By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The lights will dim, a drum roll will be heard and the seconds will become hours. Then, after what may have seemed like forever for one lucky young lady, the 2016 Peanut Queen will be crowned. Tears of joy will be shed, hugs will be exchanged and thunderous applause
will be heard throughout the Lorena Schultz Auditorium on Saturday, Oct. 15 as the 2016 Peanut Festival comes to a close.

The 71st Annual Peanut Festival Queen’s competition willfeature six young ladies vying for the tiara. They are: Madison Holbrook, Miss Holbrook Electric; Sayler LeBlanc, Miss Grapeland Fire and EMS; Taylar Mullen, Miss Elite Fitness; Bethany Nelson, Miss Rhone Funeral Home; Hailee Sheridan, Miss Bartee Construction; and Elizabeth Thorpe, Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club.peace-love-and-peanuts

Following a rehearsal on Sunday, Oct. 9, the spectacular six took time to speak with The Messenger. All six were asked the same questions and while many of their answers were similar, a few were distinctly different. The six young ladies all expressed preparation for the show was difficult hard, but each agreed it was a fun experience because, among other things, it provided an opportunity for them to get to know one another a little better.

The six young ladies were asked: 1) why did they decide to run for the 2016 Peanut Queen’s crown; 2) what was the most difficult part of the rehearsals; 3) what was the most enjoyable aspect of the practices; 4) what it would mean to be crowned as the 2016 Peanut Queen; and 5) what were their plans after high school.

Leading off the interviews was Madison Holbrook, Miss Holbrook Electric. Madison is the daughter of Kyle Holbrook and Darla Holbrook, and Heather Bagley. As to why she decided to run, Madison replied, “Since the first time I watched the Peanut Queen’s competition – when I was a little girl – I was like, ‘She’s the Qmadison-holbrookueen!’ As I got older, I noticed no one else around here does this and I wanted to be a part of that tradition. I want to be able to say, ‘Yes. This is my town and my school and I am a part of that tradition.’”

The most difficult part of preparing for the coronation has been “… memorizing every little step. Memorizing your skit exactly and get everything else done. This is also homecoming week so it’s very stressful and it costs a lot of money,” Madison explained.

As to what she liked most about the weeks leading up to Queen’s Coronation, she said, “I like the fact that all my friends are in there and we are all doing this together. It is fun and we can laugh about it. This is our senior year and after this, we’ll be up and gone. I like sharing the memories with my friends.”

If she were to be crowned as the 2016 Peanut Queen, Madison expressed, “I would be really happy, not only because you’re the Queen, I would like to be a part of that tradition. You do get a scholarship and it would be nice to have that to help me through college.”

After she graduates in May, Madison said she plans on attending the University of Texas in Tyler where she said she will study dermatology. She also indicated she would definitely like to attend medical school.

Sayler LeBlanc, Miss Grapeland Fire and EMS, was the next contestant for the 2016 Peanut Queen’s crown to discuss the pageant.

“It’s certainly a confidesayler-leblancnce booster,” Sayler explained. “I love being on the stage, Actually, I’m a member of the One Act Play team and the idea of running for Peanut Queen, representing Grapeland as a whole and building my confidence was Why I decided to run.”

The most difficult part of pageant preparations was, according to Sayler, “… definitely turning on the cat walk. I’m working on that every single day. I’m just a little nervous but I know with practice and time, I will have it down by Saturday.”

Sayler said the most enjoyable part of the pageant has been, “Becoming closer with the girls. We have spent countless hours together in the auditorium and I feel like we have become a family.”

If she were to be crowned as the 2016 Peanut Queen, Sayler smiled and said, “It would definitely be an amazing feeling. I love Grapeland and to be able to represent Grapeland as the 2016 Peanut Queen would be amazing. All of the hard work and preparations that me, along with my family have put into it – it would mean the world.”

After she graduates in May, Sayler said she plans to attend college where she will pursue a double major in communications and education. “On the communications side, I hope to be a reporter one day and report from the Olympics. On the education side, maybe teaching will be later on.”

The third contestant was Taylar Mullen, Miss Elite Fitness. Taylar is the daughter of Heath and Amber Mullen. When asked why she decided to run for Peanut Queen, Taylar said, “Ever since I was a little taylar-mullengirl, I looked up to all the Peanut Queens and was really interested in doing it. My aunt, Amanda Caske, was actually a previous Peanut Queen.”

