WEYMOUTH’S Carnival Queen competition is being scrapped because it is ‘outdated.’ Former carnival queens and town leisure chiefs have reacted with shock after carnival organisers declared the historic contest was past its sell-by date and did not promote equal opportunities.

A beautiful young ambassador fills a traditional role by adding a touch of glamour to fundraising events throughout the year as well as leading the grand procession.

But organisers Weymouth Community Volunteers have announced a makeover for the August extravaganza.

Replacing the queen will be a ‘Carnival Community Champion’ – an unsung hero or heroes nominated by locals.

Last year’s carnival queen Jamie Asquith said: “I can’t believe it.

“I had the best time ever and it’s a real shame someone else won’t get that opportunity.”

Former carnival queen Paulette Afedakis called the organisers ‘killjoys’ and said if they wanted to promote equal opportunities they should run a carnival king contest.

But community volunteers’ manager Sue Follan said time was up for the carnival queen.

She said: “We feel the competition is now outdated and does not promote equality of opportunity purely by the fact that the competition is only open to women.”

The volunteers took over the running of carnival last year after the Round Table stepped down after 50 years at the helm.

Mrs Follan added: “We’ve had so many suggestions as to what should happen this year that we thought we would throw it open to the community and reward someone that deserves to be recognised.

“The carnival queen contest is a closed shop that only applies to young glamorous women and we think it’s time for a change.”

People are being asked to nominate a person of any age who they feel has ‘silently’ contributed to either an individual or to a number of good causes without receiving payment.

The winners, who will be chosen by a panel, will take a lead position in the carnival procession and receive prizes.

But former carnival queens disagree with the decision and have called for a rethink.

Beauty therapist and last year’s carnival queen Jamie Asquith, 19, said: “The contest is something I grew up with. There’s so much history to it and I don’t think it should be just scrapped just like that.

“I have so many great memories of my time as queen. I had a lovely dress and won some great prizes.

“I definitely think it should go ahead in the future.”

Paulette Afedakis, who as 17-year-old Paulette Rogers was carnival queen in 1977, said: “As long as there is interest in the competition I don’t see any reason why they should stop it.

“A pretty girl leading the procession is part of the tradition of Weymouth Carnival.

“If they think it’s outdated they should open it up to men as well and have a king of the carnival.

“I think they’re killjoys for stopping it.”

Paulette, 48, who is married to Greek restaurateur and former chamber of commerce president George Afedakis, added: “I had a wonderful time when I was queen. I was made to feel really special and felt very privileged.

“Although it was over 30 years ago I still remember the day clearly.”

Windsurfing enthusiast Sally Massey held the title in 1985 when she was 22.

Sally, 45, who now runs a clothes shop in Weymouth, said: “Although it was a long time ago I still get people coming up to me and saying they remember me being queen which is really nice because it means I must have made some sort of impression.

“I thought it was brilliant and really good fun.

“I think the contest has a future. I don’t think it’s outdated at all because beauty pageants are still held. Maybe they should introduce some sort of ‘his and hers’ contest.

“I like to think I helped to promote the town as a seaside resort because I was into watersports so maybe future contestants can bring something to the table rather than just a pretty face.”

Leisure and tourism spokesman for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council Brendan Webster said: “It’s a shame to take away what is an enjoyable event which is quite harmless.

“I’m not against beauty pageants or carnival queen contests but to maintain a sense of balance the organisers could explore other options such as having a carnival prince or having categories for younger and older people.”

He added: “While I welcome an event to recognise a community champion I don’t think carnival in the middle of the summer season is the place to do that.

“Carnival is about having fun and raising money for charity rather than reflecting on good works.”

Mayor of Weymouth and Portland Tim Munro said the contest was one of the seaside town’s great traditions.

He said: “Some of our great traditions are rooted in the past and I think it would be a great shame if they scrapped the carnival queen.

“I was there last year and the queen and her attendants put on a brave face in the pouring rain. I would like to see it continue in the future.”