Eight Young Ladies Vying For the Crown

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The lights will dim, a drum roll will be heard and the seconds will turn into hours. Then, after what may have seemed like forever for one lucky young lady, the 2017 Peanut Queen will be crowned. Tears of joy will be shed, hugs will be exchanged and thunderous applause will be heard throughout the Lorena Shoultz Auditorium on Saturday, Oct. 14 as the 2017 Peanut Festival comes to a close.

The 72nd Annual Peanut Festival Queen’s competition will feature eight young ladies vying for the tiara. They are: Madelyn Conner, Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club; Victoria Lane, Miss Sweet Southern Britches; Jennilea Lovell, Miss Sandyland Propane; Keana McKnight, Miss Park Hill Farm; Callie Richburg, Miss Bartee Construction; Aaliyah Sims, Miss Best Flight Travel; Hannah Turner, Miss Elite Fitness; and Alysha Williams, Miss Best Friends Community Services.

Prior to a rehearsal on Wednesday, Oct. 4, the elite eight took time to speak with The Messenger. In no particular order, the queen’s contestants were asked the same questions and while many of their answers were similar, a few were distinctly different. The eight young ladies each expressed preparation for the show was – at times – difficult.

All agreed, however, it was a fun experience because, among other things, it provided an opportunity for them to get to know one another a little better.

Leading off the interviews was Jennilea Lovell, Miss Sandyland Propane. Jenni is the daughter of Gary Lovell.

Jennilea Lovell

As to why she decided to run, Jenni replied “I want to represent my town in a positive way. I thought it would be fun and I would like to make as many memories with my classmates as possible. Spending time with these seven girls has definitely been interesting – but it’s also been a lot of fun!”

If she were to be crowned as the 2017 Peanut Queen, Jenni expressed, “It would mean a lot to me because I would be able to represent my hometown in a positive way. I’m probably more nervous than anyone, but I’d like to be able to show that no matter how nervous you are, you can do it.

After she graduates in May, Jenni said she plans on attending Sam Houston State University where she intends to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

“Once I get that completed,” she explained, “I would like to come back here and teach math at Grapeland High School.”

Callie Richburg, Miss Bartee Construction, was the next contestant for the 2017 Peanut Queen’s tiara to discuss the pageant.  Callie is the daughter of Niki and Brandon Richburg.

Callie Richburg

“I have always wanted to do this, ever since I was a little girl,” Callie explained. “My whole family, all of those who lived here in Grapeland did it. My mom didn’t because she went to school in Crockett. The rest of my family – my sister did it, my aunt did it, my cousin did it and my Mimi did it. I’ve always wanted to do it.”

If she were to be crowned as the 2017 Peanut Queen, Callie smiled and said, “I don’t know the words to describe it. It would definitely mean a lot to me because my whole family has been involved with this. It would kind of be like a legacy. It’s also nice because you get to be a role model for a lot of little girls. You get to set good a good example.”

After she graduates in May, Callie said she plans on attending Texas A&M University where she will major in elementary education

The third contestant to be interviewed was Madelyn Conner, Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club. Madelyn is the daughter of Angie and Rusty Conner.

When asked why she decided to run for Peanut Queen, Madelyn said, “I decided to enter because it is always something I wanted to do while I was growing up. I feel like it’s a good way to represent wh

Madelyn Conner

ere I’m from. I love this community.”

If she were to be crowned as the 2017 Peanut Queen, Madelyn expressed, “It would be an honor. The most important thing to me – other than my family and God – is this community. If I were to win, it would be nice to be able to set a good example for the children here in Grapeland.”

Madelyn said after high school, she plans to attend Sam Houston State University and “… to pursue a career as a high school English teacher. I plan to major in English and maybe minor in journalism. I love to write.”

Up next was Hannah Turner, Miss Elite Fitness. Hannah is the daughter of Ann Stephens and John Turner.

“I thought this was great opportunity for me to get on stage and show the community who I a

Hannah Turner

m,” Hannah said about why she decided to enter the pageant.

If she were to be crowned as the 2017 Peanut Queen, Hannah expressed, “It’s hard to explain. It would definitely mean a lot to me. It would allow me to become more of a part of the community and it would allow for others to see me as a person they could look up to and depend on.”

After she graduates in May, Hannah said she plans to attend Navarro College on a competitive cheerleading scholarship. “After Navarro, I plan to transfer to Texas A&M so I can become a veterinarian and hopefully get a job!”

Alysha Williams, Miss Best Friends Community Services, was the next Peanut Queen contestant to discuss her reason for entering the pageant. Alysha is the daughter of Bobbie Minter.

Alysha Williams

“I wanted to do it because all of my friends were doing it and I wanted to spend time with them. I wanted to be involved. I joined late because my mom told me it would be too much with school and everything. Everyone was talking about how much fun it was – I was so sad – and then she let me!” she said.

If she were to be crowned as the 2017 Peanut Queen, a big grin spread across her face as Alysha said, “I would be able to be involved with everything you get to do as a Peanut Queen. You become a big part of the community and I want to talk to everyone.”

As to her future plans, Alysha said would like to attend Texas A&M University “… and major in animal science to become a veterinarian. Then, I want to come back to Grapeland and start my own veterinarian practice.”

Aaliyah Sims

Aaliyah Sims, Miss Best Flight Travel, followed as the contestant interviews continued. Aaliyah is the daughter of Janice Chapman and Dameion Sims.

“No one in my family – and I mean no one – has ever done this and I just wanted to be a little different,” Aaliyah said when asked why she chose to enter the Peanut Queen’s Pageant.

If she were to become the 2017 Peanut Queen, Aaliyah said, “It would be a big accomplishment because it would make a lot of people proud.”

Her future plans include attending the University of Houston where she plans to pursue her degree so she may become an ultrasound technician.

Victoria Lane, Miss Sweet Southern Britches, was the next Queen’s contestant to sit down and discuss the 2017

Victoria Lane

pageant. Victoria is the daughter of Kimberly and Thonnie Lane.

“I decided to enter the pageant because my mom wanted me to. She has always wanted to be a part of this. She told me it would be a good experience and it would give me an opportunity to learn a lot,” she said.

If she were to be crowned as the 2017 Peanut Queen, Victoria smiled and said, “It would be a real shocker! I would be really happy, but if I don’t win, that’ll be okay, too. I’m just here for the experience.”

After high school, Victoria said, “I plan on attending Texas A&M University and hope to become a veterinarian.”

Last, but certainly not least, was Keana McKnight, Miss Park Hill Farm. Keana is the daughter of Sandra and John McKnight.

When asked why she decided to run for Peanut Queen, Keana said, “It looks good on scholarship applications for college and I wanted to have fun and enjoy myself with these senior girls.”

A big grin broke across her face when asked what it would mean to her if she was selected as the 2017 Peanut Queen.

Keana McKnight

“Oh my goodness!” Keana exclaimed. “I would probably cry first! I have worked so hard to get to where I’m at now!”

Concerning her plans for after she graduates from high school, Keana said plans “… to attend the University of Houston. I want to major in psychology and get a minor in business.”

The lights are dimmed as the emcee strides to the center of the stage. He looks at the card he has in his hand one last time as he leans into the microphone.

“And the 2017 Peanut Queen is Miss ….”

Find out on Oct. 14.

Reserved tickets are on sale at Platt Heating and Air in Grapeland. General Admission tickets are also available at The Pink Dot, Grapeland State Bank, Sweet Southern Britches, Tammy’s Shear Country and The Gallery.

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