By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – There was only one award left to present on Saturday night. Bethany Nelson, Miss Rhone Funeral Home had been awarded the title of Miss Congeniality. Hailee Sheridan, Miss Bartee Construction, was selected as Miss Photogenic. Madison Holbrook, Miss Holbrook Electric, was presented with the trophy for the talent competition. Elizabeth Thorpe, Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club, was awarded the trophy for Sec
ond Runner-up and Madison Holbrook, Miss Holbrook Electric, was selected as First Runner-up.
This was THE moment six young ladies had been waiting for. After a brief pause – which must have seemed like forever – a drum roll started, as the PA system seemed to crackle with excitement. The capacity crowd in the Lorena Shoultz Auditorium fell silent. The announcer could be heard taking a deep before exclaiming, “And your 2016 Peanut Queen is – Miss Bartee Construction (Hailee Sheridan)!”
On Monday morning, Oct. 17, following all the accolades, pictures and ceremonial duties befitting a member of royalty, the newly crowned 2016 Peanut Queen sat down with The Messenger to discuss her coronation.
As the conversation began, Hailee expressed her thanks to her parents, step-parents, Bartee Construction (her sponsor) and pageant coordinator Penny Webb.
Asked to describe her day leading up to the pageant, the 2016 Peanut Queen said, “Saturday, we had to be at the parade by 8:00 a.m. because the judges started judging at 8:30 a.m. We had to get up at 6:00 a.m. and get ready for the whole day. I was very tired! Friday night was Homecoming and the dance was afterwards, so I got home late.”
“Anyway,” Hailee added, “we went up to the parade and it was really fun. Then, we all went up to the Peanut Festival to see who won the awards for the floats. We had to wait until about 1:00 p.m. to find out. Taylar Mullen (Miss Elite Fitness) won first prize, mine got second and Sayler’s (LeBlanc – Miss Grapeland Fire and EMS) got third.”
“After that,” she continued, “it was about two o’clock and I said I was going home to take nap! We had to be back up at the auditorium by 5:00 p.m. to start getting things ready. It was so nerve-racking! I was like, ‘I can’t do this! I can’t do this!’ We got ready and we went out there for our first walk – the street wear walk. I was first and I was so nervous! I kept asking, ‘Why me? Why do I have to go first?’ Well, I was Miss Bartee Construction, so I had to go first.”
Before they started to take the stage, Hailee said, “We were all asking questions and then the other girls said we’re just going to do what I did. I felt like I was going to be the one to mess up and then everybody else would follow.”
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Hailee explained. “I didn’t know how many people would be out there, I didn’t know what was about to happen and I was hoping I didn’t fall on my face. You just have to smile and walk, but as soon as I got to that last stop I was so ready to get off the stage. I felt like I was about to freak out. After about five seconds, when the people started clapping, I felt better because you could tell the audience you out there. It was like a weight was taken off of my shoulders.”
Hailee smiled as she said, “It was a lot of fun, but the talent portion made me nervous. I normally don’t talk in front of a lot of people so whenever I got out there for my talent, I didn’t know the mic was on and you could hear me (taking a deep breath). My mom said I didn’t look nervous at all, but I felt it. My stomach was turning.”
While the talent part of the pageant made her nervous, it was her interview with the judges which stressed her out the most. “That was probably when I felt the most nervous. That’s a big part of the whole thing. Most people will tell you that’s where you win or lose. I know my hands were shaking when I was standing there, but they (the judges) were really nice and made me feel a lot better about it.”
As it came time to announce the winners, Hailee said, “It took them forever to tally up the scores! We were all just standing on stage behind the curtain waiting for them. After we stood there for 15 minutes, we all kind of decided we might as well do something. We started dancing around and having fun. We knew they couldn’t take off any points anymore if we were just messing around.”
After nearly 45 minutes, the judges returned with the results. “When they opened the curtains and started handing out the awards, Elizabeth won Miss Congeniality and they gave me Miss Photogenic. Madison won the talent part and I thought to myself, ‘Okay. I’m off to a good start.’ Then, honestly, I thought I was going to get second runner-up because I thought either Sayler LeBlanc or Taylar or Maddie (Madison Holbrook) was going to win. When they called out the first runner-up, I was like, ‘Well … I either won or I lost really badly. I looked at my mom and she was like – and I was like – ‘Oh. My. Gosh!’”
“When they said my name,” Hailee said as a smile spread across her face, “I was overwhelmed. I was in shock. This was so unreal. Everyone was screaming and clapping. It made me feel so good and it seemed like all the hard work had paid off. It really is a lot of hard work! People had told me it was just a pageant but a lot of stuff goes into it. It’s great! I won some scholarship money, I get to be the Peanut Queen and all these little girls will be looking up to me. It’s great! Everything paid off!”
In regard to any advice she had for future queen’s contestants, Hailee said, “I won’t say you’re not going to get nervous or stressed out, because you will. It is a lot but remember to have fun. Don’t let it ruin any friendships with the girls who do it with you, no matter who wins. We had a lot of fun together. Thank whoever wins at the end and have good sportsmanship. Have fun! Don’t wish that it would hurry up and end because once it’s over, you’re going to wish you could go back. It is a lot of fun and it’s a memory you will never forget.”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.