The Ben-Gals' leading lady celebrates 36th season with squad

    Ben-Gals coach and former cheerleader Charlotte Simons is celebrating her 36th season with the squad. (WKRC)

    CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Bengals won't be the only team in orange and black on the field Thursday night; the Ben-Gals will be there too.

    They are celebrating 50 years. The squad started back in 1968 and were one of the first NFL cheerleading squads. Now, one woman is celebrating yet another season with the squad.

    Charlotte Simons always knows what's next and what's best. She's has been a part of the Ben-Gals for 36 years -- as a coach for the last 24 and spent 12 years before with the white boots and pompoms cheering.

    "They dismissed the team for one season and then I had a baby one season, so it wasn't 12 straight years. I had a little bit of a break," Simons said.

    Simons was just a 17-year-old girl from Hamilton when she first made the squad. She cheered in the '80s for both Superbowl teams and says the agony of defeat still stings a little.

    "Biggest memory, sad memory in '89. Being at Joe Robbie Stadium on the sideline, thinking we just won the Superbowl, and there was this guy named John Taylor and Montana -- just within 30 some seconds up the field, like what just happened?" Simons said.

    Simons isn't ready to hang up her pompoms just yet. She said she keeps coming back season after season, mostly because of the relationship she's formed with the girls.

    "She's really the heart and soul of this organization. She really supports us on the field and off the field, personally and professionally," said head captain Lauren Dye.

    "The ladies change, of course, but, at the same time, there's still that constant common denominator of women together wanting to do good things. And off the field, wanting to do positive things, so it continues to just keep churning," Simons said.

    Simons will make sure these 29 young women live up to the title of Ben-Gal cheerleader both on and off the field during this season and beyond.

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