The 2019 Jackson Apple Festival Queens Contest was conducted last Saturday evening at the Jackson Middle School Auditorium and the spotlight and headlines rightfully belonged to the newly crowned royalty -- Queen Madison Strawser, First Attendant Brynna Boggs and Second Attendant Jayden Webb.
However, an important sidebar story was that the evening also marked the farewell appearances for the 2018 Jackson Apple Festival royalty composed of Queen Briley Lusk, First Attendant Kylie Laug and Second Attendant Sydney Humphreys. It was a bittersweet proposition because it was very clear from the very beginning that this trio truly enjoyed the experience and each other; forged personal friendships that will likely last forever; and unfailingly acted as beautiful, classy and engaging goodwill ambassadors for the Jackson Area Festival and Events (JAFE), the festival, the community and the county.
In spite of the many demands, responsibilities and obligations that go with being festival royalty, Briley, Kylie and Sydney all seemed to regret that their reigns had finally come to an end. Simply put, they had one of the best years of their young lives, knew how to make the work fun, and grew into young women with the experiences.
Queen Briley, who wears her heart on her sleeve and treats every stranger like a friend, posted a message on her Facebook page just prior to this year’s Queens Contest. She consented to allow me to share it with The Telegram and the Community Connection.
Briley wrote this “to the girl who takes my spot after tonight...”
“Take a million pictures, smile at every child in awe of you at each festival, make friends with every queen you possibly can, and represent your festival with love. I can’t even describe how heartbroken I am. This has been the best year of my life and it feels like just yesterday I was getting on that stage in hopes of living out my dreams. 
“You’re going to meet amazing people, and have two chaperones who are like parents. You’ll face 100-degree days and have days that you can’t seem to find enough blankets. You’ll laugh until you cry, get headaches from sporting this crown on your head, have blisters on your feet from walking so many miles. 
“But, you’ll never find it in you to complain because you’re still having the best time of your life. My chest hurts writing this because this is one thing in my life I never wanted to ever give up. Once you are on Apple court, you are a part of an entire family of JAFE’s, queens, directors, and community members that will impact your life forever. This was the best year of my life and I cannot wait to see all 19 shining girls, as nervous and excited as I was, tonight.”
The current chaperones Briley referred to are Apple Festival President Ryan Shoemaker and his wife, Kristen. They are now fulfilling the same role carried out for so many years by another dedicated couple, Curt and Judy Wiggins, and in past years, Tom and Brenda Perry. Briley is right on target; it is indeed a family-like atmosphere which prevails, not only with the chaperones but also with others who are committed JAFE members and volunteers.
One gets the strong impression that the 2018 Apple Festival royalty will continue to succeed and make a difference as their lives will all turn down new paths as they approach their respective high school graduations.
Briley plans to attend nearby Ohio University in Athens and double major in Communication and Education. She would seem to be a perfect candidate for either field.
Attendants Kylie and Sydney have worthy ambitions as well. Kylie plans to attend the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio where she plans to major in Exercise Science and continue her sporting passion for soccer. Sydney, who is an outstanding pitcher for the Jackson Ironladies’ softball team, will leave the glove at home and plans to enroll at The Ohio State University and major in Dental Hygiene.
Good luck, ladies, and thank you for a job well done. Your high heels will be hard to fill.
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