Shirley Whipple cupped her hand and raised her arm. Then she rotated her wrist back and forth.
"I've been practicing my wave," she said, flashing a pink rose smile.
Whipple's preparation for receiving her 2013 Pioneer Queen of Mancos Days crown has also included an acceptance speech. Without revealing too much of her public remarks, Whipple said she was both thankful and blessed to be chosen.
"It's exciting!" she said. "It's really amazing. I didn't think I'd ever be queen."
Born on the Fourth of July in 1929, Whipple just celebrated her 84th birthday in Wichita, Kan., where her daughter Darla lives with her husband. In addition to the birthday party, Whipple made the trek east last week with daughter, Cathy, to have her queen gown sewn.
"It's going to be a full-length dress," she said. "It's aqua-colored, my favorite color."
A native of Bay City, Wis., Whipple was the fourth of six children born to Ray and Martha Hanson.
Pumping water on the family farm one day, a cream hauler drove by and waved. She waved back. Some time later, Whipple, her sister and a cousin were walking home from the skating rink, and as they approached a bridge to cross the Mississippi River, the same cream hauler stopped and offered the girls a ride.
That cream hauler was named Howard Whipple. He lived on a family farm about seven miles from the Hanson farm.
"I went out with Howard the first time he asked," Whipple recalled. "I liked him. He was good looking."
While dating, the couple loved to attend movies at the Chief Theater or go roller-skating across the river in Minnesota. They eventually married on June 17, 1950.
After the start of the Korean War, the newlyweds and their first child soon moved to Camp Pendleton in California, where Howard was stationed with the U.S. Marines.
The family later expanded with four more children, and in 1957, the Whipple clan moved to Mancos. They wanted to raise their children in a rural community, and Mancos just happened to be located in "the most beautiful valley in Colorado," Shirley said.
"The friendly people and the mountains is what I like most about Mancos," she said.
Howard eventually opened his own mechanic shop in Mancos, Whipple Automotive, while Shirley raised a total of 10 children and volunteered at the Good Samaritan Center and the Mancos Headstart Preschool.
"I had lots of experience, so working with the little kids was pretty easy," Shirley said.
Whipple's favorite aspect of raising children was celebrating birthdays. They seemed to occur every few weeks, she said. Today she loves giving sweet treats to her 19 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
In addition to hugging grandchildren, Shirley enjoys oil painting, gardening, watching televised religious programs and traveling. In recent years, she has traveled from New York to Hawaii to witness family members graduate from high school and college.
"I want to travel while I'm still young," she said smiling.
The Whipples were nearing their 50th wedding anniversary when Howard passed away Dec. 6, 1999. Howard would like to have seen her as Pioneer Queen of Mancos Days, she said.
"He would have told me, 'Shirley, you look so beautiful,'" she said with tears in her eyes.
Whipple will be honored at the Queen's Tea at the Bauer House on Friday July 26, and she will also take part in the Mancos Days Parade on Saturday July 27.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Whipple said.
A tradition of the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW Post since 1961, the Pioneer Queen is honored during Mancos Days. A quilt made in her honor is raffled off to benefit various youth projects.
The 2013 Pioneer Queen quilt is currently on display at Mancos Valley Bank, where raffle tickets can be purchased. For more information, contact Queenie Barz at (970) 749-9320.