and Bloody Mary bar from 8 to 10 a.m..

“I would like to invite one and all to come to EPBC for Miss Riverbottom 2019,” wrote Todd Peterson, EPBC commodore and former Miss Riverbottom contestant in an email to the Pekin Daily Times. “If you want to laugh until you cry, come to the Miss Riverbottom competition on Saturday at 3 p.m. If you want to rock to two local bands, come on down. If you just want to chill by the Illinois River, you can do that too. Just bring a chair and make yourself at home. We can’t wait to meet you for the first time or welcome you back to EPBC.”

This year’s competition will feature six contestants representing the Pekin Boat Club, Spring Valley Boat Club of Spring Valley; Shoreline Boat and Ski Club of Ottawa, Ill.; Naples Mile “66” Boat Club of Meredosia, Ill.;  Havana Boat Club of Havana, Ill.  and Joliet Yachting Club of Joliet, Ill.  The five-judge panel will include former Miss Gay Peoria USofA and reigning Miss Gay Bloomington USofA Miss FloNoMo’, WMBD 1470 morning show host Greg Batton, IRBBA Commodore Jeni Whitten, IRBBA Vice Commodore Brent Rogers and IRBBA Political Action Officer Wayne Eichelkraut. The winning contestant will receive a trophy, and the winner’s club will host the 2020 contest, said Roberts.

“People who are looking for a relaxing, fun-filled weekend with excellent music and entertainment should check out Miss Riverbottom,” Roberts said. “It’s the place they need to be. It’s a family-friendly event, so all are welcome and encouraged to join in on the fun.” 

For safety reasons, EPBC will require children under 12 years old to wear life vests when walking on the docks or going between the marina and shore, said Roberts. Children are also not allowed in the bar area after 10 p.m.

The theme of this year’s Miss Riverbottom competition is “Bringin’ Sexy Back.”  The admission charge is $5 for a wristband that can be worn throughout the weekend. Beverage and food tickets are $1 each. Food and beverage signs will be posted indicating  how many tickets are needed per item. All proceeds will go to EPBC to help with operating costs.

“Through events such as these, the club is able to maintain its grounds, marina and clubhouse to host charitable events throughout the year including events such as the Polar Ice Plunge 2019 and the upcoming Leather and Leis River Run 2019, as well as other various benefits,” said Roberts.

For more information on the Miss Riverbottom contest, visit EPBC’s Facebook page or its website at www.eastpeoriaboatclub.com.