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‘The best you can be’ – A Mountain Laurel tradition

June 03, 2016 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
Kentucky’s iconic springtime coronation will always hold special memories for Connor Rose Cook. The UPIKE junior was crowned this year’s Mountain Laurel Festival Queen, a highlight of the annual celebration held in Pineville, Ky. Selected earlier this year to represent the university, she shares her perspective on the experience in a special blog post below.

I’m Connor Rose Cook and I’m a rising junior at UPIKE. This past weekend I traveled to Pineville, Ky., to compete for the title of Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival Queen.

The Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival is one of Kentucky’s oldest traditions, dating back to 1931. The residents of Pineville and Bell County open up their town to people from all over to enjoy concerts, a carnival and good ol’ festival fried food!

What’s unique about this festival in particular is the crowning of a queen in Pine Mountain Cove. Throughout the weekend, 20 representatives from colleges and universities across Kentucky come together to compete for this title. However, this isn’t your typical pageant. You will never find out who the judges are and you are judged on things like poise, manners, cooperativeness and personality. It was stressed that when they crown someone they are truly crowning a personality. It’s not about how pretty you are or having the best dresses. It’s about being the best you that you can be and putting that out there for the candidates, judges and people of Bell County to see.

I attended luncheons and breakfasts and I was even in a parade that went through the entire city of Pineville. Throughout the weekend we were treated like real royalty (which is every girl’s dream, right!?).

Another cool thing about the festival is that candidates and their escorts stay in host homes so you don’t have to pay for hotels, food or anything. That’s all provided for you; and the host families are very kind.

On the last day of the festival there is the queen’s crowning ceremony in the cove, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The candidates wear big white wedding dresses and curtsy in front of a blue reflecting pool to the Governor of Kentucky.

The festival is about southern tradition and hospitality through and through and it is an absolute honor to represent not only my university but now this beautiful festival that will forever be a part of me. I can’t describe how thankful I am for this experience and all the relationships I established with the community and all the candidates because of this festival. It is definitely something every Kentuckian should experience. Thank you UPIKE for this opportunity. I am so excited for my year as the 2016 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Queen.”

- Connor Rose Cook
UPIKE psychology major

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