Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club Madelyn Conner Crowned 72nd Annual Peanut Queen

By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor

GRAPELAND –  “And the 2017 Peanut Queen is…”

You could hear a pin drop as the audience and eight contestants of the 72nd Annual Peanut Queen Coronation held their breathe waiting for Master of Ceremony, Ansel Bradshaw, to announce the winner.  Saturday night, Oct. 14 marked the culmination of months of preparation with at a sold-out Lorena Shoultz Auditorium in Grapeland, and the much anticipated end of a weekend full of events related to the Peanut Festival.

The crowd began to cheer as Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club Madelyn Conner was named the 2017 Peanut Queen, crowned by 2016 Peanut Queen Hailee Sheridan.

A senior at Grapeland High School, Madelyn is the daughter of Angie and Rusty Conner.

Other contestants included: Miss Sweet Southern Britches Victoria Lane; Miss Sandyland Propane Jennilea Lovell; Miss Park Hill Farms Keana McKnight; Miss George Bartee Construction Callie Richburg; Miss Best Flight Travel Aaliyah Sims; Miss Elite Fitness Hannah Turner; and Miss Best Friends Community Service Alysha Williams.

First runner-up was Miss Elite Fitness Hannah Turner, who also was named Most Photogenic.

Second runner-up was Miss Park Hill Farms Keana McKnight.

Third runner-up was Miss George Bartee Construction Callie Richburg, who also was named Most Talented.

Fourth runner-up was Miss Sandyland Propane Jennilea Lovell.

Miss Sweet Southern Britches Victoria Lane was named Miss Congeniality, an award voted on by all of the Peanut Queen contestants.

Prior to the pageant, months of work went into putting the event together – and giving the girls an opportunity that would last a lifetime.

“I wanted each girl to come away having learned and accomplished something they had not done before,” Peanut Queen Coronation Director Tammy Hassell-Anderson said.

In mid-September, a kick-off Mother-Daughter brunch was held, hosted by Best Friends Community Services.

“None of the girls had been to a brunch before. I had wanted to reinstate a group activity, so they would have to work together on something. I wanted them to know that you can compete and still be kind to each other,” Hassell-Anderson said.

As a prerequisite to participate in the pageant, the contestants were required to give three volunteer hours to their community. For example, one girl volunteered her time at a local animal shelter, while another volunteered at a nursing home, and others volunteered at Chamber events, the Bluegrass Festival at Salmon Lake Park and other places in the community.

The contestants also participated in radio and television interviews.

“They were taken to two studio radio interviews, as well as to KETK where they were allowed to come onto the set and watch a live interview, etc. They had never been in a TV studio and were excited about that. While in Tyler, the Chamber treated them to lunch at Rick’s on the Square.”

“I am proud of each one of the girls. They were very well mannered and respectful. I’m hoping that this pageant is just a small part of what is to come for them. I hope they take these tools that they learned from participating and use them to do better things and more things. I saw a lot of improvement in them. It made everything worth it and I hope they had a good experience,” Hassell-Anderson added.

They also had to submit an essay to judges, which were read before the coronation event.

Finding qualified judges is also a challenge. But this year’s’ panel exceeded expectations in both qualifications and enthusiasm.

Judging this year’s Peanut Queen Coronation competition was Randi Mays-Knap from the Brazos Valley area, Kevin Minetrea of Missouri City and Molly King Gonzales of Austin.

  • Randi Mays-Knap is a certified social skills coach as well as an etiquette and leadership coach in the Brazos Valley area and beyond. She graduated from Texas A&M with a B.B.A. in Marketing. In 1979, she began her career in Houston with the consulting staff of Arthur Anderson & Company, and then the international technology consulting firm, Accenture.

Mays-Knap has volunteered in a variety of organizations such as the Symphony belle program serving the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra and as PTO presidents at several College Station area schools.

Mays-Knap was the first female president of the Houston Texas A&M Club. She also was the first female on the Board of Trustees for the 12th Man Foundation and the first female to chair the Texas A&M University System Chancellors Council.

Mays-Knap is a Bible study leader, scrapbooker, bread maker, photographer and social skills coach. She is married and has three grown daughters.

  • Kevin Minetrea is a 1977 graduate of Grapeland High School. He began his 36-year
  • career in broadcasting the next year while attending Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. After getting his Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/TV and Theatre, Minetrea moved to the Houston market where he worked as an on-air personality, news and traffic reporter and production director.

These days, Minetrea operates his own voice-over and production studio in Missouri City, Texas. His voice can be heard around the world on comercials, children’s videos, corporate narrations, e-learning, audio tours and audiobooks. Samples of his work are available at www.kevincharlesvoice.com

Minetrea is a member of the Audio Publishers Association and the World-voices Organization, a non-profit international association of voice actors.

Minetrea is an active member of the First Colony Church of Christ and is married with two grown daughters.

  • Molly King Gonzales is a 1992 graduate of Grapeland High School. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1997, majoring in Theatre with an emphasis in Costume Design and Construction, with a minor in Art. While at SFA, Gonzales was selected as an exchange student at Rose Buford College of Theater in London, England where she spent a year of theater studies.