As to what the most difficult part of the preparations were, Taylar laughed and said, “Me, being more of an athlete, I’m not too much into walking in – I guess you could say – a lady-like manner. It’s kind of hard to go from an athletic style to that of a ballerina.”

The most enjoyable part of the process was “… getting closer with the girls and experiencing the same thing with them. I feel like it matures you more – the whole pageant does,” she said.

If she were to be crowned as the 2016 Peanut Queen, Taylar expressed, “It would mean a lot. It would allow me to represent Grapeland to the best of my ability. I would love the opportunity to do that.”

Taylar said after high school, she plans to attend Cameron University on a softball scholarship, where she plans to begin work on a pre-med degree and to eventually begin her career as an anesthesiologist.

Up next was Hailee Sheridan, Miss Bartee Construction. Hailee is daughter of Chuck and Lauren Sheridan and Kristi and Clete Vickers. “I decided to run pretty much because this is a big thing in Grapeland. I knew if I didn’t run, I would really regret ihailee-sheridant. All my family (participated in the Queens’ pageant) did except my mom and she’s kind of shy. I’m kind of shy too, but I wanted to get over that,” Hailee said.

The hardest thing about the pageant so far, according to Hailee, was “… my talent. I’m a really shy person, so getting up there and doing a skit really makes me nervous. I’m getting better with it, though.”

As to what she has liked the most about the process, Hailee said, “I like spending time with all my friends. We are all really close, every one of us, so that makes it a lot better. Being with everyone and having fun has definitely been the best part.”

If she were to be crowned as the 2016 Peanut Queen, Hailee expressed, “It would be amazing! I would be ok with not winning, but everybody wants to win. It would mean a lot. It would be a huge accomplishment. It is a huge thing in Grapeland. The Peanut Queen is a really big deal for people in Grapeland!”

After she graduates in May, Hailee said she plans on attending Stephen F. Austin State University for two years and then transferring to Texas A&M where she hopes to study pre-med on her way to becoming a pediatrician.

Bethany Nelson, Miss Rhone Funeral Home, was the next Peanut Queen contestant to discuss her bethany-nelsonreason for entering the pageant. Bethany is the daughter of Mark and Teresa Nelson.

“I decided to run for Peanut Queen because I am a very shy person and I was hoping this would help me to get out there more,” she said.

The most difficult part, so far, according to Bethany “… has been my talent. I am singing “Running with the Wolves” by Aurora.”

Bethany said the most enjoyable part of the pageant process “… has to be the shopping! I also enjoyed painting my backdrop.”

If she were to be crowned as the 2016 Peanut Queen, a big grin spread across her face as Bethany said, “I would be very happy. It would help out a lot. I would know that I tried my hardest and that it actually went somewhere.”

As to her future plans, Bethany said she is still undecided about which college she hopes to attend but plans to study animation, regardless of where she goes.

Last, but certainly not least, was Elizabeth Thorpe, Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club. Elizabeth is the daughter of Kaye Thorpe, and Jim and Amy Thorpe. When asked why she decided to run for Peanut Queen., Elizabeth said, “It has been something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I have always looked up to the Peanut Queens.”

The hardest thing she has found, so far, has been “… definitely working on my skit. It has pushed me so far outside of my comfort zone.”

She further explainelizabeth-thorpeed, “I like talking in front of people but my personality is so different in my skit, it’s nerve-wracking.”

As to what she has liked most about the preparations, Elizabeth said, “I am learning to try new things. It has pushed me a lot further than I expected and I’m finding out things about myself that I didn’t know before. It has made me more confident in myself and allowed me to get to know the girls better, too.”

If she were to be crowned as the 2016 Peanut Queen, Elizabeth smiled and said, “I would be ecstatic. I would be really happy, but if I don’t win, that will be okay. I’m here just for the experience.”

Her future plans include attending Texas State University where she will pursue a degree in business management. “I want to own my own gym, help people with their fitness journey and help them to live a healthier lifestyle,” Elizabeth said.

INDIVIDUAL PHOTOS BY TERESA HOLLOWAY

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.