Two former Little Queens and a candidate who made the most of a second chance will reign over the 2021 Jackson Apple Festival.

After the 2020 Jackson Apple Festival and its associated activities were all canceled due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the festival was back in the spotlight Saturday evening, April 3 as the 2021 Queens Contest was conducted at the Jackson Middle School Auditorium. However, in deference to continuing COVID-19 restrictions and concerns, it was officially a closed event with attendance limited mainly to family members of the participants and those with a working involvement in the contest. However, the Apple Festival Committee arranged for the Jackson High School Media Team to live-stream the contest on its media pages for live or later viewing.

A Jackson High School sophomore, 16-year-old Kaydee Brown, will reign this year over the 80th Jackson Apple Festival after being selected from a field of 12 candidates. She is the daughter of Phil and Deanna Howard and Steve Brown. She is no stranger to the royalty routine as she served as the Little Miss Apple Festival Queen in 2012.

The first attendant will be Kirsten Clark, an 18-year-old senior at Oak Hill High School, and the daughter of Keith and Michelle Clark. Kirsten was a candidate for Apple Festival queen in 2020, only to be denied the opportunity by the COVID-19 cancellation. The Apple Festival Committee waived the grade-level requirements for this year’s contest to allow any 2020 candidate to try out in 2021, which opened the door for Kirsten.

The second attendant will be 16-year-old McKinley Morris, who is also a sophomore at Jackson High School. She is the daughter of Dr. Brian and Jamie Morris. McKinley reigned as the Little Miss Apple Festival Queen in 2010.

The new royalty will reign over the 80th edition of the Jackson Apple Festival, which is scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday, Sept 21-25 on the downtown streets of Jackson and will represent the festival at other events and activities during the coming year.

The other 10 contestants in this year’s Apple Festival Queens Contest were: McKenna Folden, Kendal Osborne, Payton Taylor, Olivia Moore, Gabby Webb, Patricia Strawser, Riley Crabtree, Jenna Lewis, and Hannah Yagel. Yagel is an Oak Hill High School student while the other nine are Jackson High School students.

Tara Byrd once again served as the master of ceremonies and was assisted by 2019-20 Queen Madison Strawser. Each of the contestants were interviewed on stage by Byrd and asked about some of their activities. A short time later, each contestant was asked on stage to answer the same question. Strawser noted that a woman’s face has never appeared on a folded denomination of United States currency. The contestants were asked what woman they would choose to appear on a U.S. currency and why they made that choice. There were mixed responses, but Civil War era Underground Railroad activist Harriet Tubman led the way as she was chosen by three contestants.

The contestants were judged on six different categories: Overall appearance, poise, grammar, speaking, personality, and ability to communicate. In addition to the stage interview and final question, the contestants were also judged on a closed-door interview held earlier in the day. The judges for this year’s Queens Contest were: Chris Cram of the Vinton County Wild Turkey Festival, Christy Simmons of the Feast of the Flowering Moon and Makynna Moon of the Parade of the Hills.

Saturday evening’s contest also marked the end of the extended reigns of the outgoing Apple Festival royalty – Queen Madison Strawser, First Attendant Brynna Boggs and Second Attendant Jayden Webb. They each got to serve for both 2019 and 2020 due to the cancellation of last year’s festival.

Their respective farewell speeches were taped and played while they strolled and stood on stage. They were joined on the stage for this part of the program by the current Little Miss Apple Festival Queen Kennedy Knittel. In a poignant new angle, each of the royalty members received flowers and embraces from their parents, followed by Apple Festival Queens Contest Co-Chairs and chaperones Ryan and Kristen Shoemaker.

Normally, the Apple Festival Committee announces the name of the new grand marshal as well as the official festival theme during the Queens Contest. During the intermission, Festival President Brandon Davis stated the grand marshal announcement would not be made at this time and Festival Committee member Rob Leonard followed by explaining that the public would be involved in the selection of the 2021 theme with the process to end on May 31. (See separate story in today’s edition.)

Also, President Davis reminded the audience that the annual Little Queens Contest, which is normally held the same weekend as the Queens Contest on Friday evening, has been postponed this year and would be held sometime in the summer and indicated that an announcement would be made once those decisions are made. Indications are that festival leaders hope the later scheduling will allow more people to attend. Both indoor and outdoor venues are being considered.

Also during the intermission in a humorous videotaped segment designed to produce laughs as well as fill time during the judging, Apple Festival Committee member Chris O’Boyle asked each of the contestants to sell a house in the manner of an auctioneer. The prices were not very high.

The 2019-2021 Attendants Brynna Boggs and Jayden Webb thanked the following sponsors: Aeron Johnson Photography, Andrea’s Prom and Bridal, A.L. Terry Jewelers, Carman’s Used Cars, Trucks and RVs, Ohio Valley Bank, Dairy Queen of Jackson, Elizabeth’s Flowers and Gifts, Jones-Stephenson Insurance of Jackson and the Lewis Insurance Agency of Oak Hill, McDonald’s of Jackson, Wellston and Oak Hill, Sheward-Fulks Insurance, and Southern Ohio Smiles.

The two attendants also passed along the Apple Festival Committee’s thanks to the following supporters: Jackson City Schools, The Telegram, The Vinton-Jackson Courier, Mrs. Courtney Wiggins, and Total Media and Jackson County Broadcasting.

The Apple Festival is the main project of the Jackson Area Festivals and Events (JAFE) organization with an Apple Festival Committee in place to direct the project. Brandon Davis is the first-year president of the 2021 Jackson Apple Festival and takes over for Ryan Shoemaker who was president for the past two years.