Since graduating, Gonzales has worked in costume costruction with various well-known pe

rformance companies, including The Arizona Theatre Company, The Santa Fe Opera and with the Radio City Rocket’s Nutcracker production. She has worked as a backstage dresser with the Fort Worth Ballet, the Oakland Ballet and numerous traveling shows at Austin’s Bass Concert Hall. Performers she has dressed include Rita Moreno, Carol Channing and Della Reese.

Most recently, Gonzales’ professional focus has shifted to movie and TV work, primarily with Troublemaker Studio in Austin. She worked as a seamstress and costumer in “Sin City II,” “A Dame to Kill For,” “From Dusk ’til Dawn” and several other films and collaborations that include director James Cameron.

Gonzales lives in Austin and is married with three children.

The evening began as all eight contestants opened with a choreographed dance routine wearing brightly-colored outfits to the Caribbean-flavored song “Under the Sea,” the theme of this year’s Peanut Festival.

In the next part of the event, the contestants introduced themselves one-by-one to the audience during the Business Wear and Public Speaking competition.

During the talent competition, each young lady had the chance to show off their flair and personalities during a variety of acts ranging from singing, dancing and skits.

Miss Best Flight Travel Agency Aaliyah Sims sang a rendition of pop singer Adele’s song “Someone Like You.”

Miss Elite Fitness Hannah Turner performed “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the 1965 Broadway musical “Funny Girl.”

Miss George Bartee Construction Callie Richburg performed a skit about deciding whether or not she would go through with trying out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, even showing off the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders’ signature kick.

Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club Madelyn Conner performed a lyrical dance to a self-choregraphed piece to the song “Elastic Heart.”

Miss Park Hill Farms Keana McKnight performed a spiritual praise dance to the song “Ocean – You Make Me Brave.”

Miss Sandyland Propane Jennilea Lovell performed a skit about a recent misunderstanding that lead her to look for a “king” while visiting one of Austin’s dog parks with her rented dog “Peanut.”

Miss Sweet Southern Britches Victoria Lane performed a skit about “how to get it done” when your mother insists you play the piano for your talent, and you can’t.

As the most glamorous part of the evening, the eight contestants sparkled in the evening gown competition as each young lady was given the opportunity to look their most beautiful as they took a final walk around the stage to wow the audience and judges.

During set changes throughout the evening, entertainment include live performances from the East Texas four-member female doo-wop group Shake, Rattle and Roll and a ballroom dance performance by the Viennese Waltz Ensemble.

With their flared poodle skirts, white shirts, bobbie socks and oxford saddle shoes, Shake, Rattle and Roll – which consists of members Tavie Spivey of Gilmer, Brenda Spencer of Henderson, LeAnn Bemis of Longview and Debbie Spencer of Grand Saline – sang songs from the ’50s and ’60s ranging from “Why Must I Be A Teenager in Love,” “Do The Twist,” “Be Mine Baby,” “Shake, Rattle & Roll” and more.

Also during a set break, Sandra Kerby portrayed “Ms. Snuff” and D’Linda Mahaffey portrayed Miss Nutterbutter, a “recent graduate of the South of the Mason-Dixon Online Parade Announcers Certification Course for Up and Coming Women.” Ms. Nutterbutter attempted to announce the queen contestant float winners from the 72nd Annual Peanut Festival Parade – with comical interference from Ms. Snuff.

First place in the queen contestants’ floats went to Miss George Bartee Construction Callie Richburg. Second place went to Sandyland Propane Jennilea Lovell and third place went to Sweet Southern Britches Victoria Lane.

For the community as a whole, Hassell-Anderson said she hopes it was an enjoyable experience watching the local girls show off their talent and represent their community.

Grapeland resident Felecia Meador said the pageant was lots of fun.

“It was a great pageant. The kids were amazing,” Meador said. “Miss Tammy did a wonderful job. It was first class. The Peanut Festival and the pageant was all beautiful and wonderful. I appreciate the people in Grapeland that make this happen every year. It was definitely not a disappointment. The entertainment Shake Rattle and Roll and the Vietnamese Waltz Ensemble was an awesome touch.”

On Facebook, other community members also expressed their enthusiasm for success of the pageant.

“I think it was the best pageant in years! The decorations were beautiful, the entertainment was wonderful, the contestants did a great job…I loved their routine at the beginning…and especially considering your last minute uncontrollable happenings…everything went off fantastic! It was all because of people like you who did a lot of hard work and gave so much of their time and talents! Thanks for a great weekend! Theresa Lowery wrote on Facebook.

Grapeland resident Jeff Gayle also added his two cents on Facebook about the pageant.

“Great Job. Best in years!” Gayle said.

Not only did the participants gain valuable experiences that will help them in the future – but scholarships were presented to the top three contestants. The Grapeland Chamber of Commerce provided a $1,000 scholarship to the winner, Miss Grapeland Noon Lions Club Madelyn Conner, a $750 scholarship to first runner-up, Miss Elite Fitness Hannah Turner, and a $500 scholarship to second runner-up, Miss Park Hill Farms Keana McKnight.

“In addition, Congressman Kevin Brady donated funds towards extra scholarships that will be presented later,” Hassell-Anderson said.

Overall, the Peanut Queen Coronation Director said she hopes the contestants will take what they learned during the last few months and use it to make their futures even brighter